Linking up first car stories on Carla’s blog, This Messy Heart.
My first car was a 1970 Volkswagen Beetle named Keegan.
He was as epic as his name suggests.
I first met Keegan on the eve of my 16th birthday. Dad and I drove to Charleston, SC – in response to a Craigslist ad, I believe – to rescue Keegan from certain death-by-junkyard. We paid $300 in cash. I took the driver’s seat and placed my hands on the steering wheel with all the glee of a newly-licensed driver. Shortly thereafter, the floorpan fell through and left a gaping whole where my feet should have rested. I knew it was going to be love.
Needless to say, we towed Keegan back to my family home in North Carolina.
After giving ol’ Keegan some TLC (and couple hundred more dollars in auto repairs) he was ready to drive.
Hailing from ye olden days, Keegan was a stick shift. Meaning that I had to learn how to drive a manual over Christmas break in time to return to school. Dad was my teacher. And you need to know something about my dad. This is the man who taught me how to swim at the tender age of four by tossing me in the shallow end with the instruction, “Swim!” The Easter Clan is all about diving in head first. That’s pretty much how my manual transmission lesson went.
“Here’s the clutch, there’s the gas pedal. Push in the clutch when you break and when you accelerate. Here are the gears: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and Reverse. Don’t stall on hills. Watch me. Got it?”
Yep. Absolutely. 100%. Got it. Thanks.
Dad drove me a mile away from our house, along an old country highway. We parked by a river and he instructed me to take the wheel.
“Alright, get yourself home. I’ve got my cellphone if you need me.”
And that was that.
I did get home.
Just in case you were wondering.
Keegan was quite the sensation at school. He also was probably to blame for the bruises that began to appear on freshman’s arms after merciless rounds of ‘Punch Buggy’.
The other funny thing about Keegan, besides being 4 different shades of green and 35 years old, was that he didn’t always like to crank his engine. More than once, I was stuck negotiating with Keegan in a Old Western-style showdown.
“Listen here, buddy,” I’d say to him, “you better start up, or I’ll take out a headlight.”
Then I learned the art of kickstarting. (You’ll note I was kickstarting before Kickstarter. So hipster.) I habitually parked on slight inclines in the event that I had to send Keegan hurtling down a hill, in hopes that his engine would rev up. This method would have been fullproof, were it not for Keegan’s penchant to lose brake power. But I wasn’t going to let a silly thing like shoddy breaks impact my freedom. I just threw a couple of chock blocks from Advanced Auto under that bad boy and we were in business.
Lest you think my parents terribly irresponsible for allowing their daughter to drive around in a death trap, let me assure you that we all felt comfortable with the arrangement. Though my prayer life did increase my senior year high school.
Keegan was my first dose of adult responsibility. My first taste of independence. He drove me to my first job. We went on long cruises when teenager angst was too much to handle. He taught me to be confident. If I were to end this post on a philosophical note, it would be something like, “Clunkers build character.”
Or, “Sometimes we all need a good kick in the pants to get going again.”
One or the other.