When I was a kid, I used to assemble plastic customized car kits. Strangely enough, though, I never bothered to paint them. But I sure enjoyed putting outrageous fins on them during an era in which many cars had outrageous fins.
When I took wood shop in junior high (what they call middle school now), I used to design little wooden sports cars and put wheels on from whichever car kit could most easily spare them. Then I fastened a CO2 cartridge to the top and used a special little tool to puncture the cartridge and send the car racing down the sidewalk.
I can almost see some of my old designs in my mind’s eye now. Some of them turned out to be remarkably similar to cars that came out years after I dreamed them up, although I seriously doubt that professional car designers would bother to steal a design from a boy in his early- to mid-teens who never showed them to anyone else, anyhow.
Flash forward. I didn’t take driver’s ed in high school because my parents couldn’t afford the insurance and only had one car, anyhow. I didn’t even learn to drive until I was a senior in college, when I gave one of my English instructors (Alan Stone, are you out there somewhere?) guitar lessons in exchange for driving lessons.
He was brave. We used his brand-new Ford Falcon. No accidents.
When I started teaching school in September of 1968, I didn’t have a car. I was staying in a rooming house I could walk to school from.
But a month or two later, I inherited an old Chevy from my mother’s favorite aunt. Well, her most well-to-do aunt, anyhow. No matter how thankful I was to have my own car, though, I wanted something new. Something sportier. Maybe even something like the cars I’d always dreamed about.
I ended up at the Ford dealership. I’ll never forget that gorgeous white Mustang with the black vinyl roof. But, alas, it cost $3500, and I was making $5700 a year teaching. So I pretended that the blue Falcon with the white roof was sporty enough. And—at $2700—I could afford it. If you weren’t alive back then, you probably can’t imagine what a difference that $800 made.
Flash forward to more recent years.
Since my divorce from my first wife, I’d been driving what had been her car. A nice enough Honda, but not my choice. I traded for a nicer, used Honda Accord, but it wasn’t sporty enough. And white was no longer a color I thought of as sporty.
No matter how much I wanted a Porsche or a BMW or a Corvette, those things were never going to fit into the family budget. Even if I’d had the money to buy one, I couldn’t have afforded the gas or the insurance.
My wife and I often talked about the desirability of a Mazda Miata. It was sporty enough and only slightly out of our price range. But, doggone…could I handle climbing in and out of something that low–especially as I got older? And equally practical, how would I get my bass guitar to church in one, even if my wife and I drove separate cars—which we didn’t want to have to start doing?
We looked at a Hyundai that was actually fairly sporty looking. And, interestingly, even though it was a coupe, it had a “hidden” back door on one side. But it just didn’t feel like my ideal car when I test drove it.
At the Honda dealership we found “it.” A new Honda Civic coupe. Bright red. (Did I mention that my ideal car would have to be red?) Great sound system. It felt familiar to drive because of the similarity to the Accord.
And we could afford it.
I frequently have other people admire and compliment me on my Civic. And do I ever take it for a Carpool cleaning as often as we can afford it.
I’ll never stop admiring those Porsches, BMWs, and Corvettes. I may not be too old to admire them, but I’m old enough to be practical.
Please leave a comment if something in this post speaks to you in a way you’d like to respond to. I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to the top right of this page where it says, “Follow Blog via Email.”
By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing” to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them here. Because I’ve used up all of my songs, I repost an old post each Wednesday. If you’re interested, please check that blog out here.