WHAT DO OUR CARS SAY ABOUT US?

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

Ever notice how many different makes and styles of vehicles there are on our American roads and highways? If you go to Spain, you will see an ocean of Siat (SEE-at) model cars in subdued colors and not much else. Siat is the Spanish version of the Fiat. You may occasionally see a BMW or even an upscale American car. However, if anything but a Siat breaks down in Spain it is going to be a long wait to get the part to fix it.

In this country we have lots of choices of makes, models, colors, and configurations. It’s common to see a pickup truck with a noisy muffler and a body that is raised high above its oversized mud-grip tires. Most often the driver is male, in his mid-twenties to mid-thirties, has at least one tattoo, is a smoker, plays the radio loudly, and has rude and/or obscene bumper stickers on the back. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a large caliber weapon on board. Probably calls his wife “the old lady.”

I remember when one of those loud, extra large pickup trucks roared up next to me at a traffic light. I craned my neck and looked up at the driver to see that it was a geeky little guy with glasses who must surely have been sitting on a kiddy seat so he could see out over the steering wheel. When he was in that truck he was as big as any man.

Crude skyscraper pickup truck drivers are not the only ones making a statement with their vehicles. We all do to an extent. Fire engine red and school bus yellow cars surely are saying something, although I’m not clear what that is. I could speculate that vivid red car drivers have a serious “Look at me” need and yellow car drivers may be advertising superior intellect.

There are a few Humvees still around, despite the high cost of gasoline. I interpret that as a driver wanting to project a military image whether or not he has ever served in the armed forces. All he needs is a macho military-like vehicle that gets eight miles to the gallon. He can be a hero and never leave his driveway.

Some vehicles are designed to dominate. They’re the ones who come up dangerously close behind you on the freeway even though there is plenty of room to pass in another lane. They’ll follow for a couple of miles, then whip out around you, nearly clip the front end of your car getting back in the lane they just left and drive at the same speed in front of you they were driving when they were behind you.

Then there are the cars that scream, “I’m rich!” They’re the luxury car drivers who avoid the parking lot the rest of us have to use and park right in front of the supermarket to run inside for a few things. The privileged few. Their colors are rarely anything but black or grey, although they don’t call them that. Rather they are “Parisian Ebony” or “Arctic Charcoal.” I really shouldn’t make too much of that since I once owned a Prius whose color was advertised as “Driftwood Pearl.” We just called it “gold-ish” so people wouldn’t think we were putting on airs.

My personal preference in a vehicle is one that starts every time, requires little maintenance, gets decent gas mileage, and transports me reliably and uneventfully from one place to another. I care little about what it looks like and only a little more about what it sounds like because I truly believe that my right to drive a noisy car ends at your ears.

Now, having said all of that I have to confess that at one time or another in my life I have been one of everybody I complain about now, in my decrepitude. I had cars with loud mufflers, loud radios, loud colors, and believed with all my heart that offending people was my God-given right as a red-blooded American teenager.

Now that I’m old and perfect I complain about people who are just like I used to be.

Steve Liddick

A share would be appreciated

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

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TERROR ON ORE BANK HILL

My first car was a 1931 Model A Ford sedan. I don’t think Ford called it a sedan. Probably some snooty name like “touring car.”

It cost $50.00 and took me all summer working at a gas station to pay for it. I recently paid $75.00 just to fill up the gas tank on my Chevy pickup truck. For that kind of money I could have bought one-and-a-half Model A Fords. Unfortunately, it’s not 1953 anymore.

I loved that car. But, of course, everyone loves his first car. Having a four-wheeled escape pod meant there was now a whole reachable world out there to explore. Prior to that, I couldn’t get any farther away from home than my bicycle would take me.

As kindly as I felt toward that car, it was also the cause of one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.

I was driving on a road that took me over Ore Bank Hill, on the curviest road in the county. Once you reached the top, it was a steep downhill run for several miles, with nasty switch-backs and curves not banked to accommodate speeding vehicles and centrifugal force.

As I chugged to the top of the hill and started down the other side, I came to the first curve. I was picking up more speed than I was comfortable with, so I slammed on the brake. Teenagers do that a lot. Nothing subtle about most anything they do. A gentle pressing of the brake is not in a teen’s playbook.

Well, the Model A had a rod that connected the foot pedal to the mechanical braking system under the car. The problem was, the rod was made of cast iron. Cast iron does not handle slamming very well and it snapped, leaving me in near free-fall. Those old cars had no compression to help hold the speed down and it was impossible to down-shift in those pre-synchromesh transmission days.

So there I was, on the scariest road imaginable, careening downhill in a top-heavy vehicle with no brakes. I was seventeen years old and certain I would never see eighteen, whipping this way and that, wrestling the non-power steering wheel, skinny 21-inch tires squealing at every curve, picking up speed for several hair-raising miles.

Finally, I got to the bottom of the hill and was able to coast to a stop. Thinking back to that experience I wonder once more how I managed to survive my youth.

Anyone who doesn’t believe in God has never ridden a Model A Ford with no brakes down Ore Bank Hill.

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

YOUR FIRST CAR

Remember your first car? It was more than a car, really. It was freedom. It expanded your world from the neighborhood you walked around in, the town you rode a bicycle in. Now you could go to the horizon and beyond. Well, you could go as far as your gas budget would take you and that little band of youthful friends. And the car came into your life just about the same time as you were getting more interested in the opposite gender. That was another world expander of a sort. Nothing like that first car. And no car since then has meant as much. Ever think about what happened to that first car?  Ever wonder what  happened to that band of pals? Ever think about that first gender opposite? Ever wonder what happened to all those years that went by so fast since that first car?