I’ve never been much of a car person. I don’t remember ever being concerned too much about style or speed. As long as what I drove was neat, clean, and dependable I was happy. As I’ve grown older I’ve pretty much given up the “neat and clean” part and settled with dependable. I did own one nice car once. When Debbie and I started dating I bought a really cool Pontiac Tempest LeMans. It was seafoam green, black interior, baby moons with chrome rims on Goodyear red stripe tires. Whoo-wee did I ever look good in that car! It was the car we used well into our marriage. It had a manual transmission so Debbie never drove it. When we were expecting Jamie we found out our medical insurance didn’t cover maternity. When our doctor found out this little fact he insisted on payment up front for Debbie’s care. The only thing of value I owned was my sweet Pontiac. I had to sell it to pay the doctor. I stood in my front yard and cried as I watched the new owner drive away. I bought an old Chevy junker to get us through the pregnancy and it served us well.
After Jamie was born I sold the old Chevy and bought a Chevy Malibu. It was pretty plain but in great shape. I was proud of it and happy we could go places without embarrassment. It too was a manual transmission so I was the sole driver…..until the dawning of Debbie’s Demolition.
One night Debbie asked me to teach her how to work a clutch so she could use the car when she needed it. After minutes and minutes of stressful training I calmly screamed, “Pull over and let me drive before you ruin this car!”. She pulled over and I swung the passenger side door open to storm out. I did not know she had pulled over next to a drainage ditch. As I disappeared from sight I heard Debbie laughing. I am pretty sure she did that on purpose.
After a week or so Debbie asked me to take her to the mall for some shopping. I didn’t want to go shopping so much that I decided to sacrifice the Malibu. I suggested to Deb that the only way to learn to work a stick shift would be to get in the car alone and make it work. She agreed and left for the mall by herself. I still remember the sound of grinding gears and the sight of repeated lurching as she drove away. When she came home she was pleased with herself but worried that she may have damaged a light pole. She had started to turn left at an intersection when she realized she should have turned right. Rather than make the block she put the car in reverse and ran into the pole while turning. I ran out to check the car and found the back bumper caved in and the trunk lid dented. I wasn’t too concerned about the light pole.
On her next solo trip she brought the car back with elongated dents all along both sides of the car. When I asked her about it she told me she had pulled into a really tight spot. She knew she would have to find another place to park when she noticed the cars on both sides of her slowly rising. She was scraping along the door handles of both cars.
Her third trip resulted in a large rip on one of the fenders above the wheel. As I beat the jagged metal back into place I decided I wouldn’t bother to ask her how she had done it.
I finally decided it was time to stop driving cars that were the least bit stylish and buy something more family oriented. I bought us a big old boring Ford LTD. There was more chrome on this car than any I had ever dreamed of owning. The phrase that came to mind was “more metal for the money” and I figured Debbie would have a hard time destroying it. Boy oh boy was I wrong. It did take a week or two for the demolition to start but when it did it was historic. She pulled out of the garage one day and ripped all the chrome off the passenger side of the car. I screamed and yelled and gave all kinds of helpful hints like “Don’t get so close to that side of the garage ever again!” She took this lesson to heart and drove for several days before ripping all the chrome off the driver’s side.
I did my best to replace the missing chrome and polish out the scratches on the car without bothering the insurance company. A year passed before more damage came our way. It was a rainy day and Debbie was running late getting home from a baby shower. She pulled into the driveway a little too fast and hit the brake hard as she entered the garage. Since the garage floor had a smooth surface the car slid right into my workbench destroying it and everything on and around it. As I fixed the grill and beat the dents out of the hood I asked Deb to stop just a bit short of my workbench the next time she pulled into the garage. She listened to this advice and used great care to leave plenty of space between the car and workbench. When she pulled the garage door down she caved in the trunk lid. This ended the systematic destruction of all four sides of her car.
During all this work Debbie was doing on her Ford I had bought a 1972 Chevy Impala two-door hardtop from my dad. He knew how to take care of a car and this old Chevy was in mint condition. I planned to keep it forever since Detroit was going downhill and the classics were getting to be rare. I foolishly came down with a stomach virus during one of the times Debbie’s car was out of commission. I was feeling really bad and Deb decided I needed medicine. I knew she would have to drive my Chevy to the drugstore so I told her I was fine and didn’t need a thing from the store. In her compassion and need to get out of the house, she insisted on going and took off in my last of a kind, mint, really cool Chevy. I heard the garage door come up and wanted to stop her but my stomach decided I needed to run to the bathroom instead. Within seconds I heard strange noises coming from the garage. I worried what the noise could be until Debbie got home. She came straight to the bedroom apologizing. She had run the car up next to the garage door opening and scratched the front fender. In her haste to correct herself, she threw the car into drive and ran it forward scratching up the passenger side door. She finally got the car out of the garage and was so upset and worried she failed to check her rearview mirror and ran into a car also pulling out of its driveway. This caved in the driver side thus ruining both sides on my mint Chevy in less than five minutes.
Now you would think this couldn’t possibly get any worse. Well, of course it could. I “punished” Debbie by telling her the wrecked Chevy was now hers. I sold the wrecked Ford to some poor soul and bought myself a new Ford pickup. It was a beauty. To make a long story a bit shorter I’ll just say this. Debbie took my new pickup to drive the boys to school one morning. She wrapped it around a bridge embankment. I am very glad she and the boys didn’t get hurt but my truck was totaled. This was the last time I ever tried to have a nice vehicle. I took the old Chevy back from Debbie and bought her a new Oldsmobile. She drove it for twelve years without putting so much as a scratch on it.
Since Deb had done so well with the Olds I figured the answer to her bad driving had to be in buying her a new car. This led me to buy her another new car. This one was her choice and she chose a new Chevy Malibu. She wrecked it three times. After the first wreck our insurance became so expensive I cancelled all but liability. I tried to repair the last two wrecks by myself. The last repair involved duct tape and baling wire….I’m not kidding.
I gave Debbie one more chance and bought her another new car….keep in mind, I’m still driving old wrecks to work. She still owns this last car and has wrecked it three times. Each time the insurance company provided excellent repairs but the last wreck caused a huge adjustment in our insurance rates. I dropped it down to liability again so who knows what her car will look like in the coming months. She did choose a light silver paint this time which will blend nicely with duct tape.