I never had much luck with cars. My unwillingness to spend more than a thousand dollars for a vehicle might have something to do with it. Or perhaps because I tend to hastily seize automotive opportunities, usually out of desperation.
My most memorable vehicular experience involved a red 1996 Toyota pickup truck. I was living in Burlington, Vermont at the time, and had been bumming friends’ cars for far too long. When an old Tacoma popped up on Craigslist in a nearby town I couldn’t pass it up. I met the seller that day with seven-hundred dollars in my pocket – he was asking $850. After a quick inspection and test drive (trying my best not to disclose how little I knew about cars) I made my offer – which was accepted – and I drove back to town, proud and mobilized.
|RIP "Kentucky Jed"|
Upon arriving home I gave my new ride a more thorough inspection. The situation seemed a bit less-than-ideal – though I was still certain I received a bargain. The truck came equipped with bald (but studded) snow tires – it was late April and I figured I could squeeze some more life out of them, hell, maybe another winter. Two broken door handles, malfunctional locks, and a duct taped plexi-glass rear cab window revealed a bit of the vehicle’s mysterious past. This combination of defects allowed for an easy way to get into the cab when locked out – something that had clearly come up before (as the shards of safety glass under the seat could attest). The last noteworthy imperfection was the absence of a tailgate, which was not a big deal as long as I clipped, strapped, or otherwise secured any and all belongings. As a backup there was a “redneck net” loosely attached in the tailgate’s stead. Solid enough I suppose.
The truck was not without perks, however. Included in the deal was a Jeff Gordon keychain and about three bucks worth of change strewn throughout the cab. A worthy tradeoff for the vehicle’s drawbacks.
After resolving some initial mechanical difficulties everything seemed to be in good working order. I finished off my time in the Green Mountain State and headed back to Connecticut for a seasonal job at a land trust. When I arrived home, drinking beer with old friends took precedence over unpacking, so I left my truck and took off for destinations now forgotten. The next morning, after unloading, I turned the key, popped her into reverse, and started to roll forward down a hill. Understandably I was alarmed. Instead of having a friend with his 4x4 tow me out, my father insisted that his old two-wheel-drive work van should be up for the task and proceeded to drag the Tacoma down the road with a manky metal cable tenuously hooked to some hole in his bumper. In the process his own brakes went and he resorted to jamming his transmission into park to slow down – but that’s another story.
Thus was my truck liberated. Now what? I still had a vehicle that for some reason didn’t want to back up. A sensible individual might have concluded that not having reverse would be a debilitating condition for a car and a serious impairment to transportation. I on the other hand saw it as an exercise in ingenuity. I quickly learned that getting places was not an issue; the hard part was parking. Through trial and error I came to the conclusion that, lacking reverse, one has three viable options:
- Pull into a spot in which you are able to pull out of.
- Park on an incline so you can roll backwards in neutral to a position where you can then go forwards.
- Make sure to be in a level enough area that you can push yourself to freedom.
With this quiver of parking techniques I was not once left stranded. However plenty of unforeseen predicaments did arise. One memorable instance involved a dirt road, a bridge closure, and me pushing my truck backwards, uphill, in the middle of the night. Another time I had to ask a girl to give me a hand pushing out of a parking space while on a date – I suspect that was the reason we didn’t go out again. Finally, after nearly killing my friend’s blind and diabetic Chihuahua-Pug via accidental insulin overdose, I had to conduct a three (or five) point turn sans reverse in the vet’s parking lot. These were all inconvenient and possibly embarrassing, but relatively manageable.
The lesson to be gleaned from all this is that a car without reverse is more functional than one may originally presume. You can get around pretty damn well without the luxury of going backwards, but there are some things you cannot forego…
I was driving home after climbing on an ordinary fall evening. The roads around here are not exactly what you’d call pristine, and sizeable bumps are commonplace. But when sparks began flying off to my left and a loud scraping sound erupted from below me, I was able to deduce that something was awry. On the side of the road now, my tire twisted into the wheel well and utterly useless, I learned the obvious – having the full number of functional tires is something you cannot do without. Luckily for me the officer on duty didn’t notice the baldness of the rubber or the gnarled and out of season metal studs.
Needless to say the truck is now lying somewhere in a heap of other unlucky vehicles. I have since then owned and scrapped a Volvo, purchased off of some greasy pizza bastard - a car that routinely turned off on me while driving, and whose hood twice flew up into my windshield.
I now drive a ’97 Jetta named Cherise. Five-hundred bucks.