By Susan Govern
As far back as I can remember my dad would always do his best to keep our cars in good shape. He would have the engine serviced regularly, he would clean the cars inside and out; washing and waxing to protect the paint job and keep the car from rusting so fast from the road salt used in our Ohio winters. He also would say it was important to watch where you parked your car to avoid “dings” and dents caused by careless drivers parking too close.
This carried over to me when I got my first car way back in 1976. It was a baby blue 1975 Chevy Camaro and in great shape. I drove that car my senior year of high school and for four years of commuting to Kent State. Anywhere I parked, I did my best to avoid getting the car doors damaged.
Then I made the decision after the “Smokey and the Bandit” movie came out to get my car (just beginning to show some small rust spots) painted black like the Trans-Am in the movie. I might as well have had a target painted on it. Chalk that up as mistake #1.
While doing my Journalism Internship in southern Ohio, I parked my car one afternoon on the street in front of the news office instead of in the side parking lot. That was mistake #2. Wham – Bam – Bang! My car was hit by a lady who never stopped at the side street as she turned onto Main Street. It was drivable, but after all the years of being so careful not to get it scratched or dented – it was both (thank goodness for a body shop that did good work and her insurance paying all repairs).
About a year later I had graduated KSU and was working. The Camaro was now seven years old and with all the miles on it, I knew it was time to look for something new. That’s when my little purple Pontiac entered my life. Once more I was careful as I could be to be sure it would stay looking like new. A few months later I was in a minor car accident and my right front end got damaged. Repairs were completed and I was lucky to have that car for several years.
By the time I traded the Pontiac for a Chrysler car, I was a wife and mom. Now my husband and I both made great effort to keep our vehicles in good condition inside and out.
It was about this same time I started to notice something strange happening around me. I would go to the store, park quite a ways from other cars, only to come out and find I was surrounded by people who didn’t seem to understand what the striped lines of the parking spaces were for.
Lucky for me, my husband had the foresight to purchase a tube of touch-up paint for my car when we bought it.
That red car lasted for quite some time and we eventually traded up in size to a mini-van. I cannot explain it other than to say the mini-van had to have magnets in the side and door panels. I would find cars parked so close to me that I practically needed a giant shoe-horn to squeeze my way through my driver’s door. And grocery carts seemed to be especially drawn to my van.
I have been married 30 plus years, and a driver for 42 years; I have in those years driven, owned or leased 8 vehicles (I’m now on my 9th with the Jeep). No matter where I have parked, no matter how careful I am when I drive…something happens. And it’s not always even my car (or my fault) when damage is done.
My husband and I were still just in the dating phase when we came out of church one day to find his car had been damaged by a hit and run driver in the parking lot.
Remember my little purple car? We were new parents at the time and he backed my car out of the garage and promptly backed into his vehicle parked right behind me in the driveway. His vehicle got scraped, mine being smaller had a tail-light busted out.
I have developed an absolute phobia about trucks, especially semis, being in front of me on the road. On a cross country trip in 2015, we were in my husband’s new car (and I do mean new – had it only a couple of months) when a stone was kicked up by a passing semi truck going in the opposite direction.
What sounded like a small bullet hitting the window left a stone chip on the driver’s side windshield. A couple of days later on the same trip another stone was kicked up from a vehicle ahead of us. BANG! This time it seemed like a rifle had been fired at us. As a souvenir we ended up with a bigger stone chip in the passenger side of the windshield.
Later on in the vacation, my husband misjudged exiting a gas station driveway and drove over the curb damaging the right rear mud-flap. We held onto hope nothing more would happen and we were lucky.
We spend a lot of money on those vehicles that take us from place to place. We enjoy riding in them on vacation road trips; making memories along the way. We ride in them to get us to work, and sometimes our rides in them are for sad reasons like being part of a funeral procession. We are attached to our cars and in our society we are also dependent on them.
It’s a right of passage that so many young people look forward to – getting a driver’s license and being able to experience life behind the wheel. Our “love affair” with our cars does start at an early age. For many, it’s the first object that they learn to take care of (unless they’ve had pets). Having a car and being a driver teaches responsibility; a lesson that can be applied to so many other parts of life.
In looking back at the accumulated chips, dents, dings, bangs and scratches that have been a part of car ownership…I can be thankful that those “injuries” only happened to metal and paint and not the skin and bones of me or my family.