I remember the blue Chevy Caprice, how I almost always sat in the middle of the back seat between Janet and Larry. I remember our air conditioner going out one summer vacation, en route from Albuquerque to Los Angeles…or, wait…maybe that was in Carmen Chavez’s car, the year her parents invited me to Disneyland.
I remember that trip, sweating in the back seat with Carmen, we must have been 12 or 13. We were crossing the Arizona desert, and for the first time I discovered that I smelled. I remember clamping my arms tight against my sides, I didn’t know about deodorant yet or bring any on the trip, and I was too ashamed to ask Carmen if she had any. Somehow, discovering that part of bodily functions was almost worse than starting my period years later.
I remember the car we got after the Caprice. It was a Plymouth Valiant, 1974, gold, and about the most non-descript mid-sized car you’d ever seen. I drove it when I was 14-3/4, that was how old you had to be in New Mexico in those days to get a drivers license.
On one of my first driving gigs “sans” parents, I went cruising with Carmen and Diedra in a neighborhood off Griegos Road. I zigged-zagged up a street, turning the steering wheel a sharp right, then a sharp left. I remember how much we squealed as we slid across the front bench seat. You never wore seat belts in those days, so slip and slide we did.
I wasn’t going fast, maybe 20 miles per hour, but when I turned the wheel left both Carmen and Diedra slammed against me, causing my arms to fly off the wheel and out the open window. I was pinned to the side of the door and couldn’t get control of the car. It traveled up onto the sidewalk and into someone’s front yard before being stopped dead by a big tree.
We weren’t hurt, but we were panicked. It was night, I put the car in reverse and high-tailed it out before anyone could come out of the house. I drove the three or so miles home as fast as I could on a flat front tire. I remember how we rehearsed our story of “what happened.” A dog came running out of no where, we were going to say, and I swerved to miss it.
When we got to the house, Dad admonished me for my having ruined the tire rim by driving on it. He asked us what kind of dog it was. I looked at Carmen and Diedra, we all shrugged, and then he asked how big a dog? Big, I said just as Diedra said Small. That was it. My friends got sent home, and I got sent to my room.
I eventually named the car “The Box,” and to counteract the embarrassment my friends and I felt about being seen in it, I came up with catchy phrases:
The Box, economical yet sporty
The Box, little yet big
The Box, fast yet slow
Dad tried to give me The Box when I graduated from high school, but I declined. He sold it to someone then used the money to buy me Larry’s 1971 Honda Civic. I was a spoiled brat.
-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC — MEMORIES OF CARS