A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

Train Time Is Now

Don’t forget – in the entry below this, you can enter to win a copy of Bridget Asher’s latest delightful novel!

This happened in Douglasville recently. I was there. The good news is, I am pretty sure no one was hurt, unless the truck counts. That truck looks TERMINAL.

I am not sure HOW no one was hurt, but a lot of folks were standing around in non-urgent, irked poses, and tons of cops and no ambulances came in the half hour I sat completely blocked in, happily missing a yoga class I secretly didn’t feel like going to and asking myself deep, philosophical questions like, “HOW did that truck DO that? WHY did that truck DO that? What was the truck actually WANTING to do, because that was not it.”

It also took me in the way back back machine, all the way to driver’s ed. Sophomore year. Washington High School. It was taught by some sort of manly coach person— time and a faulty memory wire have amalgamated him into a blurry composite of actors I have seen play coaches on TV.

In my head he looks like what would happen if Craig T.Nelson, Billy Bob Thornton, and Coach Ernie from Cheers had a paunchy baby.

I feel I owe the actual guy an apology for this, but too bad, because there was only one car with a working AC and I never freaking got it. I grew up in the Florida panhandle, home of the boiling spring semester, and I DO remember THAT.

I also remember, vividly, vividly, watching a film called ANY TIME IS TRAIN TIME in which we saw photos of teenagers in unforgiveable 70’s pants who were dead from trains.

I put that exact film, and those hideously be-pants’ed dead teenagers, in Mosey’s driver’s ed class in A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty.

Even in her tiny rural south high school, I doubt folks are still running those same films on the same super 8 projectors. But I wanted her to watch Train Time, Blood on the Highway, all of them that kept me up shivering in terror at the idea of crossing the tracks or, PLEASE LORD NO, Merrrrging. At Mosey’s age, I firmly believed that Merging = Death. I wanted Mosey to see the movies, so I put them in there.

The thing that destroyed my fragile teen wah was the film footage they collected of actual cars getting hit by actual trains in actual accidents that killed actual people. I remember watching car after car being righteously smoted into crumpled little sad remnants from which nothingnothingnothing could possibly emerge alive.

I credit this film with my absolute refusal to get a driver’s license. Instead, I dated boys with cars or rode about with my friend Yvonne. Finally, when I was seventeen, my dad MADE me go get one, saying I could not go off to college dependent on the kindness of tit-for-tat college boys. I think Daddy worried that a college boy would assume that providing me a ride would be tat, and I would be expected to provide the other part. If you follow me.

My first car was a thousand year old white VW rabbit with s standard transmission. I named him Oswald after the little cartoon fellow Disney invented before Mickey—you can see Mickey is sort of a mutated, more user-friendly version of Oswald. Oswald had tendency to rapidly overheat if he had to idle in place for more than three minutes.

I never got the hang of changing gears by foot and fingers, and the need to pull over and let Oswald tick down out of the red on his temp-o-meter after every longish traffic light wait was ENRAGING. I truly learned to cuss in that car. Oswald drove me both to school and to dizzying-Kilimanjaro-level-thinned-atmosphere type heights of grammatically borked and biologically improbable profanities. I have never since equaled that level of enraged, linguic foulness. Not even in grad school.

What was your first drive?

44 comments to Train Time Is Now

  • My first car was a truly outstanding 1980’s-ish Mercury Bobcat, which for the un-initiated, is the fancy version of the Ford Pinto. EXCEPT! Mine was super extra special because it was tri-colored! The lovely beauty was black on the roof and hood and silver on the side but the piece de resistance was the word Bobcat in letters about a foot high on the side. And no, the lovely wood grain gear shift handle and trim did not make up for it. Talk about a social life killer….

    Oh! and the seatbelts had been cut out. Please note that this car had been bought for me by a man who wouldn’t let me take KARATE as a child because it was too dangerous. And yet….

    I would link to a picture on the internets, but alas I have never been able to find a picture of one that was as lovely as mine.

