Léna's Lit.Life

Léna (me): Lit, as in literature, Lit, as in light, Lit, as in a little kooky: Life.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Love is a Ford Galaxie 500

This was my first car - a 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 that I bought in the summer of 1996 and owned for about a month. It was as impractical as it was impulsive, being too high maintenance for a gal like me, a gal who had never driven or owned a car, yet it totally screamed "Léna!" It's FOR SALE sign taunting me the first couple of weeks I lived in Moab, it's price of $1500 too hard to resist. It was in mint condition inside and out: gleaming red on the outside with red seats and red and black fixtures on the inside. Dang she turned my head.

It was a veritable love machine, and I christened her Venus. The first night she was mine, I took her up to the Sand Flats with my future husband and we lay back on her hood and watched the shooting stars so prevalent in the August sky. Magic.

But it was the car that was so big I couldn't park, the car I backed into my colleague Martha's office, the car that broke down along the Colorado River, the car where I got pulled over by local police because I had run a red light. I was giving a ride to a teen from the youth hostel. "Are you holding?" I asked him in a panic. He nodded. I had just gotten a job at the local mental health center, starting up a teen outpatient program. The headline flashed through my mind: NEW TEEN THERAPIST A DOPE. I was relieved as I got my first traffic ticket. (Well, my second. But more on that later.)

"Thank you officer!" I said, a little too happily. "It won't happen again!"

I wouldn't be giving any more rides: it was all a risky business.

I enjoyed being in a car, I just didn't enjoy driving one. Perhaps I had learned too late in life - perhaps I would never enjoy it.

My driving history isn't long. I didn't get my license until 1995 when I was 27 years old, and that was just as a rite-of-passage, an adult ritual that I needed to undertake. I wasn't very confident, or very good, as my friends who had been driving since their teens quickly learned.

"Come on, you can do it!" They would cheer. I went to Puerto Rico with a friend who after five minutes told me for the love of God to pull over and let her take over.

"See?" I smiled.

Then the first time I went to Moab with my BFF, same thing happened.

Both friends were shocked when I announced that I wanted to move there.

"Bu-bu-but you can't drive!" They splurted. "Um, no offense."

A month later, I was testing it out by flying to Salt Lake City by myself and renting a car. I arrived late at night and it took me an hour to find the airport hotel because I drove in the wrong direction. The next morning I steeled myself for the four hour drive to Moab. I had never driven on a highway before, and I did pretty well for the first couple of hours. Then: SMACK! The car got sideswiped, and I didn't know to pull over to the side of the road - I just kept driving. Then I noticed that I had no side-view mirror: I should pull over, but where? Where do people pull over if they have an accident? I could have died!  (I almost had died getting hit by a car when I was nine years old. I was in a coma for two weeks - broken femurs, ribs, cracked jaw and skull.) 

I soon found out, because I heard a siren, and a cop car showed me how to pull over . . . by nudging me over. The driver's side of the car was completely dent in and damaged. An inch more - oh, dear, it could have been much worse. They asked me if I had been drinking and I started giggling. Of course I wasn't drinking. But I sure as $%#@ was freaked out. Traumatized. Playing dumb, which - hey - I really was in this instance - didn't work. I got a ticket, but I couldn't melt down, I had to keep driving.

But I got to the dizzying mountains of red clay, where my driving hijinks became legend, and then back to NYC only to return again, even though - maybe especially because - I would have to drive. I knew that there was a part of me that needed to grow up out there.

I needed a car so I bought Venus, thinking she was my next right thing. I bought her from an elderly man whose wife wanted him to quit his "hobby".  Fortunately, when it became evident that Venus and I ultimately weren't a good match after all, the elderly man was eager enough to buy it back from me, and I was able to buy a used Ford Taurus which got me around on the open highways quite nicely. I was comfortable behind the wheel as long as there were no cars too close to me, as long as nobody was telling me to speed up or pull over if I was too slow.

However, when my husband-to-be and I left Moab for San Francisco and then back to New York City, I stopped driving completely, and I trapped myself in the belief that I was too anxious and incompetent a driver to bother learning. We are what we think: we become our self-fulfilling prophecies.

But y'all know the happy ending, right?  We moved to the 'burbs last summer and I can't believe how much I love driving now. I am not holding onto the old belief of stupidity and incompetency: I have proved myself capable of handling a large, powerful vehicle.I am driving on highways and merging with traffic, and enjoying the artistry in driving. And I am constantly grateful that I never drank and drove. I fear that if I had, there is no way I would be here now.

And fifteen years later, I LOVE that my bad twenty-eight year old self had the chutzpah to call an awesome 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 her first car. No regrets, people.

Next up: putting my face in the water whilst swimming.

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  1. Classic and funny. You've had a full life, complete with a two week coma! Eek!

    My biggest car ordeal was that I crashed a go-cart when I was 7 and swore I'd never drive. My parents made me wait an extra 8 months after I turned 16 to make sure I was ready before getting my license. :)

  2. Thanks Wonderwegian - it's been quite an accomplishment to get over this fear! (And I'm so glad that blogger is letting you comment again!)

    That's so funny about the go-cart!

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