I sometimes make grand statements like, “No one forgets their first car”, but then I realize that maybe not everyone has the same fond memories as I do for things. I basically attach sentiment to anything—it’s a bit of a running joke in our home. If a rock is in our backyard for enough time, that rock now has a name and is coming with me when we move.
This is a picture of my first car. It was a Pontiac Geo Firefly. It had sparkly blue paint, a top speed of 80km/hr (people on the highway LOVED me), a touch of rust on every surface and the biggest hole in the dashboard that makes me question how it got certified. I have so many stories about this car. I LOVED this car.
My parents bought it for me when I got my driver’s license at sixteen for five hundred dollars. My first expedition in it was picking my best friend, Jennifer Sully (side note: I always refer to her using both her first and last name—you’ll get used to it), and stopping for gas on our way to our other friend’s house. After pumping the gas, I turned the car on because we live in Canada and it was freezing, before going into the gas station to pay. The line up was fairly long, and after a few minutes I finally made my way back out to the car and saw that it is filled with some sort of white fog. I opened the door and peered in to see Jen looking at me with slightly glazed eyes saying, “I don’t feel so good”. Remember the hole in the dashboard? Apparently it wasn’t a good idea to keep the car running without some of the windows down, and Jen learnt this the hard way.
Don’t worry, she was fine. And after I bought some duct tape and put multiple layers over the dashboard all was well in the world.
Fast forward a few weeks, my dear friend (same one, all my good stories involve Jennifer Sully), and I decide to take a leisurely drive to the farmer’s market an hour outside our city to get a pie. Once again in the slow lane on the highway going WELL below the speed limit a little light that looks like a helicopter with an extra propeller comes on. Naturally, neither of us have a clue what it means but after some steam starts coming from the hood of the car, we pull over to access the situation. It turns out the engine was overheating—also their was a large amount of hay under the hood (no idea—didn’t question). We were in the middle of nowhere with not a clue as to what to do, but it didn’t seem like it was that big of a problem, so we came up with the ingenious idea that if we turn the heat on FULL in the car it would take some of the heat away from the engine. So that’s what we did, in the middle of summer during a heat wave. By the time we got to the farmer’s market (yes, by some miracle our idea DID work) we were drenched with sweat and Jennifer Sully’s sandals had melted at the tips. But we made it. We got our pie. Yes, we had to drive the entire way home the same way, but we laughed through the sweat.
My final favourite memory (there are so many, I could bore you all day with them), is when my dad got me a new cd player for the car (the current radio didn’t work), which he decided to install himself. In the midst of the installation I had to go to work, but I was assured it was fine that all the wires were hanging down and he would finish it the next day. Well I went to work, put the blanket over the car so it would start again after I had finished my shift, and went on my merry way. Fast forward a few hours and I went to pick up—you guessed it, Jennifer Sully!—and my then boyfriend, now husband, to go out. While I was making a turn, sparks starting flying out of the dashboard where the radio used to be (yes, the same wires that my dad assured me were fine, ha!), and David’s solution to this was to stick his finger in it to separate them. Naturally he had no clue what he was doing and it only created more sparks until two seconds later the entire car shut off in the middle of the road. After hours of trying to figure out how to get the car working again, you know what ended up being the solution? A fuse that cost fifty cents. That’s what the car was running on. The whole thing just made me love that Firefly even more.
After a few years I had to admit defeat when I was commuting to university and the tires for my faithful Pontiac weren’t much wider than a bicycle’s. So I put it up for sale, and the man who came to pick it up was easily six and a half feet tall. As he drove away in my beloved car, hunched over the steering wheel because his neck was touching the ceiling, I knew that the Firefly’s fun adventures weren’t over and it gave me such comfort. Also, my new car had power windows so that helped.
A lot of people ask me where I get the ideas for my stories (actually it’s usually the first thing anyone asks me when they discover I’m an author), and I always tell them that I watch people. I look for things that happen to myself and others and roll with that, because it is always easier to embellish the truth than a lie. But I think it also helps that when things in life don’t go according to plan, or aren’t ideal, I find the humour in it. I realize it is a coping mechanism, but I also think it’s a great philosophy for life. I love telling stories about my first car (Etty’s car in My Sort-of, Kind-of Hero was modeled after it), and I love every experience I had in it. Though Jennifer Sully is not as fond of the carbon monoxide poisoning story as I am. Bless.