Once upon a time, when I was in college, my car was a long, green Cadillac. One of the really old ones, with the long, long, fins. Now I know this really dates me, and some of you young whippersnappers cannot even imagine such a vehicle. So here is a picture of the fins for you.
This car had quite a history. It was at least ten years old when I got it. It had been given to the daughter of one of our neighbors, who was a waitress, as a tip for a meal. The story of that tip had made the local newspaper. Little did they know that the car was worth about the fifty cents that was the usual tip in those days. I, on the other hand, was about to find that out.
For some reason, I needed a new(er) car. Or at least, a different one. My dad was a backyard mechanic, back in those days when an ordinary person with a manual could actually fix a car. So it may have been that I had finally worn out one of the cars that he bought as fixer-uppers for us to drive. At any rate, he bought this car for me to drive to school. I think he paid $50.00 for it, or about 100 times what it was worth.
I began having trouble with it immediately. It would stall at traffic lights, and then not start again. It usually picked the most dangerous or inconvenient intersection possible to do this. And then I would sit there, cars behind me honking and people shaking their fists at me, while I struggled to get it started again. Usually, it would take a couple of traffic light cycles for it to start again. And then it would run perfectly for a while. Until it found another inconvenient intersection.
Of course, I was complaining to Dad at every opportunity that the car was stalling. And of course, it would never do it for him. I truly believe the car was possessed. His diagnosis was that it was “the nut behind the wheel.” Or in parlance you geeks will recognize, “problem is between steering wheel and bucket seat.”
At the time, the college I was attending had two campuses. They were just building the new campus, and so it ended up you had half your classes at Campus A and half at Campus B. In order to facilitate taking classes at both campuses, Campus A started classes on the hour, and Campus B on the half hour. And of course, since this was the Wild, Wild, West, where public transportation is not only unheard of, but deemed a mortal sin, it never occurred to anyone to run a shuttle between the campuses. If you didn’t have a car, you tried to find a classmate who was going over to the other campus, or there was a time honored tradition of hitchhiking between the campuses. Something that would never be done in these days.
To make things even more exciting, there was highway construction near the exit to Campus B. One lane was blocked off with those big barrels, so that you could either take the exit to Campus B, or go on in the far left lane, but you needed to make a choice fairly early on or you would find yourself in an uncomfortable position of running out of lane. The barrels were set up to funnel you into one lane or the other. Those of us who commuted between campuses knew this, and we got into the exit lane forthwith. But there was always some fool who thought that they could continue in the lane that was blocked.
And so it came to pass, one day, that as I was nearing the exit, there was in idiot directly to my left, squished between my car and the barrels. Not wanting to collide with the idiot, I gunned the engine up the off-ramp, whereupon, half-way up, Big Green burst into flames.
I brought the car to a halt and leaped out of it. Back in the Dark Ages, we didn’t have things like cell phones, and so you had to rely on passers-by to notify the fire department. Apparently, someone did, and presently they showed up and put the engine fire out. And relayed a message to my father that I needed to have a tow out of there. And so Big Green was towed away, I don’t remember where, and that, thankfully was the last I saw of her.