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Friday, December 03, 2004

From Rust To Regal

It took 14 years but it finally happened. I broke down and bought myself a used but not abused car, a Buick Regal.

I bought my first car when I was 17. It was a Plymouth Horizon hatchback. It had almost 200,000 miles on it and for the low, low price of $675 it was all mine. It was the smallest, dirtiest, smelliest, non-workingest car you ever set your eyes on. But, it was mine. I hated that stupid car.
I have bought other cars, but until the new one came along, most were just hunks of metal.

The car makes me feel like a kid again. The first day, I went to the store to buy accessories for it, I hand washed it, vacuumed it and wiped the interior down. And for no other reason than because I can, I drove with all of my windows down and my air conditioning on full blast.

To impress my son, and again because I can, I squealed my tires around a corner. This is the first vehicle I've had in my possession that has enough power and rubber on the tires to do so. My son really thought that was cool.

"Do another burn out Mom," he said with that excited twinkle in his eyes. "Let's go back and see if we left skid marks."

We only left a little mark but it was enough to impress him. The whole situation put me in mind of me growing up.

My dad drove a Chevy Malibu when I was in high school. The car was half white and half rust, much like my old Bonneville. Every cold day, the inside of Dad's windows got a thick layer of frost on them. There I was at a very impressionable age scraping the inside of the car windows while my dad braved the cold scraping the outside. I remember feeling embarrassed.

After I finished my freshman year, my dream of his rustmoblie dying didn't come true.

"I'm going to start riding my bike to school from now on," I told him. "I don't think it's right for you to have to take me all that way so early in the morning. Besides," I said with my hand on my bony hip weighing all of 100 pounds, "I need to get into shape."

I was trying not to hurt his feelings.

By my junior year, Dad's Malibu bit the dust. At the same time he was going through a midlife crisis of sorts. He lost 77 pounds, started wearing clothes that were actually in style and he finally broke down and bought a new car.

He bought a Buick Skylark. It was sporty, used but not abused, it had air, heat, unfrosted windows and it was his. He was proud of it, proud to own it, drive it and proud to take his no longer embarrassed kid to school in it.

Looking at my son's face when we are driving around, I see myself in Dad's Buick. Proud, happy and best of all, not embarrassed.

This isn't a car ad for Buick, I'd actually forgotten until I sat down to write this that Dad's first best car was a Buick. But nevertheless, I love my new car and so do my kids.

Looking back I think it was kind of shallow being embarrassed about something so trivial. And looking forward I think Dad was right about birds having radar on new clean cars.