Do you remember your first car?
My premier buggy was an ancient Ford Fiesta that was cherry red and I had to prop myself on a phone book to see over the windshield. Not my proudest moment. It was a stick shift, as my dad refused to buy me a car with an automatic transmission should I ever be stranded in the desert with only a stick shift to escape in. It was his version of Daughter Survival of the Fittest. Dad also made me change the tire on my Fiesta, because it is something EVERYONE should know how to do. My red Fiesta was the perfect tin-can of a starter car and I liked it, not loved it. Heck, I was just happy to have a car and a cassette player to listen to 80’s bands like Heaven 17, Howard Jones, and ABC, while cruising my know-it-all seventeen year old self to school or my posse of girlfriends to the beach where we would glaze ourselves in baby oil, hoping for some color. Any shade would do, like RED. Oh, and don’t forget the Sun-In bottle, nothing looks better than a sunburn with orange brassy hair to match. I was so young and stupid.
The first car I LOVED was the best gift ever on my eighteenth birthday. My dad and I drove a couple cities over to the Honda dealer and he cajoled with an older car salesman. A 1986, brand new silver, two door (stick shift, of course) Honda Accord was what I drove off the lot. Only 9 miles on the speedometer! It was an unforgettable day. This car would house some of the zaniest memories of my teens and early twenties. If this car could talk I would force it to be quiet, not wanting to recall how foolish I was back in the day.
Attending one of the largest California State Universities in the 1980’s, parking was next to impossible to find, despite paying 80 bucks a semester for the privilege of driving through lot after lot, never finding a spot until I was late to class. My sophomore year, I had to squeeze, and I mean, really sucked it in, to fit my silver Honda into the only spot I could locate after circling the parking structure 14 times. It was not an ideal spot, leaving only inches for error on both sides. The jerk next to me had not parked within the white lines, so of course I was out of the boundaries as well. That jerk came and went and the next frustrated student to squish into the smidgen of parking space was assuming it was me who started this horrible parking arrangement. This irate driver had angry words to share that he NEVER wanted me to forget. Down the metal frame of the passenger side door he “keyed” the words, “you park like an A** HOLE”. It was like an unwanted tattoo.
I am not sure I was ready for the responsibility of a brand new car at a mere eighteen. I had a pin collection that I poked in the ceiling above the rear view mirror. Inspirational messages like “Of all the things I’ve lost, it’s my mind I miss the most.” I would be at a loss for words if my kid hung that up in their car. Honestly, I just found that little saying creative and funny, that’s all. My pierced ceiling was my temporary tattoo that I chose to display.
This customized Honda made the road trip to the Del Mar Racetrack, where my three other friends and I won over $700. In college, that seemed like thousands of dollars, so there was only one thing to do. Go to Las Vegas! We ran back to San Diego, packed our bags and drove through the night arriving at 4:30AM. We shared a room at the El Rancho that we renamed the El Rauncho. Our winnings did not go very far, but we had a blast. Driving home in our bathing suits through the scorching hot desert with the windows down, I relished the lack of restrictions that came with being twenty-two. The Silver Honda did not have air conditioning, but I can’t complain, as I was the only person with a reliable enough car to carry us on these thrilling adventures.
I was not concerned about aesthetics with my Honda, only fixing something when I absolutely had too. A pristine show car, she was not. As long as she was running reliably, I was content. Somewhere along the way, I lost a hubcap. I drove without the hubcap for a semester or two before a friend gave me one as a Christmas Present. Something had happened with the passenger side window and it would not roll down evenly. It stayed that way until the day she died. Looking back I coulda- shoulda taken much better care of the first car I felt attached to and loved so much.
Sad to say that my Honda was parked innocently on the corner of a somewhat busy street, while I was in the nearby restaurant ordering burritos to go. I watched out the window as a large truck turned right and crunched the back left corner of my faithful car and shoved it about 10 feet. It was ten years old at this point and had more mileage and precious life memories inside than a senior citizen's bus. I won’t lie; this little accident was a blessing. Because of its age and the damage done, the insurance company paid me the blue book value on it, considering it to be “totaled”. Jackpot! Despite having profanity scratched into it, a broken window, and a customized pin collection in the ceiling, I STILL recovered more money for what was now a heap than I could have ever sold it for.
It is no surprise that the next car I purchased was a red Honda Accord. This time I was twenty-six, engaged to my wonderful husband and decided on a four door, but still a stick shift, because it was what we could afford. I was ready to grow up and behave as an adult, treating my car with the love and respect it deserved. That Honda lasted 15 years, but did not come close to the neglect and carefree times that my first Honda and I shared. There is nothing like your first beloved set of wheels.