  • I had to go look at pics ANYWAY—and awwwwwwww BOBCAT! It IS cute! I found one painted TRAFFIC VIOLATION yellow with REAL WOOD PANELING, but yes, yours sounds sexier. Hee!

    The seat belt thing KILLS me!

  • Em

    Mine was a 1985 Ford Tempo whose windshield wipers went on whenever I turned on the lights (unless it actually was raining). It cost $450 but my uncle talked the guy down to $400 which I thought was incredibly smooth. I wrecked it 3 months later and stubbornly worked all summer to pay the $1500 to have it fixed (even though it was totaled) because I loved it.

  • Shelley

    Mine was a 1970 VW Bus fitted with the camping package. A bed in the car of a 16 year old girl didn’t seem to phase my folks at all. The gear box was corroded and finding first gear was a challenge. In hill filled Seattle this led to lots of swearing, and stalls. It was great to learn to drive on a stick shift though, a life skill too few have anymore. Renting in Europe must be a terrible shock.

  • Our stories are very similar – I didn’t get my license until I was 18, heading off to college, and only then because my father insisted. I even named my first car after a cartoon character – Charlie Brown. It was the perfect name, because the car (a gray Pacer) was shaped like his head and had a very similar personality.

  • Oh, boy … memmmmmmmries … First car? 1975 Hurst Olds with a t-tops and a 455 engine. It was WAY too much car for a sixteen year old girl, but my dad was a car fanatic and he was doing the buying. I loved that car. I finally sold it to a guy who said it was going to be his “project car” – I wonder whatever happened to it.

  • JulieB

    My daughter was in an accident just a few days before her 16th birthday. Another driver backed right out into us, and just missed my baby’s door because my baby gassed it a bit to clear. I hadn’t even seen her lights go on, and I was in the front, as per the driver permit. It happened so fast that as it was going on, I kept thinking “What the ****? What the ****? Needless to day, that has really dampened her already weak enthusiasm for the license. We’re in holding pattern.
    Fortunately, the cop gave my kid a pep-talk. “Look at it this way, you got your first accident out of the way, you didn’t do anything wrong, and no one got hurt.” [ed. note: Our car was rawther hurt though] And, I managed to be the grown up and not scream at anyone.
    My dad bought me a car when I got a job in a bar in college. It was the getting-rides-home issue for me as well. Sadly, it was a Chevette. On the good side, I learned to drive stick really well. But I called the car a shove-ette.
    The one I bought for myself after college was a 4-door Pontiac LeMans. Stick again. I LOVED that car. And I loved the Saturn that followed.

  • I had to watch those same horrific films when I went to highway patrol camp when I was sixteen. I was terrified of railroad crossings for years! My first car was a 1977 Cutlass Supreme with white walls…I was embarrased of it at first because it was so freaking huge (and as old as I was). But then the boys started admiring its engine, and I discovered that I could fit ten of my friends in it. I quickly fell in love and we christened it the Party Wagon. My parents love to tell the story of how horrified I looked when I saw that car the first time…I’ve told them many, many times since that I’m sorry it took me so long to realize that they really, truly DO know everything!

  • Karen

    My mom FORCED me to take driver’s ed at 17 after I got a retail job and she got fed up with meeting me in the mall parking lot at 10 p.m. When the night came when my morbidly obese, chain-smoking instructor was to show the car carnage films that were supposed to scare me into being a good driver, I found myself sitting outside with the other squeamish wanna-be teen drivers, watching them smoke and thinking how much cooler they were because they were public school kids. Still, I don’t regret missing those films.
    My first car: 1969 Pontiac LeMans station wagon with a right turn signal that never worked.
    And I still flinch slightly when I merge.

  • Mr. Husband

    1974 Chevy Impala two door with an FM converter/8-track bolted under the dash so that I could listen to the cool music.

    I won’t go into what counted as cool music during my high school years.

  • I STILL HATE MERGING TOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    One of my later cars was a HUGE Buick my mom gave me for free — the best car? A FREE car. I called it The Boat or something?

