Monday, February 24, 2014

The Tercel

Brace yourselves:  I'm going to talk about cars today.  Be assured it will most likely never ever happen again.  Not because I don't like them or I have a religious belief against them, but because in general I just don't really care about them.

Oh, except for my first car.

It was blue.  A pretty little blue Toyota that had been my dad's.  I remember when we went and bought the car (in large part because it was, up to that point in my life, one of the most intensely boring days I had ever experienced).  The poor sales guy kept showing my parents different cars, and my dad would stubbornly repeat variations on the theme, "I want a car that will get me from point A to point B.  That's it."

And that's what they got.  It was (is, it is, because don't kid yourself: that car is still running, and will probably run until the end of time) a little 4-cylinder, stick shift, two-door Tercel with dark vinyl seats (the better to retain heat in the summer so as to give you immediate contact burns on any surface of skin you were foolish enough not to protect from the car), no air conditioning, no power steering, no power anything, for that matter, no right side-view mirror, no radio, no speakers, no clock, no nothing car.

I loved that car.

It was peppy.  It whipped around corners beautifully.  It was as reliable as the sun (more on the sun in just a moment), got great gas mileage, and the one amenity it featured, heat, worked so well in the winter it was like it was trying to make up for the fact that it lacked pretty much everything else other cars have.

So maybe it wasn't the most powerful car in the world.  I've heard another Tercel owner compare the sound of the engine to that of a lawn mower.  So what?  It moved with alacrity when I pressed down on the gas pedal.  It's not like my life was The Fast and the Furious.

So maybe my affectionate nickname for it was The Easy-Bake Oven.  I remember getting in the car to drive the five minutes it took me to get to work as a carhop at Sonic, and arriving in clothes quite literally drenched in sweat.  When it's well over 100 degrees outside, you're sitting on dark vinyl seats, and the cooking implement isn't so much a light bulb as the sun, it's going to get a little hot.  So what?  As a carhop, I spent half my shift outside, anyway.  (This was a little different when I started working in a drugstore.  On the very hottest days, I would bring a different shirt to change into when I got to work, and hang my sopping wet shirt up to drip-dry while I worked.  I'm pretty sure they loved me there.)  I had friends who said things like WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH THIS CAR and I HAVE NEVER BEEN THIS HOT IN MY LIFE and OH JEEZ I FEEL SICK.  It was a car, wasn't it?  Teenagers.  So dramatic.

It was because of this car that I was so confused and not a little cranky when we moved to Connecticut.  We lived in a relatively working-class neighborhood, not at all what you'd call affluent, especially by Connecticut standards, but there was a high school just a couple blocks away from our condo, and that school parking lot was full of nice, new cars with brand names like BMW and Lexus.  What the heck?  This gave me lots of opportunities for curmudgeonly grumbling about Youth Entitlement and Kids These Days (it just occurred to me I was the ripe old age of 21 when I moved there- at this point I could either label myself as an "old soul" or just accept that I've always been a little cranky).

Now, thankfully, we're back in the midwest, where the school parking lots are full of bikes and old trucks and, my favorite, an old, rusty, beater car that has a bumper sticker that reads "Don't be fooled by my car- my treasure is in heaven."

My point?  I don't really have one.  Except to say that even if you have money coming out your ears, please don't get your kid a nice car when they first start driving.  I am happy with just about any car I drive now, I don't care if it's pretty, I don't care if it doesn't have power-whatever- I just want it to get me from point A to point B.  (Although, I'm not gonna lie, I might cry on the day when I finally get to drive a manual transmission vehicle again.  I feel very strongly about those.)


  1. Terrel the Tercel is still my favorite car I ever drove. Although having air conditioning in my car is a beautiful thing. Also, just saying, Mazda makes a minivan that comes in standard. I fully plan on test driving one someday....

  2. :-) My current car is little and peppy --a corolla. However, it's a 2007, so it actually does have the mod cons, like air-conditioning. I love how little it is, but apparently my legs do not. I'm 5'10", and while everything was working well, I could get in and out without any problem. But with my hip problems, I'm looking to either take over my husband's RAV4, or get something similar.

    However, I was hoping I could hang on to this little guy until Emma was old enough to drive. But I can't wait another 3 years, and we don't have any place to store a car for three years. Bummer.

  3. The first car I owned was a little red Honda Civic that I bought from my parents. Standard transmission, no power steering or power anything. It was a great car. Your blue Toyota tercel and my red Honda Civic are probably sitting at a table in car heaven talking about us over drinks.


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