I'm Not A Car Guy
by Tim O'Connell
Hmmm, car week.
I’m not a car guy. I’ve never been a car guy. I mean, I used to like change my own oil but after I turned into the email joke I started letting Jiffy Lube handle it.
My buds Mark and Mike and Paul were the car guys in high school. Denny in college was a car guy. Hell, our buddette, Tracey in Germany could change a tire and not lose her entire freaking cigarette ash.
Me…not the car guy.
Dad wasn’t a car guy either…but he liked big fucking boat cars. If you hit my archives you’ll see him standing next to his 47 Caddy. That was BEFORE Mom and me and my sister. At least I know where I get my “Got money? Must buy something NOWWWW!” thing. It’s genetic.
But I got some car stories.
The first car I remember us driving around in was a 1965 Mercury Montclair Breezeway. You know the one you think about when Steve Miller sings about his Mercury with the fins in aqua blue?
Of course Dad sold that car just as I was coming of age. Something about my lead foot not getting that much engine in front of it. Looking back, Dad was a wise man, but seriously, when he and I drove around in the Merc while I had my training permit? That was some of the most amazing driving I’ve ever experienced. That car rocked.
My Dad was pretty cool. In the middle of winter, while there was a LOT of snow and ice on the ground, he made me drive over to the big ass parking lot at Lawrence Beach. It was completely empty. He had me pull over and said, “Okay, go crazy. I want you to whip donuts, get into skids, get OUT of skids like I’ve showed you. Basically, do everything you’ve been taught NOT to do and do it right here.” That was two hours of pure fucking magic. At one point he had to get out and go talk to a cop who had pulled in with his lights flashing and I guess that worked out alright because the cop went away.
My first car? I had a 1967 Malibu Classic with a small block.
Mine was in no way as cool as the one above. I bought it off a friend of my Dad’s for $400.00. That left me just enough to take it to Earl Scheib for a $49.95, “No ups, no extras” paint job to transform it from metallic mint green to midnight blue. My friends who were into cars and somehow managed to have an entire mechanic’s garage full of extra parts behind the local Italian Shoe Repair shop (Hey, in my neighborhood, some stereotypes were based on fact, sorry.) had great plans for my car. Bigger engine, nice rims, chrome pipes. My biggest problem was trying to figure out how to explain how I was going to make the mods on my Drugstore Delivery Boy salary. Dad would have understood how you could deliver things besides groceries and prescriptions, but Mom? She’s SUCH a farmgirl from Wisconsin.
Like I said, we had plans for the Malilbu…and then I had to give Barb a ride home from The Center (Teen Center, LONG story, it’s coming someday). Barb was the one that always seemed to get away. I was dating someone else, or SHE was dating someone else. We only hooked up once and it was brilliant…but this was before that and it was raining and she had a long way home so…I gave her a ride. Which meant that I wasn’t paying attention to the road, I was paying attention to her soaked t-shirt and she knew it and I was trying to figure out where to park for awhile that wasn’t tacky but wasn’t a cop cruise. I was running East on Albion at the stop sign crossing Ashland. I stopped. There was a big ol’ panel truck on the corner. I didn’t see anyone coming from the North, I couldn’t. The car coming from the South was plenty far away. I hit the gas. The tires spun on the wet pavement, I moved out slowly into the intersection. BAM from the North, sliding sideways, BAM from the South. T-boned two different ways. Barb had a cut on her head and my neck was fucked up for a couple weeks, but we were okay. That was the end of the plans for the Malibu…and parking with Barb. Yeah, in that order, I was 16. What?
I wound up driving my Mom’s ’73 Montego on and off through high school and college. Had a Grand Prix and a Caddie Seville as work cars when I worked for Harry in the siding business. Why would I have sweet rides in the siding business? When I wasn’t pounding the pavement, trying to sell home improvements, I made a lot of pickups and deliveries where I didn’t ask and he never told. Let me put it this way, when a 72 year old Jewish man who’s got a picture of himself shaking hands with a smiling Al fucking Capone on his wall tells you, “Don’t ever open up one of these envelopes or I’ll break your fucking kneecaps.” You just sort of nod and enjoy the ride. You gotta remember I grew up in a neighborhood named for Roger “The Terrible” Touhy. Respect was paid.
These days, with all the dreams of being a player long behind me, I don’t spend a lot of money on my “rides”. We have a Hyundai Elantra and Santa Fe. Any extra money for toys is spent on iPods and computers and home theater stuff. I want a car that gets me from point A to point B. I like the looks of cool cars. I lust after the latest Shelby creation, but I refuse to be one of those middle aged guys riding around in a muscle car to compensate for my dick not having the, shall we say, OOMPH, it once had. It’s just so sad.
I do wish I could get my hands on an ol’ Mercury though. I just remember all that CHROME on the dashboard and in the stereo speakers in the back. And that rear window that slid down, mixed with the vent windows…who needs air conditioning?
Timmer admits to owning Steve Miller’s Greatest Hits…but he doesn’t inhale.