My First Car

(Click on pictures for larger image. This post doesn’t have pictures? Please pretend hard.)

If you’ve been following my blog, you may have already read about the fact that I didn’t learn to drive until I was a senior in college or get my license until the day I was moving from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore to start teaching. I ended my post that day prior to getting my first car.

I’d like to thank the reader who reminded me that I’d promised to finish the story and asked me to please do so. So here goes.

I landed in Cambridge, Maryland, with a new drivers license but no car and was rooming at a boarding house beside Long Wharf. Without kitchen facilities, I had to eat every meal out. The High Spot opened for breakfast, and I could walk there easily enough. Good thing I liked their food, since other restaurants were appreciably further.

Equally good was the fact I was teaching at the old Cambridge High School, which I could walk to, also. It was further from my boarding house than the High Spot, though. Much further.

I was in a bit of a quandary about how I would get anywhere else in Cambridge without a car, but one of my mother’s aunts was kind enough to provide a solution. Not only did she die at a convenient time, she left me her old Chevy. Although I used to enjoy visiting in her home, I hadn’t seen her in years. Nonetheless, I appreciated her more than ever at learning of my inheritance.

I’m a little hazy on how I took delivery of her car. Either my parents drove separately to Cambridge or my father drove my “new” car and I drove him back to Cumberland, a four-hour drive at best.

But either way, I had a car. Hmm. An older Chevy, boring blue, no radio. Power steering and power brakes, neither of which I was used to. Boy, did I have problems keeping from oversteering and overbraking! But I didn’t kill myself or anyone else. And at least I had a car.

I’d become friends with another first year teacher, and we decided to get an apartment together. That freed up some of the budget that I’d had to use on all of those meals out.

Bob–I’ll omit his last name not to protect him, but because I can’t recall how to spell it correctly–had just bought a new car. A beautiful burgandy Ford LTD with a super sound system. It even had an eight-track tape player! (Did I fail to mention this was 1968?)

So I decided to do some car shopping. At least I had something to trade in. I needed to go inexpensive, though. Make that cheap.

I fell in love with a white 1968 Mustang with black vinyl roof. If memory serves correctly, it cost a whopping $3600 (I was making $5700 a year). I knew the payments on that car would keep me broke, and I was apt to be very cautious about money. Especially since I’d never been in debt before

So I reluctantly compromised and bought a 1968 Ford Falcon. Blue body and white top. Not vinyl. $2400. Payments I could afford.

That car served me well for a number of years. It was still drivable even after the hood blew up (as in “flew up because it wasn’t properly latched”) and crinkled so badly it wouldn’t shut easily. I had to sit on it and bounce to get it shut, much to the amusement of everyone who saw me do it. And the embarrassment of my first wife, who managed to total that car a short time later.

We replaced the Falcon with a Honda Civic. Some of you remember the old Civics. Bright orange. Required the use of a choke to get it started. I’m certainly much happier with my current bright red Civic.

But the Falcon was the last car that was just mine for many years. Our one car played the role of family car.

This story may not be the most exciting one you’ll read today, but I’ve really enjoyed reliving those memories.Thanks for listening.

What was your first car? How about leaving a comment and telling us about it?

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”--check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

Best regards,
Roger

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Learning to Drive

While my high school classmates were busy taking driver ed, I was busy lamenting the fact that my parents had one car. Because my father was a minister, that car would seldom be available once I learned to drive. And since my mother was a stay-at-home mom and I didn’t have a job, either, the prospects of paying for the extra insurance were nil. So why bother to learn to drive?

I might explain that I was a lot more timid in those days than I am now and was afraid of doing something really dumb if I took driver ed. Unlike many of my classmates, I had never been behind the wheel of a car. Not while it was moving, anyhow.

Flash forward. To 1968. I realized I couldn’t spend my whole life bumming rides off of other people. Especially the girls I wanted to impress.

One of my English instructors at Frostburg State, Alan Stone, wanted to learn to play guitar. He had a brand-new Ford Falcon, but he was willing to take a chance and swap driving lessons for guitar lessons.

His car had a standard transmission. That sounded like fun. Until I realized that I couldn’t drive anywhere in western Maryland without going up and down hills. And discovered how many of those hills had traffic lights at the top. Lights I always seemed to have to stop for.

Learning to keep from rolling backwards–why did the person behind me always have to stop so close?–kept me alert and constantly nervous.

No mishaps, though. But there was the time I made a bad turn and needed to back up. I overshot where I was supposed to stop by a number of yards. Yes, people were watching, and did they evermore give me the funniest looks.

I failed the test the first time, and I was scheduled to work in a different state that summer after graduation. There wasn’t time to take the test again before I left. So getting my license had to go on hold.

But things got complicated once I obtained a teaching position on the other side of Maryland. I was really going to have to get my license.

I brushed up a little on my driving when I got home, but the local DMV wasn’t giving the test every day, and I needed to leave for Maryland’s Eastern Shore. But I learned I could take the test at any DMV office. So, on the drive to the Eastern Shore, my parents took me to the DMV office in a city that was on the way–one that we knew would be testing that day.

I passed! But I was still car-less.

What? You want to know what I did about that? Sorry, but this post is only about getting my license. Hmm. Maybe I’ll give you the rest of the story another day.

What about you? What were your experiences learning to drive? Please leave a comment and share.

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

Best regards,
Roger

 

The Next-to-the-Most-Recent Dumbest Thing I’ve Ever Done

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I love my red Honda Civic. It’s not really a sports car, but it’s far sportier than anything I ever had before, and at least it’s not so low to the ground that I have any trouble climbing in and out of it.

But I’m mature enough to recognize that it’s just a thing. When I die, I won’t be riding that Honda to Heaven. I suspect the ride there will be more like being transported, a la Star Trek.

So in spite of the fact that I take the car to be washed periodically and have it waxed probably two or three times a year, I know it will eventually lose some of its luster. Dings are bound to happen. I’m not the kind of person to use two parking places to protect my car.

But I never expected that I would be responsible–in an innocent kind of way–for the slight damage my poor car has undergone.

I was driving to a body shop to pick up my wife and accidentally turned left one driveway too soon. The parking lot looked like the kind that would connect with the roadway I should’ve taken. No such cut-over in the lot, but the driveway led further back. I thought surely I could find a cut-over there.

Hmm. Great idea except for one little thing. Even as slowly as I was driving, I didn’t see a wire hanging low between two posts. Apparently to keep people from driving back there. No sign of a ribbon or marker to make it obvious.

But I heard it. When it ground against the front of my car–what ever happened to bumpers?–and snapped.

I’d not only broken the wire, but put some very conspicuous yellow dings low on the front end of my car. As upset as I was, I could only shake my head at what I’d failed to see and consequently done to my car.

It didn’t matter whether it was my fault or not. As far as my car would be concerned–if it had the ability to assess the situation–I’d done something really dumb.

As it was, the body shop where I was picking up my wife was able to do some minor surgery and a paint touch up for fifty-some dollars. (Fortunately, they’d been working on another car that used the exact same color paint. I didn’t ask whether it had also broken the wire next door.)

I can’t look at the front of my car without thinking about the dumb thing I’d done without even realizing it. Isn’t that typical of many of the mistakes we make in life? We fail to see the barriers, which may be small or inadequately marked, and plow right into them.

How about you? Have you ever experienced anything similar? Please leave a comment.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

Best regards,
Roger

Sports Car for the Aging Man

CivicRoger    licese    CivicRoger2

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.

Best regards,
Roger