Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Clunkers

It's extremely hard to feel anything but humbled when driving a clunker, as we called it in high school. This morning I am not driving the "really cool" mini-van but instead am driving our 13-year-old Geo Prizm. The Geo was a far cry from luxury car status when it was fresh off the assembly line, so you can imagine what it is today. They actually quit making the Geo altogether several years ago.

Don't get me wrong. The Geo has been nothing but a great car for us. Affectionately named Liz, she was my very first car. I bought her with my own money my senior year of college. She only had four miles on her when I got her, and I was so proud of her! Now 13 years and nearly 200,000 miles later, she still gets us where we need to go. She just doesn't look or sound good anymore. In fact, one of our recovering drug addict friends told Kevin that, quite frankly, it looks like a crack car.

So I'm driving Liz today, and it got me to thinking about the past clunkers in my life. There have been many . . .

One of our most famous ones was acquired when I was in sixth grade. A friend of ours in the car business said that he had a car to give us for free! Obviously my parents couldn't pass that up, especially when we were in real need at the time. So my brother, sisters, and I spent the afternoon at our friends' house while my parents went to pick up the car. We excitedly waited for them to drive up in the vehicle.

And then they did.

No doubt my smile dropped faster than it ever has, for my parents drove up in a 1960-something station wagon the color of snot when one has a sinus infection. Highlighting this lovely color were various shades of rust, particularly on the back end of the vehicle. The interior had similar nauseating hues. The radio only played AM stations, which just seemed appropriate. The good news was that all seven of us could fit in it; the bad news was that this was now our family car. My father was so proud, but all I could think of was how much I was going to get made fun of when they picked me up from school in this tank. (Cut me some slack--I was in middle school!)

For about two years this machine lived on. Then one day it decided not to go anymore, and I was more than okay with that. I think my dad was able to get $60 for it.

The next car was a little bit better but not a lot. I think it was at least a decade newer than the station wagon but was still not within our current decade. Its body was caramel-colored with a cream-colored top, and it was adorned with a ball-shaped compass mounted to the dashboard and mud flaps on its back tires. I was just thankful that the mud flaps didn't portray an angry, gun-slinging Yosemite Sam and say "Back off." I didn't mind this car quite as much as the station wagon, although I still felt embarrassed by it. I did think it was kind-of neat that you had to pull down the license plate to get to the gas tank.

Then there was the big brown conversion van. I actually have fond memories of the van, because it was my training vehicle when I was learning how to drive. The van was quite roomy, which was great for our family of seven. And not only did it play FM radio stations, it also had a tape deck! And curtains! Okay, that's just weird for a vehicle to have curtains in the windows, but they actually were quite useful when the sun was beating down. Yeah, the van served us well, until it started falling apart.

One day my mother backed into a BRICK sign in a church's parking lot. More damage was done to the sign than to the van, but it still rendered the spare tire holder on the back door useless. And since you have to have a spare tire somewhere, my father thought it would be a great idea to just strap it to the top of the van with some rope. So now the once not-so-clunkerish van looked more like the Beverly Hilbillies' ride. My boyfriend at the time thought it was especially amusing.

My favorite story about the van, though, is when the side door wouldn't close anymore. I'm not sure how that happened, and I'm not sure why we didn't get it fixed for a while. But then why would you get it fixed when it could be held shut just fine with some more ROPE?! (Most people swear that duct tape can fix anything; apparently my father felt this way about rope.) Now since rope tends to give a little--particularly when making a wide left turn--the daughter sitting nearest the afflicted door was responsible for holding tightly to the rope in hopes of allowing the door to gap only a couple of inches. This is really funny to think about . . . now.

The Bevell family went through many cars, but these are definitely the highlights of the clunkers. They certainly built character and kept us in our place. Like I said, it's pretty hard to be arrogant when you're driving around in one of these. Thankfully, my children are not yet old enough to realize that one of our vehicles is a clunker. They think it's cool to ride in (what is now) Daddy's car. We'll see how they feel about it a few years from now, if Liz is still around. Who knows? Maybe she'll still be running when Callie is old enough to drive. Wouldn't that be great?!

8 comments:

jcbullock said...

Oh my! What memories! Ropes did seem to be useful around our house. They held up Christmas trees too. I vividly remember holding that door shut on the van, just hoping I would not fall out. I also remember playing in the back end of the station wagon. They were embarrasing, but filled with memories - too many to write them all down! Thanks for this! It brought a smile to my face as well as a newer appreciation for my Tahoe!

Carrie Bevell Partridge said...

Ahh, yes--the Charlie Brown Christmas trees made even more glamorous by ropes tying them to the ceiling to keep them from falling down! Ingenious. But if we had had normal Christmas trees and nice cars, we wouldn't have all these great memories!

laurie said...

Thankfully, I only have vague recollections of "the green machine," but I liked the long, front, bench seat in the gold car and the spaciousness of the brown van. Apparently, I was too young to be TOO embarrassed by any of them. My embarrassment was connected with the decrepit series of Taurus' that followed.

My favorite memories were of the brown van (& I don't remember the roped door either!) I remember being able to stand up straight without hitting my head and curling up/hiding in various nooks and crannies. My tiny, little 8-year-old body could fit anywhere! My favorite space was on the floor by the heating vents at the bottom of the back seat. I’d curl up there on our 45-minute drive home from church every week and fall into a warm, blissful sleep. So many memories…

Claire said...

And what was the car with the upholstery from the ceiling that rested on our heads?

Surely we didn't have the roped door for very long? I was stranded at home I guess, because I don't remember that very well either!

Carrie Bevell Partridge said...

Mama, that was yet ANOTHER wonderful car! I think we used a coat hanger to try to keep the upholstery somewhat attached to the ceiling.

mwright said...

Carrie,
please tell me you remember
"betsy", my 1978 ford ltd i drove in high school. i was always mortified that she wouldn't start when it was time to go home. and my battery operated "jam box" that sat in the front seat with me was classic! our first few years of marriage, matt and i joked that if i still had her, we could have lived in her! fun times!!!

missy

Carrie Bevell Partridge said...

Haha! Yes, Missy. Though I never personally rode in Betsy, I definitely remember her! Glad you can relate. :)

Jen said...

Ours was a giant blue station wagon, named Babe, after Paul Bunyan's ox... I learned how to drive with Babe, and nearly had to relearn when we got a new car that actually had power steering...