Top 5: July 2006 Archives

My First (Real) Car

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Growing up, I had it pretty good. I was the youngest of 4 children, so I got away with a lot more than my older siblings. Like my sisters were banned from watching Blue Lagoon when they were 14, but screamed bloody murder when Dad and I were watching "10" on cable TV when I was the same age.

Same situation applied for cars. The twins got to share a Chevy Camaro when they were 17. My brother got a Volkswagen Cabroliet at 17. I got a Jeep Wrangler Laredo when I was 17.

I loved that car. Firstly, I went to LaSalle and I lived in Gwynedd Valley and it was *the* car to own as a teenager. Basically the quintessential preppymobile for 1988, and being sucked into conformity at an early age, I was thrilled to have it. Secondly, it was the top of the line Jeep - with the chrome grill and all the extras - cruise control and air conditioning. Thirdly, not to sound too snobby, but the car was a $20,000 car driven by a 17 year old - that does make the ego rise a notch or two.

Before you, my dear readers, get up in arms about my well-to-do upbringing, my parents were all about installing a work ethic at an early age. Part of that work ethic is about paying for things we owned. Every summer working in Ocean City my money would go straight to my parents to pay for my car. End of a day selling ice cream or end of a night being a waiter. Per year I owed my parents for half of the lease, about $3,000.

Conversely, i'm not going to try and make myself out to be "Mr. Self Sufficient". My parents did pay for my insurance. They paid for my gas. Clothes. School. Just about any hobby that I enjoyed they would pay for, and I think i'm much more thankful now about how generous my parents were.

But, with that being said, here are my "Top 5" Jeep memories:

1. Snow Patrol: One day in January I was driving from Villanova to Gwynedd Valley. It was only about a 30 minute drive and the roads were snow covered. I had driven my Jeep in 4-wheel drive all the time in the show, and it was a champ. Everyone else on the road is driving 15 miles an hour, I would "blaze" past them at 30 miles an hour, with nary a slip. But, this one night, the snow-slick road turned to ice. I wasn't driving very fast at the time, only 10-15 miles per hour when I felt the front of the car began to list to the left. So, I turned my wheel into the skid, which I learned at an early age, and was expecting the skid to correct itself. It didn't. I was on an icepatch and I was slowly rotating in a 360 degree circle in the middle of the road. Thank God it was 1am. No one was on the road. So as I was doing 360's down the road in slow motion I just took my hands off the wheel and crossed my arms. I said to myself, "May as well just enjoy the ride" and for the next 12 seconds waited until I skidded off the road and into a snowbank. I slipped the Jeep into 4-wheel drive (the higher torque setting) and easily got out of the snowbank and just continued home.

2) Only fools...- Ocean City + Jeep = A lot of attention from girls. Me, being about as experienced with a girl as a yuppie Hobokenite is with clipping coupons, didn't bode well. One girl, who was about 16 and extremely cute at the time, convinced me to let her drive my car (saying she was learning to drive with her permit). So I drove the car into an alley, and her friends were in the backseat while I told her what to do. This was one of the biggest mistakes ever. It was summer and the roof & doors of my Jeep were off. So I was outside the drivers side, and she was in the drivers seat. She didn't wait for me to get back into the car and she guns it. I was right next to her, so I was able to make a quick move by grasping the top rollover bar of the Jeep and stick my foot on the brakes. She is still - STILL - gunning the engine while my foot is on the brakes and this gnarly squealing sound is coming from the engine. I reach across and put the car into park, while she is fucking GIGGLING the whole time like its some kind of game. Fucking idiot girls. I tell her and her friends to get out of my car and I never see them again.

3) Late Night Drives: Dave (my brother-in-law) had brother-in-law named Chuck. Chuck, who is no longer with us, was a real salt of the earth kind of guy who was very overweight and the typical jolly fat-guy. He also drove Harleys in his spare time, and would tell me that his favorite experience was driving a Harley, on a warm summer night, with no real destination - just riding for hours. It wasn't until I had my Jeep that I sort-of knew what he was talking about. Driving the car with no roof and no doors was about as close to being on a motorcycle I got and I did have the same thrill for life on certain sweet summer nights when the air was warm and would sit at a traffic light in the middle of nowhere and look up - and see the crisp stars shining down from the heavens. It was a Zen like moment, when everything was right with the world and unless you have experienced it yourself, you won't know what i'm talking about.

4) "Offroading": Suburban Philadelphia has its share of industrial parks and fields. Sadly none are really "offroading" places, but when you are a bored teenager and you have a carfull of friends - you do what you can. I broke several laws with that Jeep, taking it across fields and lawns while yelling "Offroading" with a group of laughing teenagers in the other seats. I was kind enough NOT to do any major destruction to landscapes, but I do know that there must have been a few mornings where some guy is going to work, walks out of his house and takes a look at his lawn with my tire tracks going across it and he must have been thinking "WHAT...THE...FUCK!"

5) New York, New York: I was pledging Delta Tau Delta, and in our final week we had a scavenger hunt in New York City. The plan was to get 3 carloads of pledges to drive to New York on like a Wedneday night and we had a series of places we needed to visit. Some items we needed to collect, some photos we needed to take to prove we did it. I was one of the drivers and had 3 uncomfortable people in the backseat, along with someone in the shotgun seat. It was my first time driving to NYC, and I can honestly say I went to Manhattan once before when I was a kid - so I was somewhat nervous about driving my nice Jeep into the crime-ridden streets of NYC in 1992. We were right outside of New York city, on the Garden State Parkway (don't ask why we were on the GSP and not I-95), when my steering wheel started to shake violently. I never saw that before, so I slowed down, signalled to the other drivers and something was drastically wrong with my car. I took it to a service station off the GSP and they told me something or other had broke and it would need to be replaced. The people in my car piled into the 2 other cars and I drove home, alone, going 40 miles an hour on I-95, with my hazard signals on. If I went any faster than 40 miles per hour, the steering wheel would shake and rattle. I feel bad about that day because it was a good pledge bonding experience and I missed out.

Good times. Today I drive Dave's old 1993 Volvo with 120,000 miles on it. It does the job. It is a good weekend car. If I had to drive to work, I have little doubt that I would be driving something else. I still find myself on about once a week, looking at the new BMWs and thinking if a $375 lease on a new X3 versus a $420 lease on an X5 is justified. I crunch the numbers and then also try to guess what my insurance would cost - and by the time i'm done daydreaming about a new BMW, Toureag, Volvo convertible...I always take a peek at the latest Jeep and wonder...maybe I could just recapture some of that magic again...

Then the frugal side of me shuts down any thought of buying a car and keeps me focused on saving enough money to buy a condo & pay my PSE&G bill.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Top 5 category from July 2006.

Top 5: May 2006 is the previous archive.

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