The first car I ever drove didn’t belong to my parents. The year was 1964, I was 13 and Mom’s car was in the shop. Santema’s Chevy garage gave her a loaner for the day. I remember whining/zhanicking/begging her to take me out for my first driving lesson. The reason I was so adamant (and she so agreeable) was because the ‘55 Bel Air was an automatic. My parents only drove cars with a manual transmission and a clutch. No radio, no air and shifting from 1st, 2nd to 3rd was part of the package.
I wouldn’t take driver’s training for another year. It would take lots of practice easing the clutch out while giving it some gas before I got my hand/feet/coordination while driving with no power steering. However, I have never tried harder about anything than learning to drive, passing the written test and driving our 1963 Chevy with an Iowa Highway Patrolman sitting next to me on our bench seat while I parallel parked the beast with ease.
Mom taught me to drive that day and I was in heaven! I drove for about 10 minutes, just 14th, 15th and 16th street. We never attempted crossing Main Street. Not many things in my life has been as exciting as the day barely-teen-Neese learned how to drive and I’ve loved driving ever since. But it would literally be 2 decades (1987 Astro Van) before I had dependable transportation.
When John and I eloped in 1969 we both had decent wheels. Hubs was driving a very cool 1965 2-door hardtop Impala. I was tooling around in a Cubby blue 1968 Ford Mustang, but there were red flags everywhere. Hubs (barely out of his teens) had gotten several tickets for drag racing his ‘65 on Douglas street in Sioux City, and had driven it, unintentionally over a cliff (cool as that car was, it couldn’t fly). So for the first couple years of wedded-frickin-bliss he was not allowed to drive anything as requested politely by the state.
We could scarcely make one car payment let alone 2. Since there was only one driver who was street legal, we sold the ‘65. Making matters worse, the Mustang was proving to be a lemon. The passenger seat broke routinely, shooting half of you into the back seat while inflicting spine/neck injuries. When the temperature hovered between freezing & 45, the Mustang refused to leave the corral for the day (or week).
We didn’t exactly get off on the right foot where reliable transportation was concerned. The 1965 International pickup’s clutch went out, so we parked on inclines and popped it in gear after we were rolling downhill, plus the passenger door flew open randomly, threatening to fling all living souls out. Our 1968 Nova blew a gasket so often, Hubs carried 6 of them in the car at all times, just dangling from the gear shifter, each patiently waiting their installation turn.
The 1969 Toyota idled at about 4000 rpm which was nice when driving in town because you never had to step on the accelerator. It went 20 mph all by itself. One day the whole dash exploded. John was disenchanted with our first ‘foreign’ car, and paid to have it crushed. Four year old Josh was with daddy and crying as the yellow cab colored POS was being squished. “Oh Buddy, are you gonna miss that car?” “No, my bubblegum is in the glovebox.”
The 1976 Dodge Aspen Wagon was better-except when you turned left. It would stall every freaking time. We were living in Davenport, a pretty good sized city with traffic lights at most intersections. I became adept at driving and only making right turns. Took me longer, but hell hath no fury like rush hour traffic, a stalled car with a mom and kids (sitting dead in the water in the left turn lane).
We bought a 1978 Sapporo with a blown engine for a song. Hubs thought he could just slip in another engine without much fanfare. It was a lot of work, engine didn’t quite fit and he had to rebuild/refit the fuel system. It ran like a dilapidated POS, but looked cool.
In 1984 John bought a brand new Chevy S-10. Crowded with a family of 5 but Adam was small enough to sit among 3 sets of legs on the floor. At least it didn’t strand us anywhere. Three years later we got the Astro Van with 12,000 miles on it for me. Two dependable vehicles-finally.
Let’s recap. These are just a few examples of the rundown, dilapidated modes of transportation I’ve been subjected to during 20 years of my life. Every single one of them left me stranded at least once while I was their embarrassed/frustrated owner. That dubious sinking feeling, my panicking racing heart, mouth void of spit when your car won’t start, or stalls at a stop sign/traffic light has a negative impact on the day. You’ve got kids with you, one of them has practice or a dentist appointment, the trunk is full of groceries and you’re stranded in a car that’s not going anywhere and no cell phone. Maddening/depressing.
I’m not fussy when it comes to cars. I want something that’s safe, drives great, keeps me warm or cool, has good brakes, tires and starts when you insert the key. (Haha, I’m becoming my folks. I’m deaf and never listen to the radio anymore) Doesn’t seem like I’m too needy or demanding.
So why subject you to 2 miserable, morass filled decades about the junkers in my life? Because of a feature on my present means of moving me from one point to another. I drive a 2018 4-wheel drive Jeep Cherokee. It’s not fancy or expensive as cars go these days. I like my Jeep.
After I’d signed on the dotted line the salesman walked me out to show me a couple of ‘new features’ before I drove away. (I had traded in my 2014 Jeep and was familiar with the model). So there’s this capital ‘A’ button with a semi-circle around it. ‘A’ stands for Annoying. He explained when I stop at an intersection, turn lane, stop sign, or traffic light, the engine shuts off. To conserve gas of course. Feeling that engine die when you’re focused on driving is instantly disheartening. Immediately I think I gotta call Hubs to rescue his damsel in distress because the POS car has taken a dump and left me in a pickle.
Every time I start the Jeep, its default auto-stop state is activated. I am able to press this ‘Annoying’ button to temporarily disable the feature but I have to do it every time the Jeep is started or as soon as I come to a stop, the engine stops which produces a sweaty brow and heart palpitations-until I realize I forgot to hit the button. It’s not the running errands part like buying gas, groceries, bank, then picking up Klavon’s pizza because those stops require me to literally stop and get out of the Jeep. It’s the driving to all those destinations with starts, stops and lights. Let’s say those 4 destinations (maybe 15 miles of total driving) include 4 left hand turns, 4 stop signs and 8 stoplights resulting in approximately 15 automatic shutdowns. How much extra wear & tear is that doing to my starter? Battery? My patience? My nerves? My sanity? This auto-stop feature is a huge bust. Annoying isn’t my favorite’A’ word but it’s a close second. My favorite ‘A’ word I’ll save for the idiot environmental/design engineer who came up with this asinine idea (asinine-another great ‘A’ word but coming in third)…