[How] I Get Around

Well, darling, it’s really happening.  I’ve hit a third-life crisis, and it’s time to move on.  We have had some truly great times.  We’ve been through a lot, some good, some bad, all memorable.  I know it’s going to be difficult, but you’ve got to move on.  I’ve signed the papers and packed my things.  I’m moving far away, and I’m trading you in for a different model.  Something that fits my new lifestyle a little better.  I’ll see you around.

I bought my “Boo,” a 1989 Buick Park Avenue Electra, in 2005 for $1400.  The car had only 65,000 miles on it, and was in excellent condition.  I had just graduated from Pitt and was taking pedagogy courses to get my teaching license at Westminster College.  I had moved back home and was also waiting tables at the restaurant where I had worked in high school.  I needed something to get me from point A to point B.  Luckily, someone traded in this beauty at my father-in-law’s dealership, and he told me about it right away.  Suddenly, I was a car owner.

The Park Avenue Electra was a luxury model, complete with electric window and locks and plush velour upholstery.  Steering was a breeze.  Driving it was like driving a love seat.  The seats in both front and back were bench seats, allowing comfortable and legal seating for six adults.  A $10 tape deck converter allowed me to connect my Ipod to the 1.5 speakers, so I could even rock out.  You could say I was living the dream.

The Buick got me everywhere I needed to go.  A year after I bought it, one of those places was Dublin, Virginia for my first job interview.  I was cruising down I-77, with wind in my hair and singing along with my Ipod, when I saw a vulture swoop down from a tree on the other side of the highway.  I assume his goal was the deer carcass that lay on the side of the road.  Three other vultures were already feasting there, and he wanted to join.  Unfortunately, he turned midair to travel with traffic right in front of my windshield.  BOOM!  The massive scavenger slammed into the edge of my windshield.  Stunned, I looked in the rear-view mirror to see what had happened.  I looked just in time to see the poor guy get crushed under the wheels of the semi truck behind me.

I started to cry.  I had never killed anything with my car before and was a bit shaken.  I pulled over to the side of the highway to pull myself together.  I immediately called George, who didn’t answer, and left a rambling, tear-filled message on his voice mail.  I then called my mom, dad, grandma and 3 of my friends, all with the same result.  Where was everyone?  I finally calmed down, and started to pull back onto the highway, when I noticed that the collision had knocked the driver’s side mirror out of the frame.  Fantastic.  Also fantastic was the fact that my incoherent voice mail messages made every person close to me think that something really terrible happened.  For the remaining 90 minutes of the drive, I got a phone call from each of these people, during which I told the story, was scolded for freaking them out, and then laughed at for having such a weird thing happen.

A month later, I shared this story with my German IV students, who laughed and laughed.  I still hadn’t replaced the mirror, and as luck would have it, one of my student’s parents also had a 1989 Buick for parts in his yard.  I paid the student for the replacement mirror, which he delivered the next day amid the bewildered stares of my colleagues and German II students.   I had it installed, and the Boo was back!  Back, that is, until the following February, when on the way to co-chaperone the PCHS Young Democrats field trip to Richmond, I hit a red-tailed hawk.

That’s right: a red-tailed hawk swooped down in front of my car while I was on the highway.  This time, however, instead of flying behind me, the bird and its four-foot wingspan stuck to my grill until I slowed down enough for the wind to no longer hold it on the front of my car.  The dead bird flopped pathetically from the front of my car onto the shoulder of Route 460.  Needless to say, I burst into tears and called George for emotional support.  The conversation went like this:

  • Me: “I think I hit a hawk!”
  • George: “What?”
  • Me: “I don’t know.  I hit some huge bird, and it was stuck to the grill, and now my legs are shaking and I can’t drive!”
  • George: “You hit another bird?”
  • Me: “YES!”
  • George: “Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha…”

After I calmed down, I realized I was now late for the bus to Richmond.  I finally got in touch with the club sponsor as I raced to the high school.  They weren’t very far away, and they graciously turned around to meet me at the school.  The other teacher told the kids to pretend to be really angry, so they decided to give me the silent treatment.  After blurting out sincere, yet rushed apologies, I told the whole bus what had happened.  One of the students was also in my German IV class and couldn’t keep it together anymore.  “You hit another bird?” he asked me incredulously.  “Yes!” I replied.  “Isn’t that insane?!”  This student then shared the vulture story with the bus.  The other teacher called the school and asked another teacher to see if there were still feathers stuck in the grill.  There were, and he was able to identify them as those of a red-tailed hawk.  In that moment, the Buick passed mere mode of transportation to legend.

Wave when you see her; she'll smile at you.

The hawk left a gaping hole in my grill, which I never had repaired.  I think it made the car look friendlier, like a gap-toothed smile.  It also made it distinctive and instantly recognizable.  Fifty-thousand miles later, other physical flaws joined the blue replacement mirror and hole in the grill: the paint oxidized, and 2 tiny rust spots crept up.  I didn’t care, because each mark told a story.  I didn’t love my Boo because she was pretty; I loved her because we had been through some things together, and had come out on the other side tougher than ever.

In real life, parting with the first car I ever purchased was far more difficult than the above scenario.  When I was making my plans to leave for Germany, George and I realized that we would no longer need two cars.  We decided to sell my Boo.  A friend bought it, so I know it’s in good hands, but it was sad to let her go.

I’ve since arranged an amazing set of wheels here in Damme.  It has 3 gears, brakes when you back-pedal, fenders, a bell, and lights powered by a little battery that turns when you pedal.  I tricked it out with a basket and a 4-hook bungee cord.  When I go grocery shopping, I just unhook the basket, fill it up with groceries, re-attach, and go.  I am not ashamed to admit that I love this bike.  It’s no Buick, but I feel über-hip cruising around town with it.  Check it out:

Awesome, no?

I think I have a type:  old, gray and a little rough around the edges.

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About heidihefeweizen

I am a 29 year-old American woman who has received a Fulbright scholarship to work as an English teaching assistant in a German high school.
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7 Responses to [How] I Get Around

  1. Love that bike! Much nicer than the one I bought for 40 Deutsch Marks when I was teaching English in Germany. You are definitely cruising in style. One day I will tell you about the time my most favorite dress in the world got caught in the spokes, and then of course I had a horrible wreck, started crying uncontrollably, and some German guy had to actually cut me out of the bike by cutting apart my favorite dress;-(. When I got home, needless to say, I looked like something much worse had happened to me and my husband at the time freaked out until I was able to blurt out what actually happened.

    Oh what fun memories;-)

  2. kathleen says:

    I love your bike! You found an awesome one. Makes me miss ol’ Günther from the Freiburg days. I wish I had a bike like that here too!

  3. Steve says:

    Sweet Ride: Don’t try to match “Boo’s” gap toothed smile. You can’t afford to run into any birds with it. Of course, your speed is more likely to match up with a duck than a hawk but the damage would be far worse.

    • ardaquila says:

      I would never actively try to hit an animal, but if I would hit one here, I hope it’s a wild pig. That would be an excellent story.

  4. Only you could drive an ’89 Buick and look cool…………………………..No…. I think I could too!!!! However, I could not pull off that bike. My bike is a little sweeter looking but it has to be because I ride my bike like a little old lady!!! I guess I have one hip daughter- in- law.
    Go … Debbie

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