Drive a Shitty Car for as Long as You Can

In the Senior Polls, my high school class voted my car “Ugliest Car”. It made me cry.

It was a 1987 Honda Civic with 150,000 miles. I had worked for a summer so that I could pay $500 for it. The original paint job was peeling, so I repainted it myself.

I was sad that everyone thought it was ugly.

At the time, I didn’t know that dollar-store rattlecan was different from automotive paint.
I didn’t know that dollar-store rattlecan was different from automotive paint.

I told my speech teacher that I felt self-conscious driving such a lame car.

Actually, I feel sorry for all those kids in brand-new BMWs, he said. They’ll never be able to downgrade. An expensive car will become part of their identity. Drive an old car for as long as you can.

I thought he was maybe trying to rationalize his own crappy car.

Another classmate had inherited an old Toyota Tercel. He desperately wanted an MR2, so he did the next best thing: He pried an MR2 emblem off some car late at night and glued it to the back of the Tercel. He named his car Mister Two. It was cute. It had character. Of course, a crappy Tercel is the last thing in the world to have character. The car really just took on the character of its owner.

The interesting thing about expensive vehicles — they have no character. In fact, when you own expensive shit, you take on the character of the shit. That’s because any expensive possession requires its owner to devote time and attention to preserving it in pristine condition. After all, nobody wants to spend a lot of money on something only to neglect it and turn it into crap. Doesn’t matter if it’s a car, boat, plane, house, whatever.

When you have nothing, you can’t be anything but yourself. Just compare the race cars from LeMons to the boring uniformity of Formula 1 cars.

So I smacked my car into telephone poles and curbs. I took running leaps into the windows, General-Lee style. I practiced J-turns in a parking lot until I blew out a tire.

Later on, a friend from college stopped speaking to me for 10 years and counting after I did a Super Mario buttstomp onto the hood of his new Acura and dented it. He should have thanked me. That car needed some character.

24 Hours of LeMons at Sonoma Raceway
24 Hours of LeMons at Sonoma Raceway

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