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May 30, 2008 / Maleesha Kovnesky

The Cars of My Life

Everyone remembers their first car.  Mine was a 1981 burnt orange Toyota Tercel.  One of the doors was almost a tangerine color.  It had black pleather seats, an AM/FM radio and tape deck, and cup holders.  I had just turned fifteen and got my driver’s license the month before.  I went to an auto parts store and purchase a Velcro clock which I promptly stuck to the dash.  Now I could drive and know what time it was.

One day a cassette got stuck in the tape deck.  My friend Theresa grabbed a screwdriver and tried to pry the tape out.  I think it was a mix tape.  Suddenly there was a flash of blue sparks and the radio died for good.  Or we thought it was for good, sometimes when I turned corners a little too fast the radio would mysteriously turn itself on and dial a random station.  Then I’d have radio again until I got to my destination.

When I was 17 it was time for a “new” car.  The only thing semi-new and teenager-like I could afford on my waitressing wages was a 1993 Hyundai Excel.  Mine was white with a pink-and-purple racing stripe.  It was a hatchback…or what I fondly refer to as “butt cars.”  It cost me $180 a month.  That was a nice car with a new car smell.  I got pulled over in that car quite a lot.  Once I got pulled over because my friends were hanging out the windows squirting water guns at cop cars.  It turns out that there were real cops inside those cop cars, and I had lots of ‘splainin to do.  Thankfully I got ticketed only for no seatbelts.  Today we might have been in serious trouble for making threatening gestures with fake guns. 

I got shipped off to the Marines in late summer of 1996.  When I came back, I really looked forward to tooling around town in my car.  Alas, when I got home, the Excel was gone and a nice new blue Chevy Blazer was in its place.  My mom had traded my car in.  “You weren’t around,” she said.  “I was in boot camp,” I said.  Sigh.  (Her name was on it since I was only 17 when I bought it, so I guess that’s the way it goes.) 

I didn’t get another car again until I was stationed in North Carolina.  I went to a real dealership with my real paychecks from Uncle Sam.  I picked a burnt-orange Nissan 200x.  It was my first vehicle purchase on my own.  It cost about 16,000…it was also my first foray into financial commitments.  About six months later, I ran it’s shiny orange hood into the back of a Humvee on base.  My excuse is that the Humvee was camouflaged.  I didn’t have any excuse six months after that when I ran it into the back of someone’s Honda.  I vowed to look at the road from that wreck on.

After a wreck, cars are just never the same.  Just before my enlistment was up, I decided to go get a small blue Chevy S-10.  I had to roll a little bit of the Nissan debt into the truck, which the salesman was more than happy to do for me.  I wanted a truck because I moved a lot and I was always carting things back and forth.  I figured it would fit in with wherever I was moving to, which at the time was still uncertain.  I thought I’d go to college in Wilmington, or find a job in Western North Carolina.  I pondered going back to Arizona and getting a job with the Border Patrol, but turns out my eyesight was too poor to qualify.  Then I got a job offer in Washington, D.C. which was too good to pass up.  My country bumpkin truck and I moved to an enormous urban center.

The Chevy lasted about two months in D.C.  It wasn’t built to dodge racing Beltway traffic.  I mozeyed on over to a Subaru dealership in Fairfax, Virginia, where I said goodbye to my short-term truck.  I had to roll a bit of the truck debt into the 2000 silver Outback wagon, but I figured I’d have the car forever.  My family is a big Subaru family, they’ve always had amazing luck with those cars, so I felt like I was making a good choice.  I drove off in my new silver friend, very happy about my purchase. 

I drove that silver Subaru 65,000 miles in the three years I lived in the DC area.  Commuting was killer.  I also took that car to New York City, to Boston, to Baltimore, to West Virginia, back to North Carolina several times.  It was my East Coast car.  Then I got suddenly really, really tired of living on the east coast.  I moved to Colorado.  That silver car hauled me and my three cats across the country to my new home in Colorado Springs. 

A week after I got to Colorado, my car gave up and died.  For about $4500 in repairs, I could make it run again.  The car had the equivalent of a massive stroke-it’s electrical system completely failed while at the same time needed new tires and a new this and a new that and the wipers didn’t even work anymore.  I said thanks, but no!  They did get it to a point where I could drive it, but they assured me it was only a matter of days, perhaps hours, before the whole thing would die again.  My car was suffering and wanted to be put down.  So I did the humane thing for everyone, and drove it to the Colorado Springs Subaru dealership.  I traded in my about-to-die car and I didn’t feel the slightest bit guilty either.  Just because the car would probably croak tomorrow, after all the paperwork was signed, oh well.  Car dealerships had been ripping off people for years, this would be my chance to Stick it To The Man.  Or whatever. 

I chose a cherry red, turbo, WRX.  It was fast, low to the ground, and the salesman assured me it would cut off my time to Denver by at least twenty minutes.  I was pleased with my choice, after all it was a great car for a single girl who had every intention of staying single and childless forever.  I had a good job, freedom, nothing to hold me back.  Why not get a fun car for once?  About a week after the major purchase, I met Wasband and before I knew what had happened I was trying to stuff a car seat and a diaper bag into the back of a shiny red WRX, which feels a lot like using a Styrofoam cup to drink champagne.
My husband’s car at the time was a bronze Buick that would have looked perfect sitting outside a retirement home in Florida, but it did have nice air conditioning.  However there were so many things wrong with it.  For example, Wasband drove around with a water bottle.  The water bottle was to clean the windshield. Depending on where the windshield mess was, either the driver or the passenger had to hang out their window, flinging water at the windshield so that the wipers could do their job.  This was super fun to do while driving seventy down I-25.  He traded the Buick in for his dream Jeep Wrangler. 

The WRX was traded in for a black Forester wagon, aka “Mom” car, which has plenty of room for groceries.  It’s got a really dented hood from the time I got stuck in Ute Pass Canyon during a major hailstorm.  It has a quarter-sized spot of rust on the back from the time I backed through the garage door when my husband and I were arguing.  It’s got dings on the side from many parking garage mishaps.  It’s been puked on, spilled in, and had it’s interior painted with a cheeseburger. But you know what?  It’s paid off…which makes it the best car I’ve ever had…  

…in spite of its flaws.





Leave a Comment
  1. Rurbusbiscefe / Nov 24 2009 4:36 am

    Good article, great looking blog, added it to my favorites.

  2. pikespeakdenise / Jun 1 2008 8:28 pm

    My first car was a puke green Ford Comet. His name was Pokey. I only had it for six months, then my dad insisted I learn to drive a stick. Had many years of fun in my 76 yellow Mustang. Now the ol’ knee does not clutch and I drive a friggin’ station wagon. Actually love the new Outback, for the times, they are a’changin’…

  3. Stacey / May 31 2008 7:58 am

    I haven’t had many cars.

    When I was a teenager my sister (2 years younger) and I shared my parents’ 1994 Chevy Cavalier. She wasn’t the world’s best driver, so my parents put the car in her name so she could have her own insurance policy. When I graduated college and my parents told me I could have the car, my sister reminded them it was in her name and if they wanted it back they could sue her for it.

    Instead I bought a red 1995 Dodge Neon. Although the car was 7 years old already, it had ok mileage and ran like a champ . . . until a Jeep Grand Cherokee pulled out in front of me and totaled it.

    After that I had a 2001 Chevy Cavalier, which I hated but drove until it had over 100k miles and nothing in it worked anymore.

    This year I bought a 2007 Nissan Sentra, which may be my favorite car so far.


  1. The Cars of My Life « Binary Trash

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