The first car I ever drove was a 1977, two door LTD V8 with two-tone silver stripes not trying at all to be a Starsky and Hutch rip off, no. Pimps would have gotten out of the way with a respectful wave of their ostriched-plumed fedoras. The tires came up to my nipples. Or at least at my age, I thought they did. It had more buttons and gauges than Dad’s last car, who’s only memory of I have is sleeping in the back window. The front seat still went all the way across but half the front seat folded forward for kid access into the back.
I am sitting on Da’s lap, eyes barely over the steering wheel. We’re on the road back from the cottage and Da is working the pedals. I can remember squealing with delight, demanding more speed. I jerked the wheel back and forth like a parody of driving and Da stops the first lesson fast.
Of course the first time Da ever let me completely drive without the aid of a lap or long adult legs, I slammed so hard down on the gas that gravel flew from the back tires, rooster-tailing into the sky and achieving LEO status. Laughing, I looked over at Da and his outstreached hand, clamped tight onto the passenger dash. Thus the long and difficult relationship between my Da, his car and I, started.
I’m not a bad driver. No accidents since getting my license 22 years ago. Not even a speeding ticket. But I have forgotten certain parking tickets that showed up when Da went to renew the plates. And I’ve had his car towed due to not reading the street signs. Twice.
One time Mike and I “borrowed” Da’s car to drive from Brantford to Brockville, a 5 hour trip one way at a good clip, just so we could get Manols Fish and Chips. We were back that night after a long, butt-numbing drive.
In the flashy late-80s, Da had a new Nissan 200SX so fresh off the lot that he had all distinguishing markings removed so people were forced to ask him what kind of car it was. The little two seater was red with fold-in lights and had vanity plates that read “MY XS”. One interesting feature was the slightly Japanese voice that would inform you when your door transmorgified from a “door” into “a jar”. I would pop open the door on the highway just to hear the tiny schoolgirl voice “Doh is ajar!” I would try to run out of gas so that I could hear what she would say when fuel was low, but chickened out every time. “Excuse please! You will be walking to the nearest gas station if you please!” I fantasized about talking to that car and having her answer me back. Hey, it’s better than road rage.
My car indiscretions didn’t stay with one parent. When I was 15 I took my mother’s massive Buick out for a spin with my school chums. Not entirely comfortable with a V8, four door beheamoth, I hit a right turn so hard the back end fishtailed and squealed like a pig… but not in delight. We were on a Cobra Hunt, which meant we had a dozen egs and were bombing parked Camaroes, IROCs and Cobras with much mullet-hating contempt. When we got home and fell out of the Buick laughing, I noticed one of the hubcaps was missing. Visions of the hub rolling off into someone’s garden and an after dinner phone call gripped me: “My goodness! This looks like Rita’s hubcap!” (Brockvegas was small. Everyone knew everyone else’s business).
What to do? It was too late to go back and look for the cap, Mum was going to be home in minutes. I did what every kid with three older brothers had to do: I said John did it. John, at the time, was a bit of a hellion and Mum had no problem believing that one. Whew! I wasn’t around for the fallout, but I am sure he or Mike got the brunt of that one.