    I was still a teenager when I met the man who woudl become Mr. Husband one day—EVERY SINGLE button on his car radio led to TK101, the hard and classic rock station. HA!

  • Christine in Los Angeles

    Oh, a 1961 Singer Gazelle, then a 1961 Chev.Impala – but, though I loved both of them, my all-time favourite was the 1961 Jaguar XK150 convertible, part of my settlement in the divorce. I wonder where she is now? Just tooooooo expensive to cover even minor repairs.
    God bless, Christine

  • My first car was a 1980 Ford Fairmont. It was silver with maroon vinyl interior, and it had maroon primer under the silver paint, and black primer under the maroon primer (ask me how I know!). I drove it from the time I got my license at 16 until WELL into college, and by the time I stopped driving it, it no longer had heating nor air conditioning and had burned through about a dozen transmissions. Also, every now and then the radio would randomly switch ALL BY ITSELF OR MAYBE BECAUSE OF JESUS to the Christian talk radio station, usually when I was driving home from doing something naughty. I loved/hated that car in equal measure, with a passion.

  • liz

    My first car was a baby blue two door Pontiac LeMans with white leather seats, handed down by an elderly aunt who had given up on driving. It had a tank of an engine, and when my sister inherited it and backed it into a stone wall it was barely dented. We would drive it home from the beach with um, unmentionables hanging on the exterior mirrors to dry. We got lots of beeps on the highway. : )

  • Andrea

    My first car was a hand-me-down Datsun 210 station wagon. With no air. In Louisiana. But I was lucky enough to graduate to a lovely Plymouth Volare station wagon with wood-grain paneling on the sides and red pleather interior. The lights switched to bright by pressing a button on the floorboard. And no, this wasn’t in the 70’s. This was in 1990.

  • A light, dusty blue 1986 Ford Mustang (it was 1993 at the time, so it was a bit dated but not too bad). And lest you think I was insanely lucky (other than the fact that I had a car at all, which automatically makes me lucky), let me tell you that it was a 4-cylinder automatic with a hatchback and a home-installed pop-up sunroof that leaked every time it rained. Not exactly a sexy Mustang. But I love love love loved that car. I named it Boutros Boutros Ghali, and we called it Bootchie for short. I was never afraid of driving, loved having the freedom of my own wheels. And I drove Bootchie until the fuel pump gave out right after I graduated college in 1999. We sold it to someone who fixed it and who still drives it around my hometown, which is awesome because I see it every now and again when I visit my parents. That summer of ’99 I bought a new-but-used (it was a 1999 model, but it had 21K miles on it) silver Toyota Corolla, and that’s still the car I drive. Its name is Moonbeam.

  • Bridget

    Glow-in-the-dark yellow Datsun B210, manual transmission, black plastic seats, no air conditioning and while you were in the Panhandle, I was due east of you on the “right” coast. Love those summer afternoons, sticking to the seats, trail of sweat draining down into your undies.

  • JenniferG

    Brown 1973 Impala station wagon (this was in 1982), about a block long but fortunately no fake wood paneling. The next year I got upgraded to a manual transmission Chevette. I thought it was great, compared to the giant station wagon. Except when you’d be driving down the road and parts would fall out of the engine (really, you’d see them rolling off behind you in the rear view mirror). Yeah, that was fun.

  • WandaV

    My first car was a brown 1967 VW Bug. Dad found it for me at a yard sale for $50! I thought it was really cool and a lot roomier inside than I imagined. Dad just wanted to be able to tinker with the German mechanics. Unfortunately, he had to tinker more than he bargained for. The electronics system sucked and if I had to have my headlights AND my wipers on at the same time, the car would die.

    We sold it for $250. (new stereo inside it) I went on to drive Dad’s Ford Courier pick-up truck.

    My school was very, very small. No driver’s ed classes. Had to sign up and take it during a summer school session at the local big high school. There were a couple of kids there like me – their school didn’t have it, either. And then there were the students who flunked driver’s ed during the year….. OY!

