Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Rich Corinthian Leather...Or Not

One of the vast changes I noted when I began working in higher ed was the fact that most students seemed to have cars, and that at least half of the cars on campus (it was a private, albeit non-competitive admissions, college) were much nicer than what I drove. When I started college, we were discouraged from having cars. Some of my friends, however, did manage to bring one, and those were the folks upon whom we all relied for transportation to anywhere beyond campus. The theory behind not allowing freshmen to have cars went something like this: "If they can't get off campus to do things, they'll do things on campus. Also, it will be far more difficult for them to turn the state flagship into a suitcase college every Friday."

Wrong. My mother came and got me at least once a month, and that was a 200 mile round trip from my hometown. I was in the Honors Program, so we generally didn't go forth except to hang out in each others' dorms, play RPGs, hack from a computer lab, or go to the library. Sometimes when we were feeling especially motivated, we might even go to the second-run dollar theater in the student center, or dress rehearsal night for the latest College of Fine Arts offering.

My friend Bill had the Mother of All Land Yachts which took the form of a 1972 Chrysler Cordoba. The car was, in a word, HUGE. The trunk could have held several dead bodies...foreshadowing his job a couple of years out as the night call guy for the county morgue...and one could easily cram about five people in the back seat in the days before seat belt laws. The front seat was a bench, too, so it could hold three or four folks depending on the size of the passengers- I was already a Big Girl and Bill was a Large Dude, so three if we were in the front and somebody small wanted to sit in the middle.

There was a reason that I sat shotgun in The Green Goblin- so nicknamed for its dark hunter green color- mostly related to wardrobe. The fashion at the time among college girls was chino skirts that were tapered down to the shin-length hem, effectively a latter-day hobble skirt. The Goblin was a two-door, and those skirts made it necessary for Bill or one of the other boys in the car to come around and fish me out of the back seat because I couldn't get out (when left to my own devices, I resembled a stranded walrus trying to flop along the ice). After about a dozen rounds of this, the boys decided that it was much simpler to let me ride up front...not to mention that a couple of people pointed out that "the lady" (HA!) should be up front anyway.

Sadly, the Cordoba wheezed its last over the summer before our sophomore year, and Bill returned to campus with a far less-intimidating late-model Pontiac 6000 similar to my mother's. The Pontiac would have been fine, except for one little thing: Bill tended to throw himself into the front seat a little hard, and one night the driver's seat hinge snapped. Since it was too hard for him to sit up to drive it that way, I drove it back to the frat house and we went to the movies in my Chevy Beretta.  Even though the Cordoba was kind of an in-joke within our circle of friends, the Pontiac never quite lived up to its ultra-nerd factor. It was a unique part of the mythology of our undergraduate experience...and every time I see a Cordoba, I think fondly of those days...including the molting sun-damaged upholstery that only a teenager could fully appreciate.

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