My first car

Kathy notes her first car, so I thought I’d share the story behind my first car, too.
It was a grayish-blue, 1983 Ford Escort hatchback (aka, “5-door”). This was in the fall of 1987, and it was a gift from my parents my senior year of high school. That little car was built like a tank, and my dad helped me install a decent stereo system. The car had 18,000 original miles on it, with all original equipment, including the tires. The only part that had been changed on this car in four-plus years was the oil filter. My dad couldn’t believe it, and contacted the original owner.
It is literally a “little ol’ lady” story.
The original owner turned out to be a nurse at Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, and she lived in the Sherwood Forest development. Sherwood Forest is down Goodwood Boulevard, across Airline Highway from Woman’s Hospital, so this nice lady was probably driving less than a mile a day, round trip. She was a widow, and lived with her sister, also a widow, and also a nurse. At Woman’s Hospital. The Escort owner’s sister owned a Toyota 4Runner, and the two took the larger vehicle on trips, shopping, etc. So that’s how I got a four-plus year-old car with eighteen thousand original miles on it.
It was a great first car for a teenager. Lots of great memories with friends from school, band, and church youth group.
Alas, another nice lady decided, one night in the fall of 1989, to total it for me. This story is worth the telling, as it’s probably the the biggest event involving my first car, other than when I received it.
I was a sophomore at LSU, and on my way to the Air Force ROTC’s annual Dining Out festivity, traveling on Greenwell Springs Road about a mile or so west of Airline Highway. Greenwell Springs Road is not–or at least it wasn’t then–a divided highway on this stretch of road. I was on the eastbound side, in the left-hand lane. I was in my dress uniform, and had the American and Air Force flags in the trunk, along with stanchions, gloves, etc., as I was leading the presentation of the colors that night.
As I reached the old Warehouse Foods strip mall (long-time Baton Rouge residents will recall the location), a wood-paneled station wagon pulled out in front of me. It was either broadside the station wagon, swerve in to the car to my right, or swerve in to oncoming traffic.
I broadsided the station wagon.
The seat belt caught me, ripping off three of the four buttons on my service coat as it did so. My forehead still connected with the rearview mirror, and I had a scratch at the hairline deep enough to bleed but not so deep I would require medical attention.
Traffic pretty much came to a stop. A few people got out of their cars to check on the lady in the station wagon, and myself. Station wagon lady was apologizing, and worrying about her cat, which was in a crate in the back seat.
This was before cell phones were ubiquitous, so I wandered over to the Kean’s Cleaners (another Baton Rouge institution) to ask if I could use their phone. I will never forget how unsympathetic and downright rude the lady behind the counter was. “It’s for business purposes only!” she told me. “Maam, do you see the wreck right outside? I was in that accident.” This did nothing to mollify her.
God was looking out for me, though. (As if He hadn’t been already. I was alive, walking, and talking.) There in the Kean’s Cleaners, picking up his mess dress for the dinner that evening, was Sgt. Chris Hester. (Chris, sorry I don’t remember your proper rank at the time; if you actually find and read this, drop me a line and I’ll correct it). Sgt. Hester was one of the two NCOs assigned to the AFROTC detachment at LSU. I became aware of his presence there in the cleaners when he said, “Chris, are you alright?”
Turned out Sgt. Hester was living in the apartments across the street from the Kean’s Cleaners. He picked up his mess dress and went over to get his car. I dealt with the cops who had arrived on scene, then went to the video store next to the Kean’s where they were nice enough to let me use the phone. First was a call to the folks, who weren’t home, but I left them a message which boiled down to: “Been in an accident, I’m okay, car’s not, got a ride to Dining Out, I’ll call you later.” Then I called Janet, my date, and asked if she could meet me at the Embassy Suites where the dinner was being held. Sweetie that she is (or was, since we haven’t spoken in like 16 years, so I can’t honestly say if she still is, but I would hope so), she offered to come and get me, but I told her about Sgt. Hester giving me a lift.
Next was dealing with the tow truck driver who was hauling my car away. The front end was totally smashed, the bumper kissing the engine block. Both front tires were completely flat, and a mix of transmission fluid, oil, and washer fluid was pooled underneath. Sgt. Hester showed up, and we transferred as much as possible out of my car and in to his trunk. I got the info from the tow truck driver on the junkyard my Escort was going to, and off he went. I don’t recall if the cops gave me any paperwork, other than whatever insurance info they had collected from the station wagon lady. She’d be buying me a “new” car.
At Sgt. Hester’s apartment, we called Colonel Hendrickson, the detachment commander, and he was filled in on the situation. A replacement for me in the color guard would be found. I would be declared off-limits from being sent to the grog bowl for being out of uniform. Sgt. Hester threw on his mess dress, and we were off to the dinner. Janet took me home.
A few days later, my dad and I stopped by the junkyard where my Escort was lying in state. We were there to check for anything I may have left behind, and to see if we could salvage the stereo system. The guy running the place didn’t mind, so we did. And that was the last I saw of my first car.

