Thursday, February 2, 2012

UD Student Tim Hartnett -- "Silver Way" a Pontiac Grand Am



Living in a family of five, with a younger sister and a younger brother, I have learned the art of sharing and providing hand-me-downs. This ranged from toys and out grown clothes to shoes my brother decided he liked. Generally speaking, I did not have a problem sharing my stuff, and I was very fortunate growing up that my parents were able to help me pay for nice, more expensive items, like my first car, a Pontiac Grand Am.
This first car was everything I wanted and needed. I turned 16 the summer before. I anticipated getting my license, the first of all my friends. I scheduled the classroom learning and the in-car instructional. I took the test the week after my birthday and passed! I was young and free! I had a license! I wanted to spread my metaphorical wings and simply sore unrestricted. My birthday gift/partial personal investment was my car, my ticket to freedom. I bought a parking pass for my high school parking lot, and people to car-pool with. I took care of my car, and she took care of me. I waxed the car at least once a summer and once a winter. I scrubbed the tires and wheels. The car glistened in the sun and the snow brushed so easily off the smooth finish.
This car was all mine, no sharing. That is until my sister, Kelly, turned 16 two years later. That same summer, I graduated from high school in early June and she turned 16 in early July. The month before I left for school we had to pick days of the weekend we wanted the car. We had to share the car civilly, or no one was allowed to drive that weekend. We managed to make it work between us, but it felt so unfair because this was MY car for the two last years. I paid for the gas; I took the empty water bottles and wrappers out of the car. I just wanted my baby to be appreciated and not abused; I didn’t think this was too much to ask. We had our brotherly/sisterly yelling matches, but at the end of the summer, I left for the University of Dayton, a place where freshman were not allowed to have cars.
Living without my car was surprisingly easier than I thought, although I did miss being able to drive somewhere whenever I wanted. When I went home the first time for fall break, my parents had to come down and get me. While home, my sister took my car to school. The car I called my own, was now HERS. It hurt to have this reality. All the hard work I put into keeping my silver baby clean was put to the way side as the car showed poorly my sister treated the car. There were scratches on the hood, dings on the side door, and the mirror had gotten knocked off the driver’s side. What happened to my baby, my precious car? As I asked my sister, the stories came about how none of them were her fault. The mailbox moved and garage door width narrowed. All the effort I put into keeping my car in the same shape when we bought it was no longer visible. When I came home that summer, the real problems began. I was working and so was my sister. I would have to wake up at 6:30 (in the summer?!?!) to drive my mother to work so I could drive the minivan and my sister could take the car we share. On the bright side, my mom helped me pay for gas that summer. Sharing my car with my younger sister for an entire summer was hardly just an inconvenience but we got through it.
I went back to school for my sophomore year, living off campus and car-less. It was difficult to get groceries without using my roommate’s car. In order to go home or visit a friend, I had to find a ride that involved me not driving. It was less than enjoyable. That Christmas, my grandparents bought themselves a new car. They found it in their heart to give their old red ’96 Buick LeSabre to me as a gift, and because it no longer served a purpose in their garage. It was a set of wheels that got me from point A to point B. The front seat was a leather bucket seat, and the radio dial could be controlled from the steering wheel. Those were the 2 best features of the car. That summer I got a job in Tennessee working for Proctor and Gamble. I traveled on my own with the car over stuffed on a 13 hour drive. The car made it, remarkably. I took good care of this car too washing it and waxing it. In the end, this was MY car, I had to be seen in it, so it only made sense that it should be taken care of. On my 21st birthday, I was driving to Nashville. As I pulled into the hotel, my brakes gave out, dirty fluid shooting out underneath the car. The problem was fixed the next day and the car proved to work ok for the next year.
When I went home at the end of the summer, my sister went off to school for her first year in college and was not allowed to take a car. My brother, now 16, got his license. He helped me wax the car when I was his age. I vented to him about the frustration with how my sister took care of the car. I felt he knew the importance of this car to me. Just to remind me of my first love, I borrowed now HIS car for a test drive. The steering was sticky, the brakes were squishy, and the interior was heavily soiled. That’s part of a car’s life I guess, but it was still saddening to see the car start to fade out. I could tell she had a lot left in her and would take good care of my brother.
That winter when I went home for Christmas, I was devastated to see the shape of my silver baby. The hood was dented and elevated. The driver panel had a massive scar from coming in contact with a concrete median. The back bumper had a cylindrical indentation. What happened? Who had done this? My brother answered all my questions, and to my surprise there were two incidences, both on the same day. The first was backing out of the school parking lot and he hit a concrete post. He said that bump was his fault, but the next happening was not. On the way home, it was icy and the car spun a 180 and skidded along the guard rail and stopped via rear of the car in front of his. The damage was drivable and the car in front of him had no damage as it was a semi with heavy steel steps at the rear. I could tell he was devastated telling this news to me. He apologized because he knew how much I loved this car. It was obvious he had grown attached to her too.
My silver baby passed away this past summer after the engine block was cracked after 115,000 miles. It was decided the car was to be sent to scrap and life would move on. She was soon replaced with a Pontiac Grand Prix 2006, also silver. It was not the same. My brother liked the car better, claiming it handled more smoothly. I put many of miles on the Grand Am driving all around the state of Ohio and nearby states. I have since moved onto a new joy of my life, my dark green Honda Ridgeline 2006, but I will never forget the joy that my silver baby brought me.

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