My dad had a yellow Ford Pinto, just like this. Safety standards being what they were in that age, my carseat was quite literally a phone book, so I could see out the window, and the seatbelt would come across my chest. Also, safety standards being what they were, shortly after buying said Pinto, the news came out that their gas-tanks were horribly placed, and if someone rear-ended you, your shiny yellow Pinto would become a shiny yellow incinerator, and your happy child on his phonebook would have a charred-marshmallow-smelling end to his short life.
My father was at work when he heard about the recall, and still needed to use the car to get home, after picking me up from the babysitter. We’re sitting at a stoplight, and he’s looking in the mirror to make sure no one is coming up too fast behind him, when I look over with big doe eyes (my eyes were huge as a kid) and say, “Daddy, I love this little yellow car. You can’t ever get rid of it, ‘kay?”
“Okaaay, Sean,” he replied, and promptly called Ford upon putting me into bed. Poor guy probably agonized over it too. Of course, he then got a tiny blue pickup truck called a Luv, which I adored, and would play in for hours pretending it was a spaceship in our driveway. Even camped out in it one night. Years later, he would be driving down the highway in that truck, and the fiberglass cover for the bed of the pickup would be taken by the wind and cause ten other cars to freak the hell out because, hey, flying truck-parts!
Thinking about those cars leads to thoughts of other cars thoughout my life, and the important place a hunk of metal holds in all the best stories of our lives.
- There was my uncle’s truck, which was heroically named Bondo Truck because its rusty sides had, over the years, been replaced by fiberglass putty.
- My mother and grandmother’s (fraternal) twin Camaros which figured large in my childhood as I spent two hours a day in them at least commuting with radio playing the soundtrack of the early 80′s. My grandmother recounts the day I piped up from the back seat to her and my mom when a Queen song came on the stereo. “Sing it, girls!” I cried out with joy.
- The Austin. This was a british taxi that my stepfather bought. It had suicide doors and was the essence of old-school cool. As a kid riding in this thing felt like being a super-spy.
- The first car I would call my own, a white Chrysler Cordoba with burgundy velvet interior. I spent the summer of my senior year in high school driving this car around, and felt like I was driving an actual white whale down the street. It was handed down to my mom when I got
- Miles, my silver-blue Dodge Omni. This car would see me through college, and man did I miss the spacious backseat of the Cordoba on many a date night. But that said, Miles never failed me, and provided near-constant comic relief. My stepfather installed a back-up indicator sound that featured a young Latin boy informing you, in Spanish, that the car was backing up, and you should look out. I scared many a family in the parking lot of the toystore where I worked when I ended my shift.
- When I moved to the city, parking became an issue, so I again gave Miles to my mom. The funny thing is that like the Cordoba, about six months after I gave her the Omni, she ripped the driver’s side door handle off. I don’t know if she was just a secret super-hero or what, but the lady went through door-handles like my kid goes through diapers. So, upon giving up my wheels, I bought the Vespa. Loved that scooter, and loved giving people a ride on it. Always a kick, and for a long string of summers it provided a whistling sense of the possible.
Two days ago, I was cleaning baby-zuke out of the back seat of our family car, a Maxima. We’ve had snowboards on the roof, and backpacks and tents in the trunk, and now we have a race-car-esque car-seat for our little girl. It’s another vehicle milestone, and it tells a tiny bit of our story. And it makes me wonder what the next car holds.