7/13/2010

CARS !

Hubster and I came of age in the 1970's, and while people often romanticize the cool "muscle cars" of that era, the simple fact is that most of us 1970's teens did not grow up driving them. Only the tough cool guy in school , the one with the long hair and wide flair bell bottoms who probably sold drugs - you know who you are - drove one of those kinds of cars. (Remember, muscle cars were expensive ! Only "Smokey and the Bandit" could afford one.) No, the car most likely to have been driven by any of us aging baby boomers back in the day was mom's station wagon. Large as a tank, it often had the fake wood grain side panels that were supposed to conjure images of (what, exactly? old wooden carriages ? the stage coach that took you out west to the gold mines? ) gentility and luxury. These cars invariably got about 5 miles to the gallon, (back when gas was 35c a gallon) and the seats were covered in cracked vinyl "pleather" that was coated with pet hair and mysterious smudges from the many children who'd wiped their grimy paws on them. Sure, it was embarrassing to drive one or be seen in of these cars, and I have even more painful memories of being chauffeured about by a boyfriend's mother, back when we were too young to drive ourselves. Said friend and I sat, sans seat belts, on the rear bench seat of a yellow station wagon with green interior (known to all as "the banana"), making eye contact but afraid to say anything, lest his mother overhear us. If one's mom didn't have the requisite station wagon, she often had a large sedan of some sort, a Buick, Oldsmobile, or a Chrysler. You knew you were moving on up when the seats were plush velveteen instead of that brittle plastic that scorched your thighs in the summer or froze your tushie in the winter.
It was a huge generational statement for my late baby boomer friends and I (as opposed to the early boomers, who made the VW beetle their emblem of youth) that when we were finally able to buy our own cars, (or our parents allowed us to chose one for ourselves) that we often preferred tiny little fuel-efficient hatchbacks, especially models made in Japan or Germany. In the early days of America's love affair with Toyota and Honda, these little cars were considered to be the epitome of "not my mom's car". Off to college we went in them, cramming those hatch cargo areas full of record albums, cases of beer, clothing, shoes, books, a portable typewriter, bedding, etc. They weren't as comfortably spacious to make out in as mom's station wagon had been, but who cares ? They weren't our moms cars.

Cars have been on my mind considerably, of late, as GFT has reached that point in life where it's time to buy son #1 his first car. Hubster and I just can't juggle three drivers with two cars any more, when each of us needs to be at a different place across town at the same time - not to mention little brother and his transportation needs and busy schedule, too. Many families solve this problem by just hanging on to an old car to pass down to their children, but a few years back I was disgruntled from too many trashy old vehicles littering our driveway, and in a fit of pique sold all of them in one day, just to clean up the yard. (Gone in one fell swoop : an old mazda hatchback, a Chevy pick-up truck, a Ford winstar mini-van.) Granny isn't doing us any favors this time, another time-honored solution to the problem, with offers of a hand-me-down; the recession has made her worry about her finances and she's hanging on to her old vehicle till her stock portfolio recovers or she goes in to the nursing home, whichever comes first.
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Irony : A few years back, Hubster and I bought small fuel-efficient cars when gas reached $4.00+ per gallon, (the mommy van was one of the behemoths I sold - I was tired of driving all the kids in the neighborhood home after school and getting 9 mpg doing it) and bought what we thought were "cool, hip, young people's cars." He selected a Scion XB and I chose a Toyota Matrix. Both cars fit the carefree, "green", bohemian images we have of ourselves, and are tricked out with all the important gadgets and gizmos we need. We thought that we'd drive them for a bit (let our sons learn to drive on them), then turn them over to the kids and buy ourselves something else. But a funny thing happened on the way to the dealership .....our kids don't want our cars. Not only that, they are embarrassed to be seen in them. Sure, some of this is the eternal teen embarrassment of being seen with one's parents any time, any where. But offers to give either one of these cars to first born son were turned down, repeatedly, with scorn and derision. So what kind of car does this young lad want to be seen cruising through town in ? We told him we could not afford anything expensive; he had to chose something used, cheap, and reliable. "I just want a regular car, not one of those weird cars like you two drive. You know, something normal, like a sedan."
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Ba-da-bing ! Ba-da-boom ! Anything but the car my mother drives! And the "Circle of Life" takes a new turn.

1 comment:

  1. Update, 8 years later - son # 1 got tired of his gas-guzzling sedan ( it sucked up too much of his college beer money), and happily accepted my small fuel efficient car, instead. My how times have changed!

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