Like many good things in life, it happened both on purpose and by accident. I consider it a side effect of being a father, more than anything.
After years of car-free bliss, riding the bus where I had to, my (now ex) wife told me it was time to have a car. What with the baby on the way and all the running around like scared gophers that goes with it, something had to happen. Like many of her announcements, it came with a plan – did I mention we aren’t married anymore? This plan involved a friend with a 1985 Escort that had been parked for a while. The deal was this – $100 if I could get it running. And, in about a half an hour, I did (ignition wires were shot, is all).
I didn’t know it then, but I was joining a Moste Noble and Sacred Order. I call it “The Brotherhood of Crappy Cars,” because membership comes to anyone with a lousy ride. The privileges are simple – if you have a crappy car, other crappy cars wave you on. They let you merge on the freeway. You go ahead at a 4-way stop. If you are on the side of road and stuck, another Brother will stop. We look out for each other with simple gestures and brief moments of our lives.
Why do we do this? I don’t know. Those of us who drive crappy cars are either poor or really don’t care what other people think. We are a certain kind of outcast, the ones not usually celebrated in movies and songs. All we have is each other, and all of us are just a few loose bolts away from disaster. Sticking together is obvious.
I call this “The Brotherhood” because it is, sadly, not a sisterhood. Women who drive crappy cars seem to either not care or are deeply embarrassed that they have to drive a heap. It appears that only men truly have an interest in embracing their lot in life so fully.
As time has gone on, my status has changed. In 2000 the 85 Escort had all of its life finally squeezed out of it, and it went to the junkyard as $28.73 of scrap. No longer could I tell people I picked up a $100 Escort to await the obvious joke that it was either a cheap car or an expensive date. I upgraded to a 1993 Escort Wagon, which started to give me trouble last year. Now, befitting my status as a writer, I sponge off my girlfriend and drive her 2003 Saturn. I am no longer a Brother.
I miss my Brothers at times, I admit. Every once in a while I see an old Escort on the road, or maybe an old Civic. I wave them ahead of me and hope they know. Sure, I have a nice ride, but deep inside, I’m one of you. Why? I guess it’s because the freedom that a car supposedly brings is no match for the great freedom of not caring at all what people think. The whole “Freedom” trip isn’t anything more than what’s going on in your head.