Wednesday, January 30, 2013
UD "Auto" Biography -- Stephanie Wilhelm and her 1999 Mustang
I still remember that hot summer day when my mom and I were driving by my high school parking lot when something caught my eye. Silver, shiny, and an object of pure beauty. There in that parking lot, I spotted my first car. A ’99, Automatic, V6, Ford Mustang. I still had my temporary permit, but begged my mom to pull in the lot. I remember jumping out of the car before she had finished parking, and just staring at the heat rolling off the tinted windows. I walked over to the car and started inspecting everything about it. Brand new tires, shiny hubcaps, and the word MUSTANG written on the rear bumper with letters cut from what looked like a mirror. The car looked brand new with not even a scratch. I then examined the inside through the dark tinted windows. All black interior with black cloth seats. I turned to my mom and she could see the plea in my eyes, and we called the number on the FOR SALE sign. The owner agreed to meet us in ten minutes so we could take it for a test drive.
That was the longest ten minutes of my life. When they finally showed up, they said they didn’t mind if I drove it even though I still had my temps. Naturally, this worried my mom; she said she wanted to drive it first, as to not get my hopes up, just in case something was wrong. She drove it to our house where my dad was waiting to inspect it. He didn’t see anything wrong with it, which is when they agreed I could take it for a spin. I sat down in the driver seat and instantly knew it was meant to be. I adjusted the seat, mirrors and rolled down the windows, I was ready to go. I pulled out of our driveway and didn’t even think about having to drive back to the real owner of the car. I wanted this car, it felt like my own home, and my own space.
As I knew it was coming, I had to drive my newfound love back to the owner. My parents agreed to talk to each other about whether or not I could get the car that evening. I tried to keep my mind occupied by going to my neighbor’s house and hanging out but I just couldn’t wait. After about an hour of struggling not to talk about the car I may get, I ran home and pleaded with my parents what their decision would be. They both just smiled and said “we already called them, and are picking it up tomorrow.” My jaw dropped. I was shocked; they had just purchased my teenage dream.
This car continued to share wonderful memories with me. This car took me everywhere, from driving me to high school, sports practices, work, friends’ houses, out to dinner, and eventually off to college. This is when I experienced a life changing event in this car. Winter, snow storms, and a rear wheel drive car do not mix well. It was the middle of February, and snowing. My friend Sarah and I were driving back to my house to see a concert. We were on I-70, and she was following me in her black Nissan Altima. The snow had really started to pick up, so we were averaging about 25mph on the freeway. We had been passing car after car that was stuck in the snow on the side of the road. I should have taken this as a sign, but wanting to get home sooner I ignored it. This was when the cars in front of me started to pick up speed. I figured since they were going a little faster, I could manage too. I knew I had sand bags in my trunk, along with all my laundry from school. This is the moment my back end started to fishtail.
Now my dad had taken me out plenty of times to “practice” donuts in my car. I think this was more to have fun then to learn how to control the car in the snow. Nevertheless, I knew what I needed to do. I did not try to fix the car and jerk the steering wheel back so the car would go straight because that could cause me to go across the lanes into the traffic next to me. Instead I turned the wheel slightly to the left, so any motion would be away from traffic toward the ditch in the median. In what seemed like a second, I was sitting in the ditch, car facing the oncoming traffic. Trying to move my car was no use, my tires only spun in the snow. I had to leave my car there, as there was no way I could manage getting it to move, especially with the snow continuing to fall. The next day my dad and I rode down to get my car. We had called the state highway patrol and AAA. They closed down the freeway and took two tow trucks to pull my car out. It will always be embedded in my mind, rear wheel drive plus snow or rain is never a good combination.