10 Things That Were Wrong With My First Cars and How Looking Back, It Wasn’t So Bad

Posted on January 6, 2015


When I was a teenager with a shiny new license to drive, I didn’t have the best of luck with the automobiles I got stuck with. My first car was an old, grey 4-cylinder. I named it “Gordo”. The AC in Gordo was mediocre at best (not good when one lives in a hot climate). Additionally, Gordo did not fancy being rushed. Gordo was more of the amblin’ type. Any time I needed to speed up in a hurry (merging, crossing a busy street, etc.), Gordo, in a Matthew McConaughey drawl, would tell me, “Now, now, hold on a minute. I see no need for gettin’ a move on. We’ll just stroll on over yonder.” While Matthew McConaughey is charming, Gordo was not. My presence was always announced from 3 blocks away. “How,” you ask?  In a way that was endearingly referred to as “Tweety Bird”. A very loud, embarrassingly squealy, tweety bird noise. I replaced the culprit once, only for the new one to make the same noise two months later. I suppose I didn’t have to worry about all that too long, though, because as sometimes happens with first cars, I wrecked it. Completely totaled. Ran it straight into a wall. Poor Gordo. But that’s a story for another day.

It took a while before I got another car, but that day finally came. I never would have chosen this car myself, had I the choice. But beggars can’t be choosers. My father bought it for me. 1989 Volkswagen Jetta. Standard. Diesel. My dad was geeking out about bio-diesel at the time and this POS was his Frankenstein’s Monster. But I swear he got this car just to torture me. I’m sure I can’t remember all of the things that were wrong with this thing, but how ‘bout a short run-down?

  • There was a buzzer (for the seatbelt I think? Airbags? I don’t remember…) that kept buzzing so we had to disconnect the sensor. Sounds legit safe, right?
  • It had a tendency to overheat (I have some humdingers about this).
  • The shifter was tricky – I was the only one who knew how to drive the car… it became increasingly difficult to finagle into gear over the time we lived together.
  • It lost its rear bumper.
  • The rear doors forgot how to open. When I had friends with me, they had to enter/exit Dukes of Hazzard style (and I laughed). See photo above.
  • Brakes stopped working.
  • Finally – and this one’s my favorite – like Old Faithful, it would occasionally spew white clouds from the air vents and pour molten hot liquid onto my feet (the ones I use to drive with) and onto the feet of front seat passengers. It smelled of sickeningly sweet maple syrup.

The last one occurred so regularly that my best friend and I knew the drill. One day (the day that this death trap went kaput once and for all), we were almost to our destination and it happened. Again. Without a word, we just started rolling down the windows so we could get to our stopping place safely. It spent the next couple of nights in that parking lot before it got towed. Good times. Good times.

     The quirks (Gordo) and faults (demon Jetta), however, did make for some entertaining times. If not at the time, they are things that I can (and do) look back on and laugh about. So many of the stories involve my bestie and every so often we will bring them up for a laugh. Just ask her how I lost that bumper. My point is: even if things seem like they’re not going particularly well, it sure is going to be a great story later. Okay no, that’s not my point. What is life if it’s not a collection of experiences, good and bad? Experiences that are story-worthy are what make me feel human. John Keats wrote, “Nothing ever becomes real ‘til it is experienced,” and I wholeheartedly agree. There were times that it definitely got real for me. So although I may not have received what I wanted in those cars, I gained so much more than I would have if I had easy vehicles. I got stories and laughs, good judgment, wisdom, knowledge, experience, bravery, and appreciation for the little things I have going for me.

     “We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world.” -Helen Keller

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