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Momo Fali's: Bessie

Monday, March 2, 2009


When I turned 16 years old, my mom bought me a used car from one of her co-workers. After she brought it home, I gleefully jumped inside to go for my first solo ride.

I went exactly two blocks before the power steering went out as I was turning a corner. All you modern youngsters may not know what I'm talking about, but when the power steering went out on a car made in the mid-seventies, you were no longer trying to drive an automobile. I would compare it to a cruise ship...or maybe a planet. A planet whose orbit you are trying to control with only the power of your biceps.

I got my second car a couple of weeks later (yet, for all intents and purposes it was really my first...two blocks does not a first car make). It was a hand-me-down from my pregnant sister, who could no longer climb over the center console to get to the driver's seat. Why didn't she just open the driver-side door? Because it didn't open. At all.

It was a 1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass, and that door wasn't the only thing that malfunctioned. One time, I went to make a left-hand turn and the entire turn signal stick broke off and fell to the floor. I couldn't drive over 55 mph without the tape cassette ejecting and flying into the back seat, and once when I was unlocking the only working door, the entire lock mechanism came out with my key.

My mom often tells stories about her first car. She had three young kids when some people from her work felt sorry for her and gave her a very old, very used jalopy. There were no seats in the back so my sisters had to stand, which had an added hazard because there was also a hole in the floor. And, and those three young kids could often be seen giving the car a push to get it started.

Speaking of cousin's first car had a broken gas gauge. Since she was old enough to drive, and I wasn't, guess who got to push it every time it ran out of gas?

I went through three other used cars before, in 1997, I bought my first new car and have been driving it ever since. It's the only car my kids have ever known me to drive and they have affectionately named her, "Bessie".

Coming home from school the other day, Bessie was making some strange sounds when I looked in the rear-view mirror and said to the kids, "Bessie is getting old. I don't know how much longer she'll be running."

My 10 year old daughter matter-of-factly said, "Well, when we get a new car we still have to keep this one."

I laughed. "No. We won't be keeping this one. Why would we do that?"

"I don't know. Just so we could look at it, I guess. Can't we keep it in the driveway?"

I replied, "No. We can't keep it in the driveway. We don't have room in the driveway to keep cars just so we can look at them."

She said, "Aw! That really stinks!" She was genuinely upset about it.

But, what she doesn't know is that I'm planning to drive Bessie for five-and-a-half more it will be in perfect condition to hand over to my daughter as her very first car.

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"There were no seats in the back so my sisters had to stand, which had an added hazard because there was also a hole in the floor." My dear God, please tell me you were kidding.

So Bessie's, what? 12 years old? Oh, yeah. She's got another ten years in her. Your daughter will thank you. Or not.
My brothers had this old green 1960something station wagon handed down from my power anything. We were so embarrassed to be seen in it as kids, but my brothers dubbed it the "Dragon Wagon" and it became the coolest car at school. Ahhhh...memories!
Thanks for the morning chuckles. They were good.
My mom loves to torment me with stories about how they didn't make you put babies in carseats when I was born ('73) and she just carried me in her lap or laid me on the floor! Frightening!
We also had a car when I was in elementary school that had a big hole in the floor where you could see the road passing by, and no seatbelts in the back.
That's what makes you an AWESOME mom!
If you change your mind about keeping her, I've got some concrete blocks I'd be happy to donate :-)
We have a piece of shit car that we handed down first to my daughter, and now to one of my sons. In a few years it will (hopefully) make it's way to my youngest son. It's so much better to have a car for teens you don't have to worry about. If something goes wrong with it we can just have it towed to the junkyard.
They always say the first 18 years or so is just the break-in period.
lol, gotta love the cars with character
My first car had some sort of exhaust leak that came up through my backseat... A simple trip to the grocery store resulted in glazed eyes and a fuzzy head. I kid you not.