More miscellany

Liechtenstein is 200. The total population of the nation is a little over half of that of my town.

* * *

In the market for a new mortgage? Be sure to check out the Mortgage Professor, who has a list of “Upfront Mortgage Brokers”. These brokers promise the transparency of disclosing “the loan’s wholesale price (the interest rate and points), plus the markup, in writing and in advance.”
[Via Newsweek, June 26, 2006.]

* * *

A thought on why Honda rocks:
Last week, during swim lessons, I had a moron moment and forgot to take my Pilot’s key and fob out of my swimsuit pocket. An hour later, after drying off the tyke (the lessons were for him, in case you were wondering), I went to change in to some dry clothes and had one of those Seinfeldian “Oooohhhhhh” moments.
Just out of curiosity, I hit the lock button on the fob. Twice. I heard the Pilot’s horn blast a single note.
And I smiled.
It’s still working, with apparently no ill effects. So is the little keychain LED light my sister-in-law got as a stocking stuffer for me two Christmases ago.

Miscellany

Leave it to a bunch of Brits to play football with automobiles. In this case, a small fleet of Toyota’s Aygos. There was plenty of rubbin’ going on, and as we all know, “Rubbin’s racin’.
[Via Autoblog, video requires Windows Media Player.]

* * *

When you go to see X3, sit through the credits.

* * *

It is amazingly quiet in my study when my wife’s Windows PC is powered off. My iMac Core Duo, PowerBook, external hard drive, and HP OfficeJet AIO (when it’s not actually printing) are all near-silent.
When I walked in a moment ago, and registered the quiet, being so used to the fans of the PC, I had a momentary thought of “What’s wrong?”

No more VW style for the Passat?

I guess I didn’t pay much attention to autoblog coverage of the new Volkswagen Passat, but I’ve seen a few of them on the road now, and I have to wonder: what was VW thinking?
While the new Jettas retain the lines and design of a Volkswagen, the new Passats appear much more bland, more like an Accord or Camry than a VW.

Iosis

No, not oasis, Iosis. And it’s from, of all companies, Ford. With the exception of the neo-retro Mustang, this is probably the best concept to come out of the Blue Oval in quite a while.

We’re not allowed to have this why?

So next year’s Civic for the States is ho-hum, but the European version of the 2006 Honda Civic kills. The Euro-Civic has the Si-inspired hatchback-style rear, but that could easily be elongated for Stateside sales. Plus, selling the same style as the Euro-Civic would be very, very popular with the kids. Why oh why, Honda, are we not getting this car here?
Update, 2:00 PM CST: It would appear we’ll see the Euro-Civic in America as the new CRX, or at least a variation thereof. Still, the front end of the Euro-Civic needs to be standard across the board, not just on the sporty, hatchback coupe model.