When I was a kid I attended a rather ritzy private school in St. Paul, MN. The student parking lot was kind of a joke compared to most student lots. It was filled with the most unbelievable cars, all of which friends or acquaintances drove – Mercedes, BMWs, Toyota Land Cruisers and plenty of Jeep Grand Cherokee 4x4s. Most of these cars were presented to their drivers (I’ll say drivers since using the word “owner” would not have been accurate in most cases), but anyway, to their drivers on 16 birthdays or upon receiving a valid drivers license. Lucky them.
I did not get a new shiny car on my 16th birthday. I was tricked a time or two, however…
Before I continue let me congratulate my baby cousin, while squeezing a tiny bit of residual adolescent jealousy from my heart, on her shiny new Christmas/birthday ride. Somehow I doubt my darling uncle or super cool auntie ever tricked Christine while she patiently waited for her very own car. Instead I know that they really did give her a brand new Toyota convertible, shiny and red, as a reward for growing into a responsible, fun, kind, license holding young lady. Lucky her. (But really I am totally excited for your, Christine!!)
Moving on with my story… When I was maybe 13 or 14 we were visiting my grandma in Chevy Chase, MD. There was a local Chinese food restaurant she frequented which was located very close to a Mercedes Dealership. As we drove to dinner one evening (okay at 4pm, but old people eat early) she asked me what I wanted for my birthday. She was very generous and always gifting my sister and I whom she saw only twice a year. I looked around and replied, “That,” pointing directly at the Mercedes-Benz convertible sitting out in front of the dealership. “Of course, honey,” my grandma replied. Done deal. Sweet.
The saga over actually getting the car Nonnie promised me grew over the next couple years. My parents wanted to see certain grades, a demonstrated level of responsibility, and they assured me that my grandmother was completely unaware of how much a Mercedes even cost seeing as how she never drove, ever, or even owned a car since my grandfather passed in 1979. “I drive a Camry, for God’s sake,” I recall my dad hollering once. Fine, be that way, parents. I’m sure I stomped off to my room.
My easy to ruffle feathers on the subject did give my dad plenty of ammunition. One day he found me brooding over this or that in my bedroom (brooding is what 15-year-old girls do). “Courts, guess what?” “What?” “I have something for you in the garage… Its red and its shiny and it has a motor!”
I don’t remember but I am pretty sure I knocked my little dad out of the way as I flew threw the door, down the stairs and out into the garage. Nothing. What? Where is it, what is it? “Over there, Courts,” my dad, who had righted himself and followed me out of the house, said.
Where, where, where????
Then I saw it. “That?” I said, “That is a lawn mower, not a car. Daaa-aaad. You are so mean.”
My dad thought it was funny. Back to brooding for me.
Sometime when I was 15, close to 16, my dad was in a pretty bad car accident (thank you MN winters and snow-covered freeways). His Toyota bounced between the medians of highway 94 three or four times, spinning all the way, hence crushing almost every surface of the car’s outer body. My dads immediate need for a new car meant there was pretty much no way I would be getting one. Oh well. Dad was okay, so I would be too. Until he did this…
“Courts, I have something for you! It’s got four wheels and it runs on gas…” “Dad, I don’t want another lawn mower, thank you!” “…and it runs on these keys.” Did he say keys? Did he just hold up keys on a key ring? Yes!!! Once again I knocked him over as I snatched the keys and ran from my bedroom. Car, car, car, car… Here I come!
Through the door, into the garage, car, wha? No way, what the heck was this thing?! It was not my dad’s car, or a new modest middle class vehicle, the kind I was used to my parents purchasing every four or so years… No, this thing was ugly, and I mean you-ain’t-got-no alibi ugly. “Uh, this is for me? It looks kind of, unsafe?” “Don’t you like it,” my dad asked, fishing for my champagne tastes to rear their ugly little heads. “Daaaaad, it’s so ugly. What is it? Do I really have to drive it?” My dad was already laughing, hard.
Turns out the car was from Rent-A-Wreck. While his Toyota was being assessed the insurance company provided my dad with a lovely rental (note to self: never use that insurance company). He decided it was the perfect opportunity to trick me, again. Mean.
Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. I totally fell for it.
Driving my mom’s gorgeous faux wood paneling-clad minivan, and on occasion my dad’s new Honda, were as close as I got to that beautiful Mercedes over the next couple of years. You may wonder if I ever got the car in the end. Eventually the Honda was given to me permanently when my dad decided to graduate to luxury vehicles and began his lengthy love affair with Infinity (he now drives a Prius, which is a blog for another time). But the time never came while my vehicle could have joined the ranks of the Saabs and Land Rovers of the SPA parking lot, no, not so much. Booooo.
In 1999 I did get, with his help, a darling little New Beetle which was able to grace the UofM Gamma Phi Beta parking lot and haul WAY more people than it was ever intended to haul (or for which it had seat belts), so I eventually forgave my cute little dad.
“Which one does she want,” the sales man asked my dad. “The red one,” he said, “because it looks like fruit and it will make her happy.” Lucky me.