  • ScottsdaleGirl

    1981 Toyota Corolla. Bought it myself, learned how to drive and drive a stick after buying that car. I loved that car. SO MUCH.

  • Laura F

    Gold 1980 Chevy Citation. It had a V6, and since it wasn’t a very big car, that meant it was WAY faster than a 16 year old girl’s car ought to be. I had quite the lead foot, and sometimes find it hard to believe that I escaped my teens in one piece. My daughter’s first car (still years away) will be an underpowered car, for good reason.

  • I had a 1971 yellow VW Beetle–my father worked as a Volkswagen mechanic,
    so he could fix it when it had issues. I learned to drive standard on that car,
    and learned to cover the distributor cap when it rained so everything would stay dry
    and my car would start when I went back to it. Also, it had no heat. In upstate New York. To be fair, the heat worked just fine in the summer….. (Her name was Aphrodisia.)

    I had to get rid of it after we welded the bottom together for the 3rd time–it was
    too scary to hit the brakes and feel the floor wobble. Also, my passengers (trust me,
    there weren’t that many!)started making comments about a Fred Flintstone powered car.

    Being a mechanic’s daughter meant that my cars were all fixer-uppers, and I learned to drive around all kinds of problems–leaking brake lines, brakes that stopped the car dead (that’s when I learned about down-shifting), doors that froze
    open so you’d have to use the seat belt to keep them closed, and leaky radiators that required frequent top-ups with water.

    My current car is a 1999 Subaru with 189,000 miles on it, and it is still probably
    the best car I’ve ever owned!

  • My first car was a 1961 VW Bug. This was in 1981. It was this awesome faded orange, had no headliner at all, so it truly sounded like a tin can when you slammed the door closed. I was always running out of gas because it had no gas gauge. It did have a reserve that you switched over with your foot waaaaay under the middle of the dash. But then you’d of course forget and whoops! Out of gas yet again. My dad gave me a stick on dial counter that I was supposed to set every time I got gas with the current odometer reading plus 150 miles. But that required math. And I was in a hurry. And I would always forget, and the stick-on stuff didn’t stay sticky for very long and the thing ended up under the seat somewhere. So my parents were always having to come rescue me from various places with the gas can. That’s what happens when you’re too cheap for AAA.

  • pam ballard

    my first was a late 1950s (i started driving in 1971) blue corvair. park, drive, & reverse were buttons on the dashboard. it, too, had a non-working gas gauge. greatest feature for me was it was small. parking, merging, everything terrified me & small seemed to make it easier.

    my sister’s first car was a dodge demon that had a terrible odor the day dad brought it home & it never dissipated. i’m convinced it was a murder car.

  • Barbie

    A. Coach Rause at Booker T. Your description was DEAD ON!!!
    B. I think I rode in that little Oswald.
    C. My first car was a 1968 Volkswagon – 2 years older than I was. It was a baby blue/rust/primer combo with no working seatbelts and rusted-through floorboards in the back. Were my parents trying to kill me?

  • linda j

    My first drive was a (1981 I think) light blue mustang. Sadly it was killed on Junior prom night. Only thing that saved our lives was the T-tops that we were able to climb out of after the crash into the woods that lead to the ravine. The replacement that turned out to be the first car i owned, a 1979 Thunderbird with a 351 modified motor. Big car had an even bigger attitude. My mom bought it after the crash with the thought of it being a nice mid sized car. It turned out that she couldn’t even drive it it was so big. I still miss that boat… But I am saving for a blue mustang for my 40th birthday gulp just 2 years away…

  • When I was 6 years old, my parents bought the ONLY new car I ever remember us owning–a 1976 beige station wagon with automatic back window and door and faux wood grain paneling on the side. As I hopped from front to middle to back seats on the way home (no seat belts used in 1976 rural Louisiana), I thought it was the coolest car ever.

