OK, so I counted it up and it comes to 15. That’s the number of vehicles I’ve owned over the years.
The first one, a 1954 Chevy, I inherited from my grandfather when he gave up driving. It was beige with one green fender, the result of a previous, if you will, fender bender. No matter. I cleaned up the tobacco juice stains on the upholstery as best I could and drove it for the last three of my teenage years.
While I was dating my husband-to-be, he bought a brand new “unsafe-at-any-speed” Corvair. It was red all over, inside and out, with a decal of Wilbur Wildcat on the backseat, along with the greeting, “An Arizona man needs no introduction.”
I married him anyway.
A year later, we bought a new ’65 GTO – with air conditioning, something I’d never experienced in a car. For the first six months, I fell asleep as a passenger every time we went somewhere.
When the kids came along, we traded in the GTO for a year-old Ford station wagon. Before we made the first payment, the starter went out. Not long after, so did its replacement. It got so we started carrying a spare starter around with us.
Around that same time, we also bought a used pickup truck, stick shift on the floor, no AC, sturdy as a tank. Eventually our son inherited it, just the thing for a kid who thought he was Evel Knievel.
When I went back to college, we bought a Volkswagen Thing for me to tool around campus. Rode like a tin bucket. Next came a used Ford Bronco whose side windows inexplicably featured glass etchings of downhill skiers. We eventually sold it to a guy who paid all cash and said it was going to be used in some sort of demolition scene in a movie. Personally, I think it was destined for some sort of nefarious deeds in Mexico. Still more vehicles came and went over the years, including a Buick sedan, two Hondas and a motorhome.
As we got older, so did the vehicles, with our last one coming up on 15 years. Though it still drove fine, major maintenance lay ahead. Which is why a few weeks ago we traded it in for what I can only describe as a computer on tires — a computer many times more powerful than what first put man on the moon.
But before we could drive away with our new car, we had to undergo a 90-minute tutorial with a nice young man named Carlos. The main thing I got out of it was to remember to turn off the automatic windshield wipers when you go through the carwash.
My husband absorbed much more. Or so I thought until it was time for us to leave and he couldn’t remember how to start the car. And so the man who would rather cut off his right arm than ask for directions was forced to retreat into the dealership for a quick reminder.
When we got home, I took the wheel and drove to a neighborhood grocery store. I had the opposite problem from my husband. I couldn’t figure out how to put the car in park.
I’ve come a long way since then. I can now start the car, drive it forward and backwards, park the car, turn on the radio, change the channels, and adjust the air conditioning. What more do you need? Certainly not that scary-looking computer screen on the dashboard — and that even scarier female voice that comes on when you need something.
We became acquainted with a rather testy version of that voice when my husband was trying to figure out how to turn on the interior lighting. Even after he’d accomplished that feat, The Voice just would not shut up until he said, “Disregard.”
More recently, my husband found the secret control that opens up the hood and told me where to look for it. Huh-uh. I’m not touching it. You see, I’m pretty sure there’s a little man under the hood, hunched in front of — what else? — a computer.