Men tend to fixate on automobiles. I say this because I'm a man and I fixate on my automobiles. I like to reinforce as many stereotypes as possible in one day. The real problem with this habit is we tend to become attached to all cars, not just the good ones. I have a 1972 Monte Carlo that's been sitting in my driveway for two years collecting dust and complaints from my Home Owners Association. I can't bring myself to get rid of it. I love that car, despite the fact that I've spent six times it's purchase price in a vain attempt to maintain it.
I'm delusional you see. I have convinced myself that one day I will have the money, time and motivation to restore it. It'll never happen, but that's the problem with delusion, even in the face of cold hard facts, it's difficult to abandon the fantasy. I had the same problem with the car I bought in Colorado.
I bought a 1973 Dodge Polara from my platoon sergeant for $200. It was a pale lime green on the outside and the interior was fashioned in a delightful dark green paisley. It was like the seventies had thrown up all over it. And although it wasn't much to look at, it was a hell of a ride. It wasn't much off the line because it had a messed up carburetor, but the 5.9L V8 360 roared to life on the highway and could propel the vehicle faster than was probably safe.
It was potentially the largest passenger car I've ever seen. I'm no shortie and I could lay flat in the back seat and had enough room that I didn't have to bend my legs. When people saw the green rocket of death gunning towards an intersection, they waited, whether the light was red or not.
Like any old car it had its intricacies and little problems. The air valve on the carb was prone to sticking if you gunned the accelerator too hard, requiring the air filter to be removed so you could manually knock it about. Which was okay, because the front bench seat wasn’t secured all that well and would fall back wards if you accelerated too fast, leaving you shooting forward and staring at the roof of the passenger compartment.
The gas cap was missing, the transmission gasket had to be tightened every week. The heater never turned off in the summer, but refused to blow warm air in the winter, making it necessary to scrape the ice off the inside of the windshield while you drove.
Most amusing though, was the spare parts it came equipped with. The car had no spare tire. It had a bumper jack, but no jack stand, making any use of the jack perilous. In place of the spare tire, was a spare transmission. I never found out why it was there or what its function was. The guy I bought it from didn't know either, "Beats me, it was there when I bought the piece of shit and I never got around to throwing it away."
It wasn't that big of a deal really. In fact, it gave me a lot of rear ballast and made up for the bald used tires I drove on in the Colorado winters. It was an endless source of amusement though. Every time I turned a corner, it would slide from one side of the enormous trunk to the other (swish) and slam into the quarter panel so hard the whole car shook (thump).
Enter the gullible!
In the summer of 93, or was it 92? It's not important really. In the summer of 93 we were assigned two cadet officers finishing up their last year of training from WestPoint. The CO had made us promise that we would treat them with the respect due any officer, but it was hard. Neither looked like they had started to shave yet, and they hadn't assumed the confidence necessary to a position of authority. They were green, just like my car.
We were scheduled to perform some field training one afternoon, when it was discovered that the cadets had not brought their field equipment with them from the temporary quarters they were assigned to. The Captain poked his head in the Armory and asked me, "Spoon, you got a car right? Can you take these kids, uh, cadets to their quarters so they can get their gear?"
"Yes Sir, no problem. Soon as I lock up the arms and secure the keys with CQ."
I locked the huge steel door with the huge steel lock and left the keys in a little steel box with the CQ. The Army's kinda touchy about the security of their weapons. All three of us piled in the Great Green Giant and headed across post to temporary quarters.
Every time we turned a corner the tranny in the trunk swept from one side to the other with a swish and a thump. Both cadets looked at each other and telepathically communicated their concern to the other. It was clear they did not feel safe in my ugly green car. The noises percolating from the rear were not encouraging their bravery. Finally, one could hold the interrogative no longer and spoke what was on both of their minds.
"Uhm, is everything okay?"
"Yes Sir, I might have had too much coffee this morning, but I can hold it till we get back. No worries."
"Actually, I was asking about your car."
"No, no problems sir. Why do you ask?"
"Well, it's just that, there's that noise, in the trunk, you do hear it don't you?"
"There! That noise! What is that