Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Car Names

I've had a few cars in my time. My very first car, that I bought myself in 1983, was a 1979 Chevy Chevette. His name was Charlie. I only had Charlie for 18 months. Charlie had a manual transmission, which I didn't know how to drive. My friend Chris Dellone had to drive it off the lot for me, and then taught me how to drive a stick shift. I kinda hated Charlie at first and only bought him because I needed transportation to the beach for the summer where I spent three months drawing caricatures of people on the Boardwalk and parking cars at Phillip's. I tried to jazz him up by adding pinstripes on the outside of him, but there is only so much you can do to a Chevette.

My second car was Rhonda, the Honda. She was an '83 Accord LX. I loved that car; gray with burgundy cloth interior, a kickin' cassette player and a sunroof. I was pimpin', baby. This was the car that I drove back and forth from my folks place in Frostburg to Ex#1's place in Sterling VA twice a week for several months before we finally moved in together - that's 280 miles round trip, twice (it's amazing what young hormones are capable of). This was also the car in which I suffered my first heartbreak. I logged alot of time on random drives and sometimes just sitting and crying. I pounded her steering wheel, beat her seats, and drove her recklessly at times, but she was ever faithful and dependable. Then sadly one night, she died a miserable, fiery death when a mechanic only put in one quart of oil after an oil change. One night driving down Route 7, Rhonda's engine caught on fire and she was totaled.

Ever wonder how we decide the names and genders of our automobiles? My first two autos were both 5-door hatchbacks, similar in shape, just built by two different makers. Yet one was "male" and the other "female". I just knew, at first glance, the gender and name of each car. And it's amazing how much we experience, both physically and emotionally, in our cars: from first kisses to driving to a parent's funeral to job interviews to breakups, and so on. And each time, they help us in the transition through periods of our lives, asking only for gas and the occasional tune-up. They listen without complaint, judgment, and feedback. How many conversations do you think you've had by yourself in your car?

After Rhonda came "The Turd", so named by my brothers because it was a brown 84' Ford Tempo. I bought it almost completely stripped - no A/C, no stereo, nothing; this was a necessity purchase to fill the void of my dearly departed Rhonda. The thing with The Turd was that I was not going to keep it long. My folks wanted to buy me a stereo for Christmas one year and I told them not to since I wasn't keeping the car. A year later, they offered to have a sunroof installed and I said no because I wasn't keeping the car. I bought the car in 1985 and drove it for the next 10 years - covering my first move to DC, my return to college, and the million road trips to vist Ex#2. I had a difficult time coming up with a name for this car, but at Shenandoah, it became known as "Miss Paisley" - and at least 5 people had keys to her. And as long as everyone kept her clean and filled with gas, I didn't much care who drove her. One day, a classmate was driving her and slammed into a hidden pothole and broke the rear axle. Since it would cost more to fix than the cost of the car, I donated Miss Paisley to an organization that taught skills to mentally challenged adults.

Then came Jett, the Jeep. I bought him new in 1994 and fell in love on the spot. He moved to DC with me initially in 1995, but when he kept getting broken into when I was living on The Hill, I sent him back to live with my parents (I mean what would someone think would be valuable in a vehicle that has no windows or a roof?). To compensate, I bought Judy the white '96 Jetta. I drove Judy around DC and on road trips to the beach and home. When I would visit my parents though, I would always jump in Jett and go for a joyride through the mountains and wide fields of western MD. Judy was the red-headed stepchild in Jett's presence.

Sadly, one day, Judy was stolen while parked in Dupont Circle. When the police found her in a lot in SE, she had been involved in a jewelry store robbery (the backseat was covered in small ring boxes) and severe damage had been done to her interior. She was a great car, but I totaled her. So then I brought Jett back down to DC to live with me.

I loved that jeep, and it became synonymous with me. My widely-used online nick was "Beef in a Jeep" and I am personally resposible for the sale of 9 Jeeps that I know of (roommate Ashley even has one now). After 11 years, he was just beaten up enough and dented in all the right places that he was perfect! Roof off in a rainstorm? Didn't hurt him. Back into a telephone pole? Character dent. Then one morning in June, I went out to take him to work and he was gone. I had noticed wires pulled from the back a day before, but just shoved them back up under the dash, thinking nothing of it. Apparently someone was going to hotwire it and couldn't. They must have come back and tried again - and succeeded. Jett was never found. I think I cried a little.

So right now, I am carless (these days, I am "Beef on a Bus"). So far I haven't needed an automobile in Chicago. Parking is an atrocity, and the bus and trains take me everywhere I need to go (I've only been in three cab rides since I moved here in September). Not sure if or when I will purchase another. But I think you can guess what I will buy when the time comes.