Writing Time

I am reminiscing. I want to tell the tale of my first car.
It was a birthday present, which probably makes me sound like a spoiled rich girl- but it was a retired mail car with a super cracked windshield that my dad bought for $500.
I loved it, and it is legend.
About that windshield- the crack was splintery at the top, then lightning bolted down the middle. Right under the splintery part was the rear view mirror-
But only most of the time.
The rearview was glued there. Any time you had to adjust the mirror it would try to pop off, and I’d have to restick it and pray.
One of many, many quirks. The gas gauge lied- the 1/4 tank line meant “empty” My brother borrowed the car and thought I exaggerated.
He learned.
Without fail, every time I turned on the heater, the smell of maple syrup would blow out of the vents. It would straight up hit you in the face. People would ask me if I ‘d been eating pancakes or something.
It was such a merciful old car (already 14 years old when I got it). It would always sweetly and gently break down one manageable bill at a time.
As a broke college student, I could only afford to fix it at 1 mechanic shop where the owner felt sorry for me.
My mechanic, Baity, always thought he was seeing the car for the last time. He was all “I fixed the brakes, but it won’t last much longer” “I fixed the engine” “radiator” “fan belt” “that thing that kept catching on fire.”
Oh it loved to catch on fire.
It caught on fire when my dad and I packed it up with all my stuff to move in to college. We hit traffic and as we waited flames sprouted under the hood.
Dad got us to a parts store and replaced a few things and my Franken-vehicle lived again.
It still hated traffic though. Too many stop lights in a row or, god forbid, a single traffic jam and I’m on fire yet again. I got used to it. Concerned people would pull over as I let things cool off and ask if I needed anything, and I’d wave them on.
For about 6 months my heater went out, then 6 months without AC, then I couldn’t open the driver side door, so I’d scooch to the other side, then that door broke, so I rolled down my window and opened it from the outside (made for a very embarrassing traffic stop incident).
My window slid all the way down and would only go up in one inch increments after you started the car. My sister and I stayed in it for about an hour once, starting the car to roll up an inch, and repeating it again and again and again. I’d scream when someone rolled it down.
Then it went down and stayed down, and I drove with saran wrap around the hole for a couple of months. Guests loved it. What they really liked, though, was when the trunk would fly open at stoplights. I’d casually ask them to scoot out and close it. Much harder without guests.
My parents gave me that car when I was 17. They said they’d pay for the insurance on it until I bought a car of my own. They didn’t know how determined that car was to survive. They paid insurance on it through my high school, college, and grad school days. It wanted to LIVE.
My mechanic was a dear friend at this point, and I think we would have patched and patched that car forever. Unfortunately, one day, without any lights or warnings whatsoever, black smoke erupted from every end. I’d just pulled in to my house when the car gave up the ghost.
It had silently run out of oil on me. Irreparable damage. I donated it to cars for kids and, when I realized I forgot to remove the tags, I tried to get back to it. They told me it was already crushed. It and me both.
I loved that car and think of it often. I still get a little panicky in traffic jams, even though my well behaved vehicles since then have never once burst into flame. You never forget your first.