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R.I.P Lil' Gem

I just love getting up in the morning with that acid reflux gnawing at my guts. My favorite part is digging into the bottle of antacids, gagging on down and then waiting half an hour for it kick in. The ride to work is awesome when that happens. The upside is in small town rural area, it’s not like there are a lot of grid locks to get antsy over.
Stressed, much? Maybe just a tad. But the question is why? Could be because my car finally carked it? R.I.P. Lil’ Gem, we’ll miss replacing that fuse five days a week that melted when I turned the switch for the fan on. And the way you overheat in the summer when you were stuck in traffic, scaring the crap out of me because I thought you were on fire. Or the peeling paint and moldy butt/rotting milk smell because the interior got wet due to leaky seals. And the weird humming noise you made when when the fuel level dropped below a quarter of a tank. The way the air dam dragged when I pulled into my driveway, the crazy dents you had because once I backed into my father-in-law’s truck and then the long scratch dents down the side because a tree limb scrapped along it. And that time we had the blow out on the highway, had the flashers on for half an hour and your battery ran down so I got a sunburn waiting for someone kind enough to stop and jump us?
Oh, wait. No we won’t miss any of that. We had some good times, though, didn’t we? Remember when Bandicoot puked all over the back seat? Twice. And how I had to dodge that tree that fell in the middle of the road during the really bad thunder storm? And the time I made you go through the deep water when it flooded because I was by-God going to work. Turn around, don’t drown, ha! It was kind of mean how we called you the Cors-I-Can’t instead of Corsica, but secretly I think you loved the attention. How about that time you had the bulge in the tire and you shook us to death any time we got up over 60mph. And we had that bumper sticker that said “I’m only speeding because I have to poop”. Good thing we never got pulled over while that was on there. I’m really glad I didn’t put my NaNo sticker on the back glass because it would just end up crushed with your worthless tin can-like body. That last time you caught on fire, that was a hoot! No, it really wasn’t. It’s never fun when you car catches fire, especially when it happens twice in one year. I wish I could watch when they crush you. Lil’ Gem, 1993-2010. Blinkin’ car didn’t even have 200,000 miles on it yet. Piece of Chevy. I really wanted to keep it, save it for when my children got old enough to drive and teach them about being humble.
Okay, I’m done with that now. Ah, memories. Bad decisions make great stories. I totally stole that from a forward I got. Whoever said it was right; they sure do.
Thinking about Lil’ Gem makes me miss Sugar Bear. Who and what is Sugar Bear, you ask. Sugar Bear was my Mustang. She died a fiery death in late 2004 (I know, I have bad luck with cars catching on fire, right?). I’ll never forget the horror of looking up and seeing my precious car engulfed in flames. Let me start at the beginning…
As a teenager with a driver’s license, my ultimate goal in life was to have a shiny, new Mustang. I got to drive my mom and dad’s Bronco, which was fine. I did love that Bronco, she’d go anywhere and turn on a dime. I drove it until I was in college, when the distributor really started to act up. So M &D started looking for their darling girl a new vehicle. “Daddy, can I have a Mustang?” was a frequent mantra in the house. And the response was always, “No, you’ll crash and kill yourself in one of those things!”
Home on Thanksgiving Break in 2001, my dad came home from work one evening. I sat in my room ’cause that’s what I did. The phone rang. Did I get up to answer it? Of course not. Too late at night to be for me. It was the car dealership. He’d stopped by, saw a ’98 Mustang on the lot and offered $9,000 for it. They laughed at him, said the manager would never accept that offer. Weeellll, two hours later they were calling. So dad asked me if I wanted to go look at it.
Love. At first sight. Heart-stopping, soul lifting, one-of-a-kind, never-ending true love. As we waited for the paper work to go through, dad said, “You better call your mom and tell her we’re buying it.” I looked at him and said glumly, “She’s going to kill us.”
She wasn’t surprised. Let me back up a minute. Let me go into love for a sec. When I was 16, driving the Bronco around, that thing was Ugly. Capital U ugly. For Christmas that year, they had it painted. Midnight blue, yellow, orange and light blue tipped flames on the front. We’re not talking cheapy paint job. For my 19th birthday, they took it to have something “looked” at. When they came home, the radio was blaring on the brand new CD player they’d had installed. I’ll never forget the song. George Strait “Love Without End, Amen”. So me, getting a Mustang, it really didn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
My dad test drove it. I didn’t get to drive until we were on our way home. Above, note the heart-stoppping, soul-lifting, one-of-a-kind, never-ending love. Times a million. I’ve never felt like another car had been personally crafted specifically with me in mind. That one did.
For our Christmas card that year, mom took a photo of me standing by the car and my dad pretending to cry. It said, “Dad’s not crying tears of joy. He’s crying because of three more years of college, insurance and car payments.”
