When I was in high school, I bought my very first car. A 1977 Buick Regal. It wasn’t really what I wanted, but I let my dad convince me it would be the most kick-ass car in the school parking lot.
It was primer grey and, we were told, it was a retired stock car. It had some sort of super-duper, 8,000 horse power, 16 gauge, modified corvette engine in it. You know, to help it win stock car races.
So, since I didn’t want to let my daddy down, I let him talk me into buying it from a friend for $100. Yeah. $100. That should have been a warning sign. But my dad assured me that since I was buying it off his friend, I was getting it for a steal. Like practically free! If he were to sell it to someone else, someone not the daughter of a friend, he’d never let that car go for less than, oh, $800!
I hand over my wad of twenties and climb into the drivers seat of my new car. My kick-ass new car. The car that would make the boys jealous and the girls feel threatened by my extreme awesomeness. Yeah…I could drive this boat. I could drive it and make it look fabulous!
On the drive home, puffed up with the pride only a new driver and new car owner can feel, I smiled at the rumble of the engine. It was loud. It was deep. It didn’t purr, it grumbled like a lion after eating three baby gazelles. Oh hell yeah. Best. $100. Ever. EVER! I coasted to a stop at a traffic light and dangled my arm out of the window, to show how awesome and cool I was. When I let my arm out and settled into my seat, the door popped open. Of its own accord. It just opened.
Strange. I must have hit the door latch by mistake.
I pulled the door closed. Or tried to, anyway. The damn thing wouldn’t latch! The light changed.
Shit! What do I do?
I did the only thing I could do. I leaned my arm even further out of the window and tried to hug the door closed as I drove along. Not the most effective way to get the job done, but what else could I do? This was a time before cell phones, and we didn’t even have a home phone. There was nobody I could call to help me. I was on my own.
Eventually I made it home. My dad told me it was no problem and he’d have it fixed in a jiffy. Then we’d just head on up to get this baby registered.
Apparently “in a jiffy” meant: Forget it, Sweetie. This door can’t be fixed. In the end, he wired the damned thing shut and swore that it wouldn’t be a problem with the person who inspects cars as long as I promised to get it fixed right away.
Driver side door freshly rigged shut, we headed up to get it inspected.
It didn’t pass. Not at first. But my dad being the guy he was, greased the wheels a bit and viola! I had a street legal stock car! Okay, so I had to get in and out by scooting through the passenger side or going through the driver side window like Luke Duke (I was no prissy Daisy, that’s for sure!), but I had wheels. Really awesome, really loud, really fast wheels!
Really fast. That’s about all my poor car had going for it. It truly was a fast car and I loved the way it felt to drive it, even when the brakes went out. Even when the gear shift went out and I had to actually shift gears by twisting the steering column. I loved driving it even when it leaked oil.
It leaked so much oil that eventually people wouldn’t park near my parking spot in the school parking lot because there’d be such a huge puddle underneath by the end of the day. It leaked so much that I kept a case of oil and a funnel in the trunk.
My friends dubbed my car Beast and wisely refused to ride in it.
One day, my parents sent me up to the pizza joint to pick up our pizza. They knew I drove way faster than the delivery guy and they wouldn’t have to tip me. On the way home, the pizza smelled sooo good! But there was some strange smell underneath. Some weird, burning smell.
Hmm. Oh well.
I accelerated. The smell got stronger. The traffic around me fell behind me. They must be in awe of me, I figured.
When I got home, the smell was really, really really overpowering. There was no doubt. That stench was coming from my car.
Hmm. Oh well.
I put the pizza in my lap and scooted out the passenger door. My brother stood on the porch laughing.
“Hey,” he said. “You’re on fire.”
I smiled. “Yep. Record time!”
“No, idiot. Your trunk is on fire.”
I looked over my shoulder to find my beloved Beast in flames! Okay not a lot of flames, but enough for me to freak out. I screamed for my dad, while I stood there holding the pizza.
He grabbed the dog’s water bowl and threw it on the flames and got the fire put out before it consumed my whole car. It turned out that there was a short in my brake lights which caused a spark which ignited the oil in my trunk. Turns out, the people on the street weren’t in awe of me, they were moving out of the blast zone.
My dad fixed the short and from then on, I kept my case of oil in the back seat.