Front Porch: A Drive Through The Past

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Frustrated, I sorted through the clutter of keys in search of a key fob.

“How am I supposed to unlock the door?” I whispered.

Ruby Sue (my Ford Escape) had to stay overnight at the dealership for a parts recall issue and I was driving my youngest son’s car (formerly mine). It was then that I discovered how spoiled I had been.

We didn’t have an electronic key fob for the 2002 Oldsmobile Intrigue. Had to unlock the door with the real key.

I had forgotten how low Intrigue was, and instead of sliding smoothly into the driver’s seat, I sat down hard and fumbled for the ignition button. Nope. Once upon a time, you had to insert a key to start a car.

The gray cloth interior held up well, but our freezing weather made me dream of Ruby Sue’s seat warmers.

Times have changed since my dad bought me my first car, a 1970s two-door Toyota Corolla. He bought it from a guy at Fairchild AFB and paid $900 for the rather battered navy blue car.

“I have a car,” he announced. “Here are the keys, let’s take her for a ride.”

We pulled out into the driveway and I slipped behind the wheel.

“What’s that other pedal for?” I asked.

Dad raised his eyebrows.

“It’s the clutch. I forgot to tell you that it is a manual transmission.

I had never driven a stick shift, but dad said it was super easy. He gave me a quick rundown of how to shift, and we pulled out of the driveway and immediately stalled in the middle of the street. After an excruciatingly shaken trip around the neighborhood, my dad said my skills were “pretty good.”

The Corolla didn’t last long enough to get a name. A few months later, I drove through an unmarked intersection on my way home from work at Pioneer Pies and was boned by a kid driving a big pickup truck.

I had a trip to the hospital from the paramedics I had just served a pie to and the total Toyota had a trip to the junkyard.

No more shifting for this girl. Instead, Dad gave me his white Chevy Nova. Fun fact, these Novas looked like Spokane police cars back in the day. On the rare occasions I ventured somewhere I probably shouldn’t have, the gatherings quickly broke down as teenagers ran off muttering “cops.”

This Nova earned me another trip to the ER when a driver rammed me after speeding through a traffic light.

Dad decided, for safety reasons, that I had to drive a tank, but tanks were not allowed on the street. He settled for a 1978 Pontiac LeMans.

He hit the hood.

“I think this beast is made of strong steel,” he said. “But I still want you to wear a helmet when you drive.”

Loretta was my only red car until Ruby Sue came along. Its white vinyl interior creaked, but it drove like a dream. She took my best friend and I on our first road trip, to Davenport, Washington. Loretta took Derek and me on our honeymoon. A few years later, we drove her to Disneyland for our latest BC (Before Children) adventure.

Of course, it had no air conditioning, and we toasted while driving through Oregon. Yes, we found out what a vapor lock is on the side of a California freeway, but damn it, that car body didn’t crack, dent or crease.

When we started our family, Loretta gave way to a boring Ford Taurus, followed by a succession of necessary minivans. As our nest began to empty, we adopted Golda MyDear (the Oldsmobile) before Derek bought a sparkling red Ruby Sue.

It is impossible to count the hours I spent on the road transporting the children to school, to sports practices or to work, and journalists spend a lot of time in their cars. That’s why I’m so grateful that my minivan mommy days are in the rearview mirror and that I finally have a car I can steer on. I can display maps, adjust the temperature, make calls and change radio stations by voice command.

When I picked up Ruby Sue after our 24-hour separation, I sat for a while reveling in the warmth of the heated leather seat, then planted a big kiss on the steering wheel.

“I missed you, girl,” I said.

And I like to think he missed me too.

They wear it well

Readers come up with more “old clothes” stories in response to a recent column.

Cathy Gunderson still wears a 40-year-old lined windbreaker she bought at Kmart.

“The snaps that were red like the coat have worn off the color but still work. I relined the main body with some purple and blue flannel I had left. The pocket has a new addition; a pen pocket, like all my jackets.

Michael Runyan wonders why the men haven’t shared their stories. “What would a man have after so long without having trashed, used, given or otherwise forgotten?” he wrote. For Runyan, the answer is a belt buckle he bought for his college graduation in 1970 and has worn almost every day since. “Now that does NOT mean I had the seat belt fastened that long,” he said. “They’re worn and stretched and broken etc. and I think I’ve probably walked seven of them. But the loop itself lives on.

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