Here's to hoping that Bessie makes it!
Oh man this sure reminded me of my first car! And this post had me laughing out loud the whole way through!
Lordy, my first car was my Grandmother's car. It was a 1968 Ponitac Bonneville - pea green with upholstered seats. I got the car in 1986 - it only had 38,000 miles on it (and no, it hadn't turned over - my grandma never drove anywhere for 18 years) The thing was about 20 feet long....We could put two kegs and 3 people in the back seat alone. What memories.
As it should be. We've got a 1997 Honda CRV that will be passed along to some lucky victim when the time comes.

While it's amazing to think about what parents didn't have to do for kids' safety in the old days, it's interesting to imagine what sort of child-automobile hazards will be thought up when our grandkids come along, and how they'll recoil in horror to think their parents only had to ride around in a car seat.
I think my kids would have paid someone to 'get rid' of my old car had I not got a new one. There was no love loss when she was retired.
aww poor bessie. I hope she makes it a good long time!
Hee hee, She will love Bessie to bits. Literally.
Old cars have steel. Important for young drivers.

Seat belts are a nice add-on, though.
Bessie has got a real good potential driver in her corner and they will be just fine!!
My first car's name was Spot, cuz he was such a good boy!
You are so right! Kids today don't know how to appreciate a good car.
I had a Dodge that the driver door didn't open. My mom had one that only the hatch opened and she had to crawl through that. In her 40s!
Brilliant, get some more miles on it! I wonder what HiFi equipment 'should' be in style by then? Bet Bessie won't get an upgrade.
Long Live Bessie!
My first car was a Plymouth Reliant K car - powder blue with navy interior. Oh Yeah. It was the EXACT SAME car that all of the nuns drove at my Catholic High School. Nice right?
Thanks for the morning funnies and the words of encouragement! Hope your daughter appreciates Bessie.
Memories... My high school friend in '76 who shifted gears on her VW Bug and suddenly the floor fell away from below the pedals and she was suddenly driving down the road looking at the road...

Having taught my four kids in six years how to drive, let me say, kids WILL misjudge and have fender benders. Having an older car is good not just because of that, but also, I figured with my '88 Honda Accord back then, that way I would never say something stupid that would leave them thinking I cared more about the car than them, should they have to bring me news that they'd had an accident. (Which they all did.)

On the other hand, that Honda was too old to have airbags, and I got crashed into and got a head injury because of that. So I highly recommend airbags if possible. Sounds like Bessie is young enough that's not an issue.
Mine was a Dodge Dart; classic, in the not-cool sense of the word. I miss that old heap these days, too.
OMG, hilarious! When I read the cassette tape story, I spit graham crackers crumbs out on the computer screen.
My best car story is when I was driving my mom's old car and saw a guy I liked. I honked...and the horn got stuck. So.embarassing!
Ha - are you SURE you don't want a used old car as yard decor? ;-) You could like, plant stuff in the trunk!
Funny how we see the light side of all the trials and tribulations we had then which at the time didn't provide so much humor. Good stuff, thanks for sharing.
My first car was an Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera (1990), and for all the trouble that car gave me, I loved it deeply.

Great post :D
Ah, the good old days, back when child safety in a car wasn't even a luxury; it was an anomaly. My parents drove a late 60s Mustang for a while when I was a child. The floor had rusted completely through in some spots in the back. I remember being fascinated by leaning forward in my seat to watch the street whiz by...
I thought MY first car was bad!

1979 Camaro (the berlinetta)

Passenger door did not work, no horn and I had to mess with the Distributor cap occasionally to keep the car from only driving 25 mph. Not only that I kept locking myself out, so I always had a spare key in my purse.....why did I bother locking it? Because you didn't need a key to start it. LOL good times...thanks for sharing!
no way! we have a bessie too! my hubby's car is a 1987 chevy caprice with 197,000 miles. she's still going strong. hope this doesn't jinx that :) since we had a bessie i decided to name our other vehicles. my '99 caravan is bertha cuz she's big and slow and my '94 sentra is 'beat'rice cuz she's my 'beat'er car.
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