"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Saturday, May 2, 2009

To all the cars I've loved before

I'm posting early again, kiddos, 'cause I've been up since 5 ayem, and I'm hoping to sleep in tomorrow, if God is kind and the dog doesn't wake me.

I used to have one of these:

It's a 1972 MG Midget. It looked just like this, except, mine was British Racing Green. And it needed some body work, so there were large patches of grey Bondo, making it look like a pinto. And the top was faded. And the muffler was held together with sheet metal and baling wire.

Okay, it was only like the picture in that it was the same year and model. It was still a sporty little convertible and I looked damn good in it. Well, maybe not damn good. When the top was down, I had to tuck my curly hair into a hat or scarf to keep it from swirling about in the open air, which made it tangle and swell to enormous proportions.


When the top was up, well, you couldn't see me at all.

I suspect everyone was really looking at my sidekick:

Cute, huh? His name was Tyler, and I promise to blog-riff on the many dogs I've loved.

The MG was fun when it ran, which is the operative phrase. I never knew when something would break or fall off, and it always cost $300 to repair. I was earning $500 a month, so $300 meant something to me.

One evening, as I drove to my boyfriend's house for dinner, I heard something pop and felt my car pull to the left. I knew it was a flat tire – a flat tire at the wrong place and the wrong time. It had popped in a very seedy section of Decatur; there are lots of bars and warehouses and everything is coated with permanent grime. The dusk had just turned to darkness, and there I was, a petite 20-something, at the mercy of her broken car, in the Official Bad End of Town.

No, children, this was in the Jurassic Era, before cell phones.

What else was there to do? I got out of the car and tried to change the tire.

The MG had two tire options: one of these was the centre-locking wire wheel. Basically, the wheels sat on the hub, held on by a small, hexagonal cap called a knockoff. Remove the knockoff and the wheel just pulled off. My MG may have been held together by glue and wire, but it had the coolest wheels on the planet.

So, I got out my specific, practical, British tools and began to work. The MG had a hole in either side for the very special jack. I had just gotten the jack into the hole and was tightening the base against the pavement when Orville and Dean arrived.

Orville and Dean were two good ole boys who looked like their pictures belonged in the post office. One was tall and skinny and one was short and skinny. They wore jeans, dirty t-shirts, dirtier flannel shirts, and they wanted to help me.

It was all I could do to keep from running away at full scream.

"Nah," Orville said, taking the jack out of the hole. "Ya gotcher jack too fer back."

"No-no-no," I replied. "The jack goes there. It won't work if it's not in that hole. See the hole? See it?"

Did I mention that when I get nervous, my voice rises two octaves, speeds up, and I repeat myself?

I managed to talk Orville into replacing the jack. Next, he picked up the special tool to unscrew the knockoff. In the meantime, I calmed Tyler down, who was in the car and lunging at the window, trying to eat the evil twins who were helping me.

"Ah don' know which way this turns, so I'll jes tries both ways."

I pictured him stripping the threads and leaving me REALLY stranded. "Nononononono," I gulped before catching my breath. "See the arrow, there, with the word 'Undo'? That means turn this way."

Orville was agreeable to that. As he unscrewed the cap, he said, "Where's yer lug wrench?"

"My what?"

"Yer lu-u-u-g wre-n-n-n-ch." His enunciation was really good, considering he didn't have many teeth.

"Oh, you don't need one."

He laughed. "Ya gotta have a lug wrench ta git yer lug nuts off."

"This doesn't have any. Once you unscrew the cap, the whole tire will come off."

He stopped laughing when he removed the knockoff.

His buddy, Dean, was waiting on the sidewalk. He had been silent so far; it's possible he was the relief tire changer. At last, he spoke.

"Well, hell, Orville, she's smarter 'n' you are."

It was not a compliment to bask in, and it seemed to make Orville a little testy, so I thanked him, profusely, in my high-pitched squeak. He completed the tire changing, and I thanked him even more. They invited me to have a drink with them at the corner bar, but I explained that I couldn't leave my dog alone and my boyfriend was expecting me.

And then, I got the hell outa there!

As much as I loved my little MG, when I began to put in more oil than gas at the gas station, I traded it for the car I would drive 2,006 miles, to my current home in southern California.

Kind of a let-down, huh?

Now it's your turn. What cars have you driven? What was your first car? If money, convenience and the threat of global warming were not obstacles, what kind of vehicle would you own?

P.S. Just to make certain no one forgets about my book, Freezer Burn, my protagonist, Peri is 5'7" and would have a hard time fitting into either the MG or the Civic easily!


Anonymous said...

I read the story through, wondering all the while about how it tied into your BOOK... and saw the light at the very end! ;-)

All success
Author: "Think, Write & RETIRE!"

Elle Parker said...

What a fun topic!

My very first car was an old Grand Ford Torino, four door. It was massive, but oh so cool. I miss that car.

I'll admit the car topic caught my eye because the car dearest to my heart at the moment belongs to the main character of my novel. Dino drives a '65 Ford Mustang convertible, he calls Matilda *g*

Elle Parker

KK Brees said...

I've got a '52 MGTD! Let's go touring! Enjoyed your post.

C. Margery Kempe said...

My dad has a '56 Corvette that he has loved since his boss at the gas station bought it new. He had to wait a long time, but at last it was his and he has taken great pride in it ever since.

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