Saturday, July 9, 2011

What's Cool?

Driving home from work today, I passed a white minivan coming from the other direction.  It was kind of battered, and was driven by some young guy about 18 or so, in a sideways ballcap and the 1970's, Smokey and the Bandit-style sunglasses that have become popular again.  Some kind of hip-hop music was thumping out of the windows.   The first thought that crossed my mind was the cynical one, of course: "No matter how hard you try, you can't be badass in a minivan."  My second thought was a bit more sobering: "Twenty plus years ago, that was me."

I didn't drive a minivan at age 18 mind you, but like that guy I saw today, I drove what I could afford, not necessarily what I liked.  In my case, what I could afford was a really bright yellow 1981 Ford Escort.  This is not the actual car in the photo.  Mine had orange stripes.  Really.

It looked remarkably like a lemon on a roller skate, and had a ride of about the same quality.  Whenever the temperature got below 25 degrees, it didn't start.  Whenever there was the lightest of snows, it slid all over the road.  There was no air conditioning and the windows only rolled down sometimes, so summers were kind of sultry.  It stranded me in the most remote and uncomfortable places possible (one time almost causing me to be eaten by a bear, but that's another story), and it was constantly in the garage getting repaired. Designed by drunken lemurs at Ford toward the end of the Carter Administration, this vehicle could be best described as a disposable car.  Yes, it was very good on gas, but once it ran out, it would have been best thrown away.

However, I made the most of it.  It (usually) got me from point A to point B, and it had a great-sounding radio.  Like many of my peers, I rolled down the windows and cranked up my favorite tunes fairly regularly.  And the stuff I liked at that point in time was probably ridiculous to the 40-somethings of those days, just as hip-hop is too me now.  Cranking up big hair bands like Poison and Cinderella while driving around and around the town square on a Friday night was one of the best ways to express oneself.  What I didn't realize then was that I was expressing the fact that apparently I was a blithering idiot.  But hey, there were lots of us expressing the same thing.  No doubt, a few heads with more gray hairs than I were turned in the direction of my little yellow dorkmobile as the dulcet strains of "Talk Dirty To Me" wafted gently on the summer evening breeze, and no doubt the phrase "What an asshat!" (or the late 80s equivalent) crossed a few lips.

At the time, I wouldn't have cared.  It doesn't really even bother me that much now.  I WAS a fool at age 18. Who isn't?  If you weren't, you should have been, because it was a lot of fun.  All things are relative.  My grandparents' generation would have shaken their heads at kids in the 60s cranking up The Kinks or something from their rusty Detroit tanks.  My parents' generation thought we were morons for blasting out the Ozzy Osbourne songs from Escorts and Chevettes.  And undoubtedly, many in my generation think anyone blaring Pitbull (a popular rapper, I am told) from their rolling junkheap is probably losing brain cells at an alarming rate.

So, Mr. Battered White Minivan, more power to you, Dawg.  (Do people still say "dawg"?)  Enjoy being young and somewhat free in the summertime, because sooner than you know, the day will come when the music has to be turned down because the responsibilities have been turned up.

You are still not badass though.  And don't drive by my house with that crap blasting after I am in bed.


  1. Pitbull? I've said it before and I'll say it again: All the good rapper names are taken.

  2. I had a Chevette (two actually) that I conveniently shortened to just 'vette when a girl asked what I drove (which then became a Shuvette when she found out the truth) - but I did NOT have a good sound system, and had to make do with a tape player on the front seat, which would crash to the floor at every short stop, of which there were many