(This is part three in a series.)
After driving a 1984 Ford Escort with louvers, one might think that, vehicle-wise, there was nowhere to go but up.
One would be wrong.
Enter the gold 1985 Chevy Cavalier. Yes, I said gold.
To this day, why anyone would purchase a gold vehicle eludes me. The only possible reason I've ever been given is that gold cars don't show dirt as much.
I've seen a lot of car commercials in my time. They talk about horsepower and miles per gallon, and safety ratings, and towing capacity. I don't ever recall a single commercial including the line "it also comes in gold, which doesn't show dirt."
I mean, do we really want to start basing our buying decisions in this country on this principle? If that's the case, why not have women wear rust-colored wedding dresses? But I digress.
So there I am, age seventeen, cruising around in a gold, four-door 1985 Cavalier. Oh yes, it was a four-door. Convenient when you're starting a family. Not so much when you're a senior in high school and trying to get girls to date you.
There are places in this world--Luxembourg, the highlands of Iceland, and some tribes in Malaysia, to name a few--where if you send your child to school driving a four-door gold-colored car, they will arrest you and take your children away. And that's how it should be everywhere. No amount of therapy can ever erase those scars.
The Cavalier was my second and final hand-me-down. As a general rule, if anyone gives you a car, it's probably not going to be a top of the line high-performance vehicle. That's why in the classifieds, you'll see ads for things like a 1976 Vega that doesn't run for $200. People are still trying to get something for it.
Still, I had high hopes at first. The Cavalier had been my Mom's car, so I figured it had to be better than what I'd been driving.
It was not loaded. As a matter of fact, I would say it was the opposite of loaded, whatever that would be called. Manual locks, manual windows, no cruise control, no cassette player, etc.
It was also a four-cylinder, or at least at some point during its existence had been. By the time I finished driving it, I think it was closer to two-and-a-half or three cylinders.
I got my first taste of the Cavalier's power, or lack thereof, just a couple of weeks after I began driving it. After a party one night, two girls who had left about the same time as me, pulled up beside me as if they wanted to race. So I floored it.
We were even for a few seconds. Then the Cavalier topped out... at 78 miles per hour. There I was, pedal to the metal, watching two girls in my senior class leaving me behind. They slowed down and when we got to the next red light, they were laughing. I was not.
I continued to drive the Cavalier--but did not race it anymore--most of my freshman year in college, where I commuted about 50 minutes one way. One spring day on my way home from school, the car started smoking, and sputtering worse than normal. I stopped and called Dad from a payphone. He came and followed me home, slowly. And I did not drive the Cavalier much longer after that.
"I parked my car beside the highway and I didn't lock the doors. Left a note there with the keys. If it cranks, well friend, she's yours..."