Friday, June 8, 2012

A Tale of Long Ago

Gather 'round kiddies, it's story time.

A long, long time ago, there was a moderately attractive naive young girl named Heather. *

*This was a really long time ago, like 1996. Back then, you could fill up a gas tank for less than 20 dollars. In fact, according to the journal that she kept from back then, $20 was her allowance after bills each week for food, sodas, gas - everything. For a week. One whole week. 7 friggin' days. 

It's amazing I know.

Now, this girl had a very cute car for a 19 year old in 1996. While most of her friends had beat up hand-me-downs from siblings, or cars that their parents had given them, Heather's parents made her save up enough money for a down payment and her own insurance before she even had a driver's license. (And, honestly, I appreciate that and will be doing it to my own child one day. It taught the value of working hard, saving up for the things that I want, and not being a burden on your parents already tight budget.)

When she signed the deal for 5 years, 2001 seemed so far away, so distant. The payments were less than $200 a month, the insurance was around $60. Gas was 84 cents a gallon. When someone would tell you that they would give you 5 dollars for gas, it felt as though you were stealing from them.*

*People still offer $5 for gas for you to drive them somewhere. How can everything else go up, but that is still the going rate for being a makeshift taxi service? I don't understand.  

It was pink. Really pink. Maybe fuschia. The dealership called it Sunrise Red which is not exactly accurate, but the girl would defend it whenever anyone would criticize her "Hot Pink" car. It was a two door hatchback and was only intended to seat 4 people, but somehow she and her friends could squeeze in 8 people for trips to the beach.*

As I wrote this, it seemed so much cooler, so much less boxy.
The mind is a funny thing. I would not buy this car now, but I loved it then. 
*The car did have seat belts, but as they were not required by law back then, they never really used them. Oh, the idiocy of youth. 

Not that anyone could have been ejected, they were sandwiched in so tight that no one was moving. 

That car went everywhere. Up the east coast to faraway, distant lands like Norfolk, Virginia. Across the interstate to foreign countries like Vidalia, Louisiana and Natchez, Mississippi. And down the scary terrain to Miami and Fort Lauderdale. It drove over every dirt and gravel road in the county.*

*There are places both at home and far away that my father told me never to go to. Miami was on that list. In fact, I am pretty sure that anything south of Orlando was on that list, but we just never talked about it. 

It had over 200 thousand miles on it before 4 years were even up and it had been hit so many times that it could no longer be repaired.*

*People LOVED to hit that car. I have never been in as many accidents in any other car in my life. It was t-boned TWICE, rear-ended FOUR times, and hit head on once. It had been keyed by jealous girls in the parking lot of the bar I had worked in. It had had the tires flattened by the same jealous girls on numerous occasions. It had been thrown up in (that smell NEVER comes out by the way).

We played the music loud (even when all of the speakers started to blow) and would rewind the same cassette tape over and over for some songs ("I Got Five On It", "Killing Me Softly"). The first time that I heard "You Oughtta Know" I was in that car.

It was the car that she rescued friends from grown up situations (like being too drunk to drive and escaping a crazy boyfriend) in. It was the car that she realized that she might just love that boy in. It was the car that she talked on her very first cell phone in. It was the car that she killed her first armadillo and first possum and first squirrel in. *

*She does not make it a practice to go around killing animals on back country roads late at night. It's just that it was dark, she was driving really fast, and they darted out in front of her before she had a chance to stop. I cried for two days over that flippin' armadillo until I found out that I had cracked my oil pan when I ran it over. Then I was just angry. 

But the girl loved that car. It was her first, her baby. Thinking back on it, I think that the love, the longing that all of us have for that car is not just about the car, it's about youth, and fun, and not caring about tomorrow. It's about how cheap life was back then (less than 20 years ago), how easy everything seemed.

I miss that car, but I think I miss those times a lot more.

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