Mands wrote a wonderful post on February 1, called – appropriately, “Firsts.” She got me thinking, because one of the firsts that she remembers is her first car. Her first car was a 21-year-old Fiat, when she herself was 19! The car was the elder statesman in that relationship. Her first new car came around a few years later. My first car? Ah, yes! I remember it well! (Cue Maurice Chevalier!). . .
It was my senior year in college. Rather than live on campus that year, I rented an apartment off campus, so I needed a car to get to my classes each day. This was in 1972-73. My folks had purchased a Chevrolet Nova, new, in 1968. It was a great car, and is still considered the best year for that particular model. This car became their “second,” when they bought another, larger, new car in 1971 or so. My brother and I used the Nova when needed, and when we were home from school, but my wonderful Dad decided he would turn the title over to me when I got my apartment. I have a distinct memory of giving my Dad a $1.00 bill in exchange for that title, as the law apparently demands some sort of monetary exchange to turn over a title. Even though a one-dollar bill meant a lot more then than it does now, it nevertheless was a bargain! I joyfully handed over the cash, gave Daddy a big hug and kiss, and then drove off into the land of car ownership, insurance, gas prices – which because of the crisis going on at the time had jumped up to the unthinkable, scandalous price of 69¢ a gallon!! (Those were the days. . .). Being the spoiled brat that I was, Mom and Dad would occasionally send me a bit of money to keep my car gassed up! Hey! At least I was grateful!
The car had one relatively minor problem. The windshield wipers were permanently “on.” They could only be disabled by opening the hood and disconnecting the power to them. So, I usually left them off, unless a rainy day seemed imminent; on those days, I plugged them back in before taking off for the day. To avoid embarrassment from puzzled drivers whilst sitting at traffic lights, etc., I quickly turned on the windshield washer so people would think there was a reason they were on. (Worked fine, as long as I kept the washer fluid tank filled!) My friends knew about this little “quirk,” and were happy to ignore it, (besides, I had the cleanest windshields in town!), because I was the frequent purveyor of rides both on and off campus. Small wonder that was the year in which I was truly a BWOC (“Big” Woman on Campus.”).
One of the acting troupes in which I was involved was an independent company called “The Gilbert & Sullivan Players,” (also known as the “Over-and-Under-the-Hill Gang,” in honor of our founder and director, Professor Bob Hill.) We were deep into rehearsals, nearing our final dress – I was “Buttercup” in our production that year of “H.M.S. Pinafore” – and our rehearsals generally went into the wee hours of the morning. The rehearsals and performances were done at an old theater in a neighboring town. A vaudeville theater during the 20’s and 30’s – one of the grand old theaters of its day, it had been converted into a movie theater later on, but was no longer occupied. Beautiful – though it had become rather shabby – but still very useful and a lot of fun to work in. It had a huge stage and proscenium, and a 90-foot fly! (Those of you “in the business” will know what I’m talking about!)
One night we did not get out of rehearsal until 2 a.m. We were exhausted, and I was the designated driver for the night, and had 3 or 4 passengers, my roommate occupying the front passenger seat. My wipers were unplugged, as it was not at all stormy when the day began, and when we left, it was too dark to tell whether it was cloudy or not. It must have been, because we had gotten no farther than a mile down the road when the clouds opened up with a downpour. I mean it was POURING, and none of us would have been at all surprised to see cats and dogs falling with the rain, and being flailed about by the wind that came along with the storm (and leaving poodles in the road, too!). I started getting very nervous, because it was becoming harder and harder to see anything, least of all the road. The headlights were of little use. Finally, when my nerves were frazzled enough, I announced to the passengers, “I’m going to have to pull over so we can wait out this storm. I can’t see anything! We’re going to be even later getting back to campus, because this storm shows no signs of stopping.” Groans were heard from the back seat, when I felt Christine, my roommate, gently tap my shoulder. “Paula, why don’t you just turn your windshield wipers on?” Slapping myself on the cheek in order to wake up, I remembered that they were not plugged in! No wonder I couldn’t see! So, I pulled over, got out of the car – I had no raincoat – and popped the hood, plugged the wipers in, closed the hood (considering my state at the time, that was not a given), and got back in the car, soaked to the skin, dripping wet, and drove everybody home, safe and sound, and found it was really quite easy to see the road now that the WWs were on! Live and learn. . .
So, where, you may ask, does your hubris come into this? Well, it doesn’t in this part of the story. Bumbling foolishness? Yes! Hubris? Not yet! In the next part – saved for tomorrow – you will be given the opportunity to read about one of my finer moments of bravado. Part two will be about my first NEW car!
Until then, I hope this has been enough. . .