A Car Story, Part 1

Car I wished I had! Fiat X1-9. Photo credit: oldparkedcars.com

Car I wished I had! Fiat X1-9. Photo credit: oldparkedcars.com

The story of the cars in my life is really the story of my independence.

I grew up 20 km from the city, in a rural area that later became suburban. Most of the dads in the neighbourhood worked “in town” and at that time, most of the moms stayed at home. There was once-a-day return bus service, at odd hours that didn’t match anyone’s work schedule. All of us kids were bussed 30 km further out into the county to attend school. We had access to the city, but it was never convenient. From the time I was 13, I was allowed to take the bus to the city and spend the day shopping, going to the library, meeting up with friends, and to movie matinees or bowling*. Of course, I never got into any trouble 😉

* terms that may not be familiar to younger readers are italicized so you can look them up 🙂

Like most rural kids, I grew up without access to regular employment, so it never occurred to me to save up and buy a car. There was no chance I could pay for insurance and gas with my intermittent babysitting money. My dad offered to teach me to drive, but said I would not be allowed to drive the family car. In his defense,  it was his only means of commuting to work, and a major accident by me could have cost him his job! I ended up learning to drive through a driver’s ed program offered through my high school, but wasn’t able to practice outside of class time.

I lived at home during university, as most Canadian students do. It was really difficult to arrange the commute because of my class times and the need to be at the campus library (no online journals back then – we had to use printed books!) I managed to get full-time summer jobs in retail, and one summer I saved up enough money to get set up in an apartment “in town” with my boyfriend. At this point, my parents intervened and forbade it, essentially by threatening to disown me. Now you might think this was draconian, but at the time, cohabiting was still “living in sin.” My parents expected that although their daughters would get an education and work, they would also live at home until they got married, like my older cousins. It was simply the way things were done in my family’s culture.

My first car

My first car

I backed down and stayed at home. My dad tried to appease me by helping me buy my first car. It was a 7-year-old Honda Civic hatchback with a suspiciously low 50,000 miles on the odometer. (Very suspicious indeed when it needed a new head gasket a year later!) Despite all the chaos that had been churned up with my parents and boyfriend, I loved my little red putt-putt. After just one month of driving, I got it kitted out with a spectacular car stereo (which played cassettes). One day, en route to classes, a tape got stuck in the machine, as they were prone to do. Trying to pop it out, I drove off the road at full speed, through a street sign and into a massive ditch. Although I wasn’t hurt, I was shaken up and covered in glass bits. A passer-by drove me back home, where I had to ‘fess up to Dad what had happened. Although the car was technically written off, he paid to have it put back together by a cheap independent garage, so I kept it on the road for another two years. I had to appear before the highway department to plead my way out of paying for the street sign! The worst part was that in telling the story, everybody asked me what the tape was, and I had to admit I’d been listening to a KISS tape, which killed my musical credibility!

Good riddance to the box

After college, I moved as far away as possible (I wonder why?) and started my first librarian job across the country, boyfriend in tow. We lived close to my workplace and I didn’t need a car. I had sold the Honda, which by now was only worth the cost of the car stereo! BF was unsettled and didn’t know what he would do when he got there. He ended up taking a course to work as a real estate agent, and of course, required a car. Having no income of his own, I felt obliged to take out a car loan so he could escort his future clients around. Oh, how I detested that Aries K car I’d felt pressured to buy! He visited open houses and scouted properties while I continued to take the express bus to and from work.

The BF flitted among jobs and racked up debt for the next year, resulting in our break-up and his move back east. I was left behind with the bills and the Boring Box Car which I had never personally needed. I held onto it until a new mate and a new car materialized.

You can see that cars and transportation were highly charged matters for me…

I will leave you there for now – my car story gets much worse before it gets better!

18 comments

  1. Fiona

    My second car was a Honda Civic – looks to be exactly the same model, but blue – loved that little putt-putt car! I destroyed it by driving it in 2nd gear (accidentally) at 100km an hour on the highway…couldn’t hear the gears screaming because the stereo was playing so loud – blew a head gasket! Those car stereos had much to answer for!

    I also did a 40km bus trip to and from high school…and had parents who were all for education, but would have disowned me for moving in with a boyfriend, so I can really relate.

    • I always thought that Canada and Australia were alike in dealing with long distances and low populations. We have a lot in common! I can’t tell you how many people thought I should have defied my parents. I’m glad times have changed, though.

  2. Can’t wait to hear the rest of this story. Unlike you lived in the city (small one) but hated the constant struggle to find the connecting buses. Getting to work was impossible as no bus went there and after attending football games I was the only one who took a bus home, standing after 11 along a deserted street except for biker bars was not a nice experience. My first car was my freedom as well allowing me to now come and go to my own schedule, but also led to a love affair with cars and racing.

    • Before my first car, I had that experience too. I would need to arrange for someone to drive me out of the city, but was always catching “the last bus” late at night to get to that point. Having a car was a big deal both for personal safety and independence.

  3. Wow – we must be of a similar vintage – that story brought back soooo many memories for me (and I’m in Australia!!!). The X1-9 was an amazing car and seemed so way ahead of its time, even then. Very sleek design and a real eye catcher on the road, I would have LOVED one of those. My mum had a Honda Civic – just the same, in royal blue. I had to chuckle at the tape in the car – I bet it was one of those that you pushed the button and had to push it quite hard to make it eject. I’m glad you weren’t hurt though. KISS was really popular in Australia, and a little known fact is that their single “Shandi” made it BIG here but didn’t really rate much anywhere else. Thanks for the blast from the past, awesome flashback!!!

    • Thanks, Louise. Do you remember when tapes would get caught and start “spooling” out of their cases? Yay for MP3s! I had to look up the song “Shandi;” I didn’t know that one. I am thinking that the futuristic X1-9 looks very retro these days, but at the time they were cutting edge and I would have loved to drive one!

  4. My first car was a Datsun that looked quite similar to your first car. And when I was a teenager I would have given a limb in order to have a Fiat, they were the coolest cars then (and WAY out of my meager price range!).

  5. Pingback: A Car Story – Part 2 « An Exacting Life

  6. I knew ALL the italicised words, I’ll have you know (and I’d like to THINK I’m young, but I’m not anymore, really!) This won’t be a post I mimmick/mirror – I’ve not personally owned ANY cars!! Just shared the ‘family’ cars…

    • I am hearing that most younger people aren’t getting drivers’ licenses or cars of their own any more. I made Link learn to drive (because of my own issues, obviously!) but Link has no interest in ever owning a car. As for the italicized words, you must be well-read 😉

      • I drive daily for work (and therefore it’s a ‘free’ car). But I can’t get comfortable with the cost, the depreciation and then the on going costs mainly. That and where I live and what i do, don’t necessitate one.

      • It would be great to be in that position! In my dream life, everything I need access to is walkable.

  7. Tee hee to italicized bowling, books in print!

  8. Pingback: Just Because | An Exacting Life

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