    November of my 16th year, I took my driver’s license test in that same, stinkin’ station wagon–we called it “The Yacht.” And I drove it until Daddy upgraded me to a. . .1976 Lincoln Continental.

  • Kathy (the other one)

    A 1979 blue Ford Pinto I bought from my older sister. It was a decent car until someone ran into the back of me. After which I heard about the pintos exploding and such. Nope didn’t happen to me, still unexploded. (Thank you Lord!) But she used it to deliver papers and I was forever finding rubber bands everywhere….

  • Kathy (the other one)

    Oh…and my daughter had a friend whose 1st car was a huge square boxy thing. They called it the Land Yacht.

  • Ray

    My sister and I are 13 years apart in age, and very few of her teachers were still in the system when I came through a decade-plus later. One of them, though, was the high school driver ed teacher. Mr. Reinert was proof that the Peter Principle trumps even Darwin’s Law when it comes to incompetence. Not only was he still there all those years later to terrorize us with those stupid films, he wound up giving the year-end graduation award to the nerdy kid with the highest grades on the quizzes- a kid who, as of a year after graduation (and possibly to this day), never managed to pass the road test to get an actual license.

    None of that is morbid enough for this comment, though. For that, you need to know that Donna was in her drivers ed car, with the AM radio on, during the early afternoon of November 22, 1963, when word came down that President Kennedy had been killed. The teacher’s sympathetic response to the three kids in the car? “Good riddance- he was a Communist.”

    In today’s world, a comment like that would probably have gotten him fired. Instead it just made him more feared- 13 years later, just as much.

  • 1964 Ford Falcon station wagon, white roof with silver(ish) luggage bars, red, three on the tree, and we called her the “Granny Buggy”. Sung to the tune of “Rubber Ducky”. I drove that car into the ground and will never find another like her. Best $400 ever.

    I subsequently went on to kill each and every car after that, to the point where I literally cannot tell you how many cars I’ve owned. I know I left one on the side of the road in Utah and gave up its title for a ride home. I think the timing belt was running backward on that one.

    I am the slayer of cars. Look upon my mighty wrecks and despair. 🙂

  • I “think” it was a 1991 Geo Tracker, but it might have been a ’92. It was electric blue and a hard top with three doors and four-wheel drive. I come from a small town in a dry county in NE Arkansas and for fun, there were three things to do: get high, have sex, or drive. I drove. A lot. I was a master of all dirt roads in Independence County.

    There are these old granite mines outside of town and the roads to them are basically non-existant, but in my little 4×4, we found them and explored them. It was like walking the mines of Moria. They were these perfectly rectangular tunnels in the ground that intersected at right angles. You could have stacked semi’s in them three high and four or five wide. It was an amazing place, and I’m amazed that we didn’t die walking through those abandoned mines. Huh. Teenagers are dumb.

  • Michelle-who-is-Shelley

    The first cars that I got to drive were my mom’s wood grain station wagon, and my dad’s yellow Ford pinto, complete with a sunroof (crank handle to open) and AM radio. My dad would weight the hatchback down with cement blocks in the winter to keep it from sliding.
    The first car that I drove on my own was a Dodge Omni – red. Or, as I told my not-yet-then husband, “I drive, like, a Red Omni” and he said, (smart-ass that he is): “No. It IS a Red Omni. If it were LIKE a red Omni it would be a red Plymouth Horizon.”

  • Brigitte

    I went through a whole series of gigantic 70s bombers and muscle-cars after I was absolutely forced to get my license at (gasp!) 22. But the first car, in my teen years, was some stick-shift old red Chevy Vega. I only remember it at all because A) stick lessons were very traumatic for me; and B) we soon had to sell it to pay for my dad’s kidney stones to be removed (tough times in the contracting business in the late 70s there).

    It amuses me endlessly to make a sad, pathetic face and say we had to sell my first car to pay for dad’s operation . .

