My parents bought a new two-toned blue and white Chevrolet station wagon in 1959. It had a V8 engine but it wasn’t particularly fast, nor did it get very good gas mileage. Still, it was the car in which I learned to drive, had my first wreck in, and the place where I engaged in backseat sex for the first time.
The old Chevy was horribly unreliable. It had the habit of dying and then not starting again for thirty minutes to an hour. Funny thing, it never happened to anyone else but me. When I came home late, my parents would reprimand me for using car trouble as an excuse. It seemed I was in a no win situation.
This went on for about a year, the car dying on me unexpectedly at least a dozen times. It never happed to anyone else and it was apparent my parents considered me a bald-face liar. Whenever I told them about the car dying and then failing to start, they would just frown and shake their heads.
This all changed one day as my mom and dad were on their way to Shreveport. Dad always had a lead foot and couldn’t bear to follow behind a slower moving car. The road from Vivian to Shreveport is narrow, hilly and has many curves.
On a short straightaway, Dad yanked the Chevy into the passing lane and stomped the gas pedal. A car was approaching from the opposite direction but Dad’s passes were always close. This time, halfway around the car he was trying to pass, the engine died. With heart in throat, he braked hard, let the car he was trying to pass pull ahead, and then got off the road, narrowly averting a head-on collision.
My mom and dad sat on the side of the road for thirty minutes until the car finally started again. They stopped at the Chevy place on the way home and left it with the mechanics, the problem diagnosed and cured a few hours later.
Carbon instead of wire filled the spark plug wires. One of the carbon conduits had a crack in it. When it got hot, the spark would fail and the car would die. When the wire cooled, the car would start again.
“I’m happy to find out you haven’t been lying to us all this time,” my mother told me.
I had mixed feelings about Mom admitting that they may have been wrong about my honesty. I never thought of myself as the dishonest sort, but when your own mother doesn’t trust you – well, it makes you consider all your other possible faults.
As I think about the old Chevy, I miss it. It wasn’t a perfect car but it always got me where I wanted to go, eventually, and managed to teach me a few lessons about life and human nature along the way. Hey, it was the car I learned to drive in, had my first wreck in, and the place where I engaged in backseat sex for the first time.