Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Still Life with Goldfish

Driving lessons were not terribly fun at our house. I'm almost completely ambidextrous, but teaching me to drive a manual shift was more than my parents could manage. My junior year, they promptly enrolled me in Driver Ed because the Driver Ed car was an automatic...and my dad being my dad, there was an insurance discount if I did okay in the class. My parents' lessons were administered in my mother's car, which was what Honda euphemistically referred to at the time as "Japanese gold", i.e., metallic orange. It was an Accord hatchback that we'd surreptitiously dubbed 'The Goldfish', and I came to hate that car with a passion, not only because I couldn't get a handle on driving it, but also because I burned my leg twice on the tailpipe while trying to unload groceries from the hatch.

The simplest thing I could've done to solve this problem was hit up Hopkins to teach me to drive the Mouse. Since I was thoroughly humiliated by the fact that I was apparently too stupid to learn in the Goldfish, my overriding teenage-girl angst trumped the necessity of a driver's license. I never said a word to him about being unable to drive a stick-shift. It was just too embarrassing.

(For the sake of brevity, the local driving test administrator was an old bat who passed all the boys and generally failed all of the girls on the first try. Since I am in possession of a uterus, I naturally failed. I decided to wait for her to retire.)

I ended up getting my license sort of by accident- the Tuesday before I was leaving for college, some of my parents' friends got me drunk and made me agree to take the driving test the following morning. I took it with a hangover, two days before I departed for freshman orientation, and passed with flying colors. The Old Bat had retired and was replaced by a very young female state trooper who graded the test fairly.

Meanwhile, back at Chez Airedaleparent, my sister learned to drive the Goldfish without any problem whatsoever. She later inherited it, after Dad used it for a while as his fishing car -only after he applied the irremovable '1-800-Alert/Report a Poacher' bumpersticker, which looked like it read '1-800-a-Fart'. Eventually, the clutch went out, so we took it in for repairs. We were told that the undercarriage was so completely rotted out that there was no point in replacing it. The Goldfish was donated to the Volunteers of America so my parents could get the tax credit.

One day, about two years ago, an ancient orange Honda Accord hatchback whizzed past me while I was in town for a workshop at my alma mater. On the rear bumper, as it caromed around the inner ring road, I saw '1-800-a-Fart'. It was the Goldfish. Someone had repaired it, and at 25-plus years old, it was still going strong...and it was still hideously orange. To quote Gosford Park, "The ones we hate never seem to die."

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