  • Carrie (in MN)

    Oh I have to join in. Mine was a 1978 Toyota Corolla hatchback. I got it as a high school jr or senior and drove it through college and graduate school (and could fit all my worldly possessions in that car up until the day I sold it). The horn didn’t want to work by the end, so I when it was time for inspection I would drive around the corner from the inspection station, bang on the steering wheel until the horn worked, then pull into the inspection station and hold my breath until it passed. Oh, and it was a stick-shift, of course. I still love to drive a stick just because I can.

  • Amy-Go

    I had a silver Nissan Stanza hatchback, which was utterly boring except that it was a stick-shift. I still prefer to drive stick but I am not allowed to own one because someone that I am married to (ahem) can’t. HIS first car was a 1968 convertible Ford Mustang, and if my daddy had known how fast he drove that thing with me in the passenger seat we would not be married at all, because he would be deader than Jim Beverly, friends and neighbors.

    On the subject of merging, I find it much less terrifying now that I’m driving an enormous pick-up truck. It ain’t eco-friendly, but that sucker is a TANK. Love it!

  • Katie

    My first car was a 1972 Pinto Stationwagon with peeling faux wood grain on the sides, orange seats. The passanger side had a sensor that if anything heavy enough was on the seat would trigger a horrible buzzing sound. I LOVED it. I wanted to pimp it out with fringe, but I crashed it before I could. I drove it my senior year in high school, in 2000. None of my friends wanted to be caught dead in it, which made it even better, I never had to shell out for gas to drive them around!

  • Lindsey

    My first car was a 1984 Olds Cutlass Supreme (aka Mom’s Old Car). As soon as I could, I went out and spent a ridiculous amount of money on a very rusty, but very cool, 1988 Mustang. Oh, I loved that car! Even though it broke down every other month and I spent most of my hard-earned part time job money on that car instead of on the important things, like, oh, UNIVERSITY.

  • Miss Shell

    My first car was a 1982 Buick Skyhawk, promptly nicknamed the GroundTurkey. My father bought it because it had so few miles on it, which I hypothesized was because it is to drive a car that is always in need of repair. I can’t even count how many times my father had do repairs on that car in parking lots where it had stranded me. Like on my 17th birthday, when smoke started rolling out of the vents, INTO the passenger compartment of the car. Or when I drove it to college orientation and it promptly sprang a leak that left the entire contents of the radiator in the parking lot. I thought I would get a summer job, in order to finance better transportation, but on the way to my first interview I made the mistake of stopping for gas, and couldn’t get the car to start again. On the bright side, I can now pretty much diagnose any automotive ailment, and know which ones warrant an immediate trip to the mechanic, and which can wait a while longer, and it has been a long time since I have been stranded. 🙂

  • Ruth

    A brown 1975 Toyota Corolla that felt like it was about to become airborne when I pushed it up to 80 mph on the L.A. freeways. My dad bought it for me a few weeks before my sophomore year in college when it dawned on him that his other option was driving to L.A. and back again just like he had at the beginning and end of freshman year. “Can you learn to drive stick?” he asked. For a free car, hell yeah I could learn to drive stick. Naturally he left it to my mother to teach me in the 2 1/2 weeks before school started. Only one of the many, many reasons that sainted woman is going straight to heaven when she dies!

  • Jennifer in NC

    My first ride was a 1976 Ford Maverick. Apparently I wasn’t cool enough to drive a Mustang. It was white with a navy blue vinyl roof that finally yielded to the baking southern sun. The vinyl started to peel just like my back after a bad sunburn. Not a pretty sight.

  • A LOT of people had BUGS. I coveted one of those cars — I loved a boy who had one, a blue one, but he never loved me back. ALAS!

  • Sara

    1987 Honda Accord. I loved that thing and drove it until its front axle broke in half, which totally happened at a very inconvenient time.

  • Sara

    P.S. Standard transmission, of course! They’re harder to find but I still try to find cars with standard transmission. I figured I had it made when I was able to balance breakfast, coffee, and my stick shift in stop-and-go traffic.