Thursday, April 5, 2012

Surrounded by Steel

“I pulled you over because you failed to come to a complete stop at the stop sign,” the police officer said when I opened the driver’s side window on Roxanne – my Candy Apple Red Ford Fusion.
“Well, you got me there,” I smiled. (Actually, rolling stop signs saves a lot of time. This tip is for adults over the age of 21 ONLY.)
“I’ll bet you are in and out of the neighborhood several times a day.”
(I fail to see how that’s any of your business!)
“So, you probably are a little lax on stopping at that sign. I’m not going to make a big deal about this, but you need to be more careful. And you need to keep a current insurance card in your car (oops),he said.
He didn’t notice that I was driving barefooted too.
As best as I can remember, Roxie is vehicle Number 8 for me. I’m not counting tricycles, bicycles, lawnmower and tractors (let the Arkansas jokes begin, although those probably started with the previous paragraph).
My Dad and I always had cars in common – he loved looking at them and buying them. I loved driving them.
My relationship with cars began rather inauspiciously with Medusa. I was 15, my sister was 16, and we took turns driving the old gal. Medusa defined our shared teenagehood. She was a big, noisy white 1970s Pontoon, er, Pontiac something-or-other, with a name inspired by Greek mythology. Or Disney. Anyway, Dad was always clear – he didn’t care what she looked like, he picked her for two reasons: 1. She was a bargain. 2. She was heavy and surrounded us with steel.
Driving her really was like driving an angry boat. We would park her next to the speedboats – Trans Ams, Corvettes and Camaros – in the high school's gravel parking lot. Then, we’d slam her heavy doors and pretend we’d gotten out of one of the speedboats.
Our relationship with her was shaky at best. She once stranded me on the busiest road in town. Shaken and scared, I folded my arms across the steering wheel and prayed. Then, I heard the knocking on my window – turns out, my Dad’s best friend was in the truck right behind me.
Somehow, Medusa got us through high school, our first jobs, basketball practices and drama rehearsals, numerous concerts, a few boyfriends and the occasional bad decision.
College life for me started with a four-door white, red-trimmed Thunderbird named Casper. Dad picked Casper for the same reasons that he had picked Medusa. But we were at odds from the beginning – she was square and boring. I spent most of my time with her on a hilly college campus. She negotiated the hills pretty well, surviving one ill-advised major change, a 7:30 a.m. chemistry class, two traffic accidents, a few boyfriends and many late nights at the college newspaper office.
Post-Arkansas, post-singlehood, pre-parenthood and in graduate school, I owned a red Grand Prix (Rosie). I liked her so much that when it was time to trade cars, I bought another red Grand Prix, this time a brand-new one named Lucille. My Dad helped me find them – we read reviews, visited car lots and negotiated for them together.
Post-master’s degree, commuting between Oklahoma towns for the third degree, I drove a red Dodge Intrepid (Scarlett). She fit Dad’s criteria: 1. She was a bargain. 2. She was heavy and surrounded me with steel. It was hard to give up Scarlett, but two cars seats did not fit well in that two-door car.
So, I got the one vehicle I said I’d never drive – a Dodge Caravan. The van was named … let’s just say that I called her many names over the seven years I drove her. Soon, the kids no longer needed the car seats but wanted more room for their friends. I traded the van for Zelda, a red Ford Expedition. She was a gas-guzzling, parking lot hog but just what I needed at the time.
Three days after my stop sign incident, my teenage son had his first driving accident. His old Mercury Cougar is not much to look at – it’s covered in the battle scars of dents, scratches and rust. But my Dad, who died when my son was 3 years old, bought that old battleship about 25 years ago. He bought it for two reasons. This week, only the second reason mattered.

“You will surround him as with a shield.” Psalm 5:12

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant. and the kicker, unexpected and a knockout. thanks.