Sunday, November 8, 2009

Failed Roadtrips and the Mercury Grand Marquis

About a month ago, when my dad asked me to pick up a 2009 Mercury Grand Marquis that he had just bought here in Seattle, I started planning the roadtrip of a lifetime. The kind that Joe thinks requires a tour of the Grand Canyon and firebombing the roadtrip car at its conclusion. Because the Grand Marquis was the perfect car--not for the firebombing, but the trip itself--with a bench front seat, sprawling back seat, trunk big enough to fit two grown men, and an absence of road noise so sweet you could listen to music on near mute if you wanted to. The kind of luxury old person's car that you can be doing 110 down the freeway and not even realize.

When my dad first called to ask me this favor I wasn't too keen on the thought--we had just moved, I had just traveled across country and still hadn't adjusted (still haven't adjusted)--and my dad has a tendency towards saddling you with more caveats than you can handle; e.g., the time he fixed my car by instructing me to "take this screwdriver, lean over the engine, reach down here and touch these two bolts together if it doesn't start." To my surprise, however, the car was all parts intact, which hardly ever happens when my dad asks you to pick up a car for him. Between my sisters and I, we've driven cars without windshield wipers, without headlights, without brake lights.

But before I could convince my roadtrip buddy to skip out on her normal life for a the 3-day trek across the west with no notice, my dad found an auto transport, which called yesterday morning to arrange a pick-up. Since our apartment is on a hill, on a series of skinny little streets, I knew a semi-truck wouldn't make it up here. We agreed to meet in the Whole Foods parking lot.

The guy from the transport company had his kid in the cab, and as we filled out the papers and inspected all points of the car before loading, the kid wandered around, scuffing his shoes on the curb, kicking rocks, passing time until his dad was ready to go. It kind of broke my heart, because all of a sudden I realized, that was me.

Twenty years ago, I was that kid, tagging along with my dad in his tow truck, amusing myself while he hooked up cars. Because we were always going with my dad to pick up cars, tow cars away, buy cars from auction, pick up parts, drop off parts. My dad sells cars, but he also fixes cars and tows cars. My sisters and I were dropped off at school in that tow truck. We accompanied him on flat tire calls, where my sister once met Andrea Zinga from KWQC-TV, and Detroit auto auctions, where we made friends with a long haul trucker name Zorro, talking on my dad's CB.

Standing there on the side of the road, I wanted to say something to that kid. It really brought me back, watching him. But I couldn't think what to say. I used to go with my dad to pick up cars, too didn't seem appropriate. Neither did, This builds character or You'll appreciate it later. I don't even know if I appreciate it! Except that, mostly, I do. My first year of college, when my friend dragged me along with her to sorority rush, I told the girl at Chi Omega, as an experiment, that my dad was a mechanic when she asked what my parents did. And it was the only sorority I didn't get asked back to. Funny, huh.

But, you know, it makes me who I am. Our family didn't tour Europe, we saw Wisconsin Dells. We practiced basketball in the back of our dad's shop. In high school I drove an old Jeep that my friends' parents didn't want to let them ride in. My first job was washing cars and doing errands around my dad's garage, and once two of the popular guys from high school came in to pick up their car and smirked at me covered in dirt, throwing a stack of old radiators into the back of a truck.

And also, because yesterday when I got back into our car with Joe, who had followed me there, the first thing he said was, "That kid reminded me of how it used to be when I went out with my dad." And I laughed out loud and thought how glad I was that I was married to this guy, and why we get each other like we do.


Tara said...

I like your little anecdote about that kid. My dad towed me around, running errands and what not. I didn't appreciate it or even really think about it. But now I suddenly miss it.

ambika said...

This made me think. There was no Greek system at my college but that kind of snobbery is just shameful.

& it made me powerfully wish I'd done that kind of fire-bombing road trip. Someday.

Anonymous said...

Love this. You're so good! - SW