Quirky cars have character
By Rebecca Lindquist
I’m at that age, where I am from an era where cars were just plain old cars and not something from out of Back to the Future.
Growing up, all our cars had power windows…muscle power. As long as the window handle was manually cranked, the windows went up or down. Of course, sometimes the handle was broken, so a wise person (NOT referring to myself), knew to leave well enough alone and not monkey with it. Especially important in such instances as a torrential downpour or frigid winter temperatures.
It seems like every vehicle we owned had some quirky idiosyncrasy. I don’t particularly remember makes or models of these albatrosses, just the happy memories made.
We owned a station wagon that had seen better days. The floorboard, on the rear passenger side, had a large hole where it had rusted out. Naturally, that was the side I sat on. Every time it rained, an umbrella or raincoat (or lifeboat), was needed INSIDE the car, as the wheel threw water up inside the car, drenching me, and usually one or two passengers sitting in the front seat.
That car may be the same one that had a nasty habit of backfiring at the most inopportune moments. Though, if it’s backfiring, is there ever an opportune moment?
I remember going into town and the car backfired. My sister, Bethie, and I promptly ducked down in the backseat, extremely embarrassed, while Dad was in the driver’s seat, smiling and waving to the unfortunate individual who happened to be walking in the vicinity.
That poor gentleman jumped and twirled around like he’d been shot. It still makes me laugh out loud to this day.
The brakes went out in one car, as we were almost to the top of a hill. Somehow, Dad successfully steered it, as it rolled back down and maneuvered it to a stop against a wooded bank.
We were the proud owners of a three-door vehicle for a time (one of the doors refused to open.) Yep, my side again. It felt like strict Army calisthenics, being I was a chubby child, trying to climb in the rear passenger side, to reach the rear driver’s side.
In my early years, we lived on a farm, so we had a large grain truck. That thing hauled many a bag of seed corn, fertilizer and loads of sawdust. It was reliable, but had a few issues.
The horn would blow every time it drove over a bump, slight or otherwise. The driver’s side wiper blade was contrary, too, and had bouts of not wanting to work.
I can picture Dad now…we were headed to church for Easter service and it happened to be freezing rain. Dad had to reach around outside and continually use the ice scraper to clear the windshield.
One car had quite the aversion to cold temperatures. We discovered this one winter night, when one of the neighbors incessantly honked their horn. Dad was extremely irritated, since he was trying to take a nap before bedtime and threatened to call the police on the rude jerk. (Pretty sure he didn’t say jerk, but being that we’re a family newspaper…).
Turns out, WE were the rude jerk. Any time the temperature dropped lower than 20 below zero, the horn would stick and blast continuously. We had to disconnect the wire leading to it and were hornless for the duration of winter.
I miss cars from those days. Vehicles were much less complicated and it wasn’t necessary to be a nuclear physicist, or have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, to operate one. Cars, nowadays, can be somewhat intimidating.
I recently purchased a new car. Well, to clarify, new to me. It’s a 2012 Chevy Impala. I’m still learning how it works. This car has a remote start. What a fantastic feature for chilly mornings.
I recently decided to remote start the car in the garage, from inside the house. When I got out to the car, I was severely disappointed, as the remote hadn’t worked. As I got in and started the car, a dinging occurred. It appears I had remotely popped the trunk, instead of starting the car.
The high/low beams are tricky, too. I refused to drive anywhere after dark for some time, because I couldn’t figure out how the lights worked. Hey, Einstein…there’s a little thing called an owner’s manual.
The lights work by pushing the signal indicator forward for high beams and back for low beams. They’re a little touchy, though, as more than once, I have accidentally turned on the windshield wipers, while simultaneously hitting the high beams, as I’m trying to use the turn signal.
I just hope I haven’t caused permanent retina damage to any of the drivers who have been on the receiving end of the unexpected atomic blast of blinding light.
And when, may I ask, did they start putting the radio controls on the steering wheel? For the longest time, I thought there was a short in the radio, because as I drove along, it would suddenly switch to a different station. Being the genius I am, I eventually realized I was hitting the scan button on the steering wheel.
I’m very grateful for a reliable, working car, but I sure appreciate the simplicity of the cars I knew and loved growing up.
Maybe Fred Flintstone had the right idea?