26 October 2014
Everything Old is New Again: Audi RS4
(Music unrelated except I love this song.)
I decided to move my savings from my bank account into my garage. (Read: I bought a used car.)
Some experiences you have infrequently. I have only gotten a new-to-me car a handful of times in my life. When it happens I tend to reflect on the other cars in my vehicle history. I'm a car guy: I follow when new models are released, learn their specs and prices, develop a relationship with them, some more than others. I can remember all of the cars I have owned, their idiosyncrasies, the girls I was dating when I bought the car and when I sold it, where I was living, etc. If they break down I feel betrayed. If they get a dent, ding or scratch I feel dented, dinged, or scratched.
You know those guys that can rock a cool vibe in a shitty car? Man those guys are cool.
I am not one of those guys.
When I was a late-teens teenager my first car was a beat up, piece of shit, sun-baked orange '59 VW Bug with a '69 engine. I fucking hated that car at first, although we did eventually reach a kind of detente. Kirk Sorrell loved that car and was a regular fixture in the copilot seat (his house being on the way to most places). He called it Orange Thunder and we drove that thing all over everywhere. Well, I drove. He was eating Taco Bell.
Orange Thunder drove me and my friend Joe to and from work every day one summer when I was in high school, and it had a funny gas pedal that let you squeeze some extra juice out of the feeble engine if you pushed it the right way. I put some cool stickers on it and my cousin gave me speaker box for the wayback* so I could rock out to sweet jamz (was into Midnight Oil back then, pretty sure I had a tape).
At one point the starter broke and if I went somewhere I'd have to either park on an incline and/or get someone to give me a push. One time I went to a girl's house to kick it. She was on cheer. Tall. She was a sophomore and I think her name was Amy Something. After we got done hanging out I had to say, heyyy, uhh, can you drive a stick? (Not a euphemism.) She was all, like, no. And I said, welll okay then can you gimme a push? So she did.
Kind of hard to make that look good when you're in high school. Or ever. What're you gonna do?
My mom drove a 1974 blue VW bug until I was 14, which was about 13 years longer than any person should have to drive one of those pieces of shit, although it was the 70's and there weren't a lot of good options back then. Plus she was broke. She rebuilt the engine herself at one point. I fucking hated that car too.
When I first got Orange Thunder my mom worked really hard to get it running and road ready. She insisted on seat belts, which were definitely not standard equipment in 1959 and had not been added in the subsequent 33 years. They wouldn't have saved me from getting my face bashed in during a crash but at least I wouldn't fly out of the vehicle. The car was actually sold to my mom by a guy from her work that wasn't using it and knew I needed wheels. He sold it to her for $50, and he only charged $50 because she insisted on paying something. Point is that it was a generous gift. I was not all pumped on it but I was excited to finally be able to drive my own car.
After I got my license we spent most of one Saturday bleeding the brakes and doing final prep for my big debut on the mean streets of San Jose. I remember distinctly that I got all dressed up in some 'cool' clothes (jean shorts are a real possibility, but I don't remember) to go for a drive. Nowhere in particular, just going to swing by and visit my friends. When I went out to the car to go for my drive my mom made a big fuss about it (as moms do), waving goodbye and saying have a good time. She had made an effort on the car and knew I was excited. A kids first drive on their own, in their own car, is a Milestone Event. On your way to becoming a man and all that.
When I got in the car I pushed the clutch in, prepped the brake and the brake pedal went all the way to the floor. I didn't even bother to turn the key. The brakes would have to be re-done, and our day was a waste. I was so bummed. Got out and walked back inside, deeply frustrated, fighting tears, and went to bed. On my way inside my mom asked what happened and I told her. She was heartbroken for me, and felt like she really let me down. As if she had not already stretched herself thin trying to get me on the road.
First world problems, sure, but at the time I felt bad for myself. On reflection I feel bad for my mom because she tried so hard and it didn't go as planned.
Eventually Orange Thunder ran well enough, and like I said: we had some times. I'm old now but whenever I get a new car a part of me remembers how I felt when I was 17 and that brake pedal went all the way to the floor. And then I miss Kirk. And I miss showing up at Joe's house just in time for dinner and spending time with him and his family. And I miss going to Taco Bell and drinking Dr. Pepper and wearing tortoiseshell Wayfarers. And I feel very lucky to drive a car that I like. Very lucky indeed.
Thanks for reading. See you out there.
* All old bugs have a wayback behind the back seat. It was an empty space where you could store shit. Or something. My mom called it the 'wayback', pronounced WAY-back.