Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Wheels On The Cars Go Round and Round


I am not a fan of this beast--I've stated this before, I'll state it now, and in the future, I'll wave the nozzle of the gas pump I'm at (with luck I'll remember not to be holding down the pumping thingy) and say it again.

I grew up in the days before seat belts. I actually remember my car seat...it had a little steering wheel on it, and a yellow horn in the middle of it. I don't remember much else years 1-3, but, I remember that. It hooked on the back of the great bench seats that were essential in keeping control of children in the back seat.

I rode with two people who weren't fond of each other. This condition never improved in my life with them.

The cars changed, the addition of two younger siblings were put into the mix....but, they didn't change.

I found comfort sitting in the wheel well area of the backseat... back behind my father's seat, I'd soak up the heat from the floor, refusing to move even in the summer when it was almost unbearable. I loved the safety of the space. I suppose it was the same reasons I liked to lie under my bed... enclosed spaces made me content. For as many years as I was able to squeeze into that small area, I'd curl up there, resting my head on the hump which I was pretty certain some genius had built just for me... I was upset when I finally grew too leggy to fit, and had to move up to the seat itself, which brought on it's own set of problems.

Lying there, the words coming from the front seat wove and drifted above me, a cloud far above my head, only a few sifting down to my level, the rest flowing out the back windows along with the ash and poisons of their cigarettes, the open window ventilation carrying everything out-- cleaning, for a moment, the air I breathed of both sets of toxins.

Our cars changed over the years.....my dad was a Chrysler man, the models changed, the maker stayed the same. It helped his cousin had dealerships.... he stayed with that line of cars until he discovered Toyotas.

It was the same time he grew out a beard and started wearing jesussandals. He was a radical like that.

I hunched in a corner of the back seat of our various cars until we bought the station wagon, a godsend to me.... I was allowed to take over the back section, complete with the rear facing seat, for myself. If we were traveling, I piled the suitcases around me for protection--what did Ralph Nader and those people know about little white dummies flying around in case of an accident? I had Samsonite protecting me! On long journeys, I drifted into a self hypnotic state, reading and falling into the worlds I read about, becoming every character, wondering whose voice was in my head, as the words ran through my brain. I watched the road, from my back facing position, not wondering what was ahead, I was always interested in the there and gone. I could sit and drift and let the history of our trip roll out behind me, voices and words from the front a blur.... I was very happy that way.

I still do car trips best as a driver... and I do them by getting in, pointing the car in the direction it needs to go, and getting there.

You have not lived until you've driven from Denver to New Orleans in a van in July with a control freak for a husband, a fused neck in a brace and five children under the age of 14. If you can, try and lock your 3 year old in the car at some point during this trip, making sure she remembers it in detail, and tells everyone how you tried to kill her. Add in a brush with a hurricane and it all adds up to a great time.

I've had cars of my own....a Jeep that hit a skunk at one point in it's life, causing me to sell it; whenever it got hot, the stench filled the interior. And, let's face it, I am not a Jeep kinda gal. I had a Corvair. Damn you Ralph!!! I had a Karmin Ghia, with a Porsche engine. It was cute and sweet and it was murdered by a 1975 Dodge that hit me broadside at 60 mph. Someone was watching over me while I flipped in the air twice. There was the 1973 MBG-GT. The 1989 Mazda RX7. The single year cars, most of them used, all driven by a woman with a lead foot. I moved onto vans and the SAAB 900, and the ubiquitous minivan, Norm. Currently, I have Norma--lovely, safe, loves her mechanic, Norma Desmond.

I didn't like any of them... steel boxes that trapped me on a road I didn't like, that brought me memories I couldn't block. I want go where I have to go, without an internal combustion engine. The past rises up to smother me, in ways I cannot deal with in a practical way. Thus, when I find myself in a car, I try to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Oddly, I've only had three speeding tickets in all my driving life. Even delicious road trip food doesn't help--who can not love crispy Cheetos and diet Pepsi? Stopping at the delights of side shows along the lines of the recreation of Stonehenge made of cars or the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota can only slightly make me do the happy dance. I will admit I'm a sucker for postcards and really bad magnets, but, that's about it.

There's a great chance I'm going to end up doing a road trip in June from New York to the Land O'Utes to move my stuff back there.... a road trip. In a small car. Days driving. Granted, it will be with The Investment, and I get to choose the music, and we'll do the stopping and stuff. Still, it's a road trip. In a car.

And, I. Don't. Like. Cars.


Anonymous said...

Are you moving, Quin, in June? My first car was a '49 Chevy, and a little later, a push button Desoto - what a piece of S**T! I had to stop and put in a can of power steering fluid every 10 miles! Like tight places, eh? You would have made a great seplunker! That's one more little adventure I was on with Doc Peterson and the Geology 101 class, when I invited them out to explore a limestone cave near my home one time. Your writing flows so beautifully, Quin; Thank You for this lovely post!

Bud said...

You're making me think deeply about my pre driving years. I think I blocked a good deal of it. I should try to get to the bottom of that. As an adult I have been quite neutral about cars. I deal with them and neither like or dislike them. But for now on they have to be hybrid or better.

Bill From Gainesville said...

first of all, are you moving in June? from NYC to utah? second of all, I was conceived in a corvair so ralph nader can not only kiss your ass, he can kiss mine. third and finally, your writing is mesmeric (sp) it mesmerizes me (sp) fourth, how come there is no spell check for comments?

Quin Browne said...

cr~the station wagon had push buttons...a story is found there concerning my youngest brother, my two grandmothers and a bigass highway. i can't deal with caves, it has to be openish.. i like open containment, if that makes sense. lol

bud~cars were torture for me. a great series of one act plays called 'autobahn' is build on the premise in a car, you are trapped, and much can happen.

bill~i am due to move..right now, it is supposed to be a long term move..one never knows. as far as being conceived, your parents were flexible. very flexible. spell check comes with firefox..foxfire, whatever it's called. and, thanks. i blushed. really.

Peter Varvel said...

Yes, reading is always a handy and effective refuge.
Too bad you can't read while you're driving (who sez you can't?).
Books on tape/CD, perhaps?

TheInvestment said...

Sorry I can't go with you, Mommy :(

Does this mean you're not going to drive around in the 510 when I get back to Utah?

Bob Clay said...

Now ya know why I luv motorcycles....

Anonymous said...

Dear Quin:
1. Thank you so much for your comment on my latest 6S - "you rock" says so many nice things to my head, in addition to "I think I rock" and "I really, really want everyone to think I rock"

2. Your post about car rides has pushed so many "on" buttons in my head about riding in my mother's cars on trips, different cars - you're going to keep me up late tonight thinking about it all and I might have to copy you and write about it

3. You Rock! We'd have a gas together, although I would be gasier because I'm older.

4. How could you leave the most wonderful city in the world? I lived there for 12 yrs and now it takes me about 30 min to zip in (very heavy on the pedal). Thanks for some wonderful reading.
Caroline Wells

Alone on the Isle said...

I envy your ability to "capture" your topics. I haven't spent this much time thinking about cars/driving since the months leading up to my driving exam.

Writeprocrastinator said...

"I suppose it was the same reasons I liked to lie under my bed... enclosed spaces made me content."

Ah yes, fun with womb regression. My faves were desks and tables.

You should've given your Jeep a tomato bath, if only so that you could say that you did.

Only three speeding tickets while living in Colorado, Louisana and Arizona? That is just as an impressive miracle as the Karmin-incident. You truly do have someone watching over you.