14 May 2010
She Was Never Much but She Was Mine
There are a few people that have never been in a motor vehicle accident. My mother is one. I, on the other hand, have been in more than I can even remember. They range from the fault of others to the responsibility resting on my shoulders. They also range from 100cc motorcycles to city buses that were my method of transport until a car, pole, or dog got in the way. No groundhogs though; they’d be a hood ornament before anything. Some accidents are fun to sit back and chuckle about; one that was years ago still makes me thankful to be alive.
That is not what comes to mind, however, when writing an auto-biography. My car does. The gun-metal grey 1993 Mazda Protegé was my first car. Actually second, but the Audi 5000 Turbo Diesel was only mine for a month or two, and no that car did not fall into the wrecked category. I digress. The car was nothing special to any person other than me. Well, that is not fair to say, because the previous owner took very good care of it. No fancy paint, no obnoxious stereo, no fancy rims; just four and a stick.
I had the car for all of two or three days when coming towards I-675 on Wilmington-Dayton Road (most would know it as Wilmington Pike but south of 725 in Bellbrook it is still Wilmington-Dayton—it’s a Greene County thing) I got stuck in a jam coming up the hill just north of Centerville Station. It is no monstrous hill, but to a teenager learning to drive a manual transmission it was a formidable challenge. Still, only stalled it two or three times! This was stop and go traffic on a thirty to forty degree incline for at least 200 yards and my third day (we’ll say for benefit of the doubt) driving a stick. After that day the Protegé and I were mates.
Hands down the best story it ever gave me was a highway race on I-71. The year was 2,000 of our lord (just added that for effect). Buzzing along at a respectable 70-75mph, a car rushed up my backside. Given the opportunity I merged right to let it pass. Instead this car gets behind me and proceeds to ride my back some more. Frustrated by something that had taken me from Dayton back to Cincy for the evening, I slung into a wide open far right lane. The same time this S.O.B. that was riding me, a new model Mustang with second most recent body style, shot into the left lane. It was on! I threw old Betsy (a pet name from time to time—she wasn’t pretty but she was mine all mine) into forth at 70. That is not kind to a normal factory four-cylinder. Still my car took it. Reaching 100 in fourth-gear my car was pleading for fifth and thanked me with a smooth transition when I granted the cry. Anyone familiar with Cincinnati knows that south of I-275 there are a few turns in the interstate as it weaves through the hills. As I pleasingly pulled away from the new and slick Mustang, the Protegé crested a hill going into a turn. The car went into a drift! Smoothly at about 105, the car took the turn as the feel of a loose back end mixed fear and pleasure in my blood. Know that any kind of a controlled, or even semi-controlled, drift in a front-wheel care is an impressive feat.
The Mustang was now several distances behind, nothing to worry about. Until removing my eyes from a quick glance in the rearview, I saw a Sheriff in my lane and I was closing fast—for once. This is not as enjoyable as I may have led it to sound. A couple panicked pumps on the breaks jolted the car and loosened up the back end even more, but remember this is a great story not one of the accidents. In a moment my vision of the car went from being able to read Sheriff to reading “Grad DUI” on his plate. He panicked too; thank God, because I probably would have hit him. Chance luck there was an exit there to which he swerved into the fourth right lane. He braked. I braked. Again. There was no way he was getting behind me. Finally, he was forced to commit to the exit. I knew he would just go up to the traffic light, flip his lights on, and then come after me. Not that day. It was the exit just north of the 562 Norwood Lateral and an exit only! Chalk the one and only up for Zach.
That car has been gone for years now, but just as the memory of an old flame may creep unwantingly into your heart and you refuse to expel it for the brief joy it brings. So too does old Betsy show up from time to time in my daydreams.