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.
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!
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!