(Photo: Courtesy of Jody Jones)
The day I turned 16, my parents took me out into our front yard and showed me a car, which had “IT’S YOURS!” written on the windows in soap. It was a big, clunky slap in the face parked where my something-else, new and shiny (and not brown) vehicle should have been.
What’s the worst thing you can do to a dorky high school teen? Make her drive a station wagon.
A brown one.
And not one of those real old ones with the fun flip seats in the back. This one was called the Aries K, and I think it was a Dodge. It was horrid.
Mom took me for my driver’s test. It was a Friday and I knew I would pass the exam with flying colors. I had aced behind the wheel, and the written test was cake.
But I did not pass the exam with any sorts of color whatsoever. I was literally finishing the test, turning back into the DMV when — SUPPOSEDLY — a school bus turned on its “don’t kill the kids” lights. The school bus had not come to a halt. The stop sign was not out. But the damned lights were on, which apparently means you have to stop.
Naturally, being a jerk kid, I found a way to blame my mom for the stupid rules, the damned school bus and my mistake. I also made Mom call the DMV three times that afternoon to try to reason with the instructor, who of course, would not budge. Rules.
At this point I can’t recall what I ended up doing that night to celebrate my 16th birthday, but I know what I did not do is drive my car to Old Town Alexandria and try to get cute dudes to buy my friends and me drinks. I had to wait until Monday to take the test again.
That was just the start of my bad luck in this car.
The first night that I could drive on my own, I backed into a ’65 Mustang at the 7-Eleven, where I had undoubtedly stopped to buy cigs. Luckily only my car was damaged, so my repercussions came in the form of my dad giving me the cold shoulder for a month.
And, oh, did I smoke in that car! I’m guessing about 20,000 cigarettes, at least, often with the windows up. I emptied the ashtray about every 1,000, usually in some parking lot somewhere.
I really didn’t care what happened to that thing.
When I got a job delivering Domino’s Pizza, I drove the shit out of it. Technically, I wasn’t allowed to be a “driver,” but I figured my parents wouldn’t know I wasn’t just answering the phone, and that I could pass off the extra 500 miles a week I was logging as some American car electrical malfunction. Naturally, I was found out; I’d delivered a pizza to a lady on my street, who just happened to be on the phone with my mom at the time. Oops.
I had a personalized license plate made that read PEACH J – a not-so-subtle nod to my affinity for fuzzy navels. I thought I would help cool-up the car. It did not cool up anything.
I once drove to school backwards (all the way), going at least, I’d guess, 20 miles per hour the whole time. Another time I drove to school using only my teeth on the wheel. I drag raced with my lights out down Hooes Road (smoking all the way). I did my best to torture the heck out of that thing.
I finally killed the car by letting it run out of oil. Sure, I knew how to add oil. And I knew when to add oil. But I didn’t. I hated that car, and I refused to go to college in a shitmobile.
Dad was, yet again, furious. He made me buy my next car. It was worth it.
Looking back, we did have some good times and laughs in that crapbox. It carried bushels of pom pons and dancers to and from football and basketball games. It parallel parked us into fun restaurants in Alexandria and Georgetown.
And I’ll always remember driving into the high school parking lot in a car better fit for a National Lampoon flick than a diva in training.
Parents, do NOT give your dorky kid a station wagon. Opt for the shiny something else.