Flash foward: December 2004. My dad died in 2003, remember. I was dating Husband at the time. I’d just been fired for the first time in my life, it’s okay, I really hated that job. We’d been to see a show. He wanted me to stay over because it was late. We had a fight and I left because I wanted to sleep in my comfy bed. I was ten miles from home. There was a possum in the road. I stomped on the brakes and swerved to miss the little bugger (why, why?). I swear it looked up at me with terror in its eyes. The car was suddenly out of control (I was later informed I creamed the dang possum anyway). Mustang sped down the road, in the wrong lane and I prayed no cars were coming. In an attempt to get it back into the right lane, I turned the steering wheel to the right. I over-corrected and the back end spun around. I closed my eyes, gripped the steering wheel with all my might and thought Maybe this won’t hurt. Second thought: Please God, help me!
It did hurt. I heard the air bag explode (interesting fact: my arms were press so tight over the wheel, the air bag never came anywhere close to my face), felt the car spin three times and came to a dead stop. The horn was blaring, loud in the silence of the night. It was a little bit before I got the courage to open my eyes. I looked over at the passenger side window and saw the weirdest thing: there was a bottle of oil sitting on the door where the window rolls up and down. I couldn’t breathe, the seat belt was too tight. A little voice in my head was screaming Get out of the car! Get OUT of the car NOW!. I released it, opened the door, crawled out and collapsed to my knees. Unbuttoned my leather coat and threw it on the ground. Somehow I found the strength to get up, but I almost fell into the ditch. Holding onto the car, I walked around to examine the dented side. I thought, gee, that doesn’t look so bad. It was pretty dark outside. I decided standing up wasn’t the thing I really wanted to do right then. So I picked my coat up, put it back in the car, dug out my cell phone and tried to call my mom. No signal.
Fortunately for me, I’d crash landed in someone’s yard. I staggered to the door, knocked and conversed with the suspicious older couple that lived there. They wouldn’t let me come in to call my mom. I had to give them the phone number and let them do it. Needless to say, that freaked her out. I collapsed on their porch swing, sobbing. Mom was going to kill me, I’d wrecked my beautiful car for the second time in seven months–I’d previously rear-ended an Impala and my mom had to beg the insurance company not to total my car because my dad had bought it for me.
It took a million years for the fire department and ambulance to arrive. When the ambulance got there, I happened to look up and the car was ablaze. Not little tongues, big, bright, shooting flames! One of the firemen got my purse out, but it was full of glass and smelled like smoke. The paramedics came and by then my leg was ina world of hurt. They decided it was time for me to go to the hospital. They strapped me down, asked me where I wanted to go, at which point I said I didn’t want to go. I wasn’t covered by my dad’s insurance anymore after my 21st birthday and my car was melting. I didn’t care about me, I wanted my car to be okay. The head EMT was really nice. I just kept blubbering about the car over and over, telling him my dad bought it. He said, “Don’t you know your dad would be tickled pink to know you’re okay?”
They cut my favorite pair of jeans up the inside seams in the ambulance. Man, I loved those jeans. I wish I had photos of my legs. Apparently, when the car rolled (I mistook the rolling for spinning), my legs crashed together, bruising the insides from knee to ankle. They were black half an hour after the wreck. But then, I’ve always bruised easy so I wasn’t really surprised. The hospital bit isn’t that interesting. X-rays, poking, wheel chair out the door at three in the morning. I think I tore a muscle or something in my right leg when it hit the divider between the driver and passenger side, but the x-rays didn’t show anything. It was godawful painful for a month afterward.
The car had 98,000 miles on it when that happened. I went to salvage whatever I could from its charred form a few days later. My CD collection was gone, my cover-alls burnt (I was a landscaper before I got fired), a pair of shoes, a Christmas gift, all melted into nothingness. But what hurt the most was discovering my unicorn was gone.
You know that part of Gone in 60 Seconds, Memphis refers to Elenor (the Shelby) as his unicorn? The unobtainable? I had an air freshener my dad bought for me hanging from the rear view mirror. In the form of a unicorn. I was so mad at me, at the car, at the possom, at the world, I kicked the fender and made my toe bleed.
I drove one Mustang after that, a few months later. It wasn’t the same. It didn’t give me that feeling of complete freedom, it just made me sad. I ended up driving this POS Camero that everyone told me not to buy. I really like it though, when it ran. And if it was going to was a big if. We sold it to some kid about a month after we got married. So that’s my story of the best car I ever owned and what it meant to me. I always talk about buying another sports car. I doubt I ever own another one though. I just stick with sedans that don’t really mean anything to me. Once bitten, twice shy and all that. I feel like I just wrote one of those dumb My First Car essays for school.