Karen Carpenter, back in the early seventies, sang a song which had the line “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” It always struck me as rather sad, that line, because neither rainy days nor Mondays ever particularly bothered me. I like rainy days.
Now I suppose that had I been raised in a place that rained a great deal I would feel differently. Then again, maybe not. I lived in South Florida during my middle and high school years and it rained there a lot. During the rainy season, from about the beginning of June until mid-September, Florida could be swimming in the rain (excuse the pun). The days were hot and muggy and then, most every afternoon, came the downpours.
The car windows would steam up with condensation, the roads would get deep with water, and, if you weren’t careful, you could drown the engine and find yourself stuck in a busy corner. This would especially happen if you tended to drive old clunkers as I did when first learning how to drive.
Looking back over my life so far, I have noticed that I tend to remember things based on the car I had at the time. The very first car that I called my own was a 1964 Renault with rather large patches of rust. The car was cream-colored with a red interior. It was a horrible car, but it was mine! Friends and I would load it up with radios, blankets, food, and Cokes and head for the beach. Unfortunately, it leaked water around the windshield, had a push-button transmission that sometimes worked, and the poor Renault didn’t last very long at all.
My next car was a Hillman. These odd cars were made in England and my father found this particular one from an old gentleman who lived down the street. It was a four-speed, with gear shifter on the steering column. You moved the shifter in the opposite way you learned. Why? England, of course. One of the rear doors had to be wired shut, and water made the car break down constantly. You would think that an automobile manufacturer in a country as wet as Great Britain would see to it that the engine compartment would stay dry. But not Hillman, any puddle at all and the engine conked out. This car lasted about as long as the Renault, which is to say not long at all. But I liked it and my friends and I drove it everywhere. I don’t remember who I sold the Hillman to, but I hope that by now they have forgiven me.
As a teenager I always wondered why my father would suggest old cars for me, his favorite (okay, only) son. Now, of course, I know why. I was a car destroyer. If there was a sand dune to drive over, a swamp to drive through, a street to slide down in the rain, I would be there. I have always had a love affair with cars; I didn’t want to shine them, I wanted to play with them.
The Pontiac Catalina
I was into my third car before I reached seventeen. This was a four-door Pontiac Catalina; a red monstrosity that at one time had air conditioning that worked and an automatic transmission that didn’t leak. By the time I got my hands on it, however, the tranny leaked like a sieve, and the air hadn’t worked in years. One good thing this car did have was one heck of an engine. This multi-hundred cubic inch V8 engine would roar and take off down the road like a race car from your wildest dreams.
The Pontiac didn’t last long, either. It sucked down the gas, the transmission needed too much work, and the end came soon.
The Volkswagen Bug
By now I was ready to graduate from high school and would need a more reliable car. So Pop and I went looking and found a sky-blue Volkswagen. This car was almost new, in great condition, and would be, or so we thought, perfect.
In that Volkswagen I had four accidents, put in a new engine and replaced the front end more times than I care to count. That car was repainted so often that, well, let’s just say that the body shop never had to order that color. They kept it on hand for me. It took four cars to get me through high school. I’m not proud of that fact, but there you go.
What does this have to do with social media? Simply this: the time I used to spend calling, driving, searching and scrounging for a part can now be accomplished (usually but not always of course) in a matter of minutes texting and scrolling through websites on my phone. Need a funky old part for a funky old car? Even the car dismantlers are online. How cool is that?
Photo: CARS Image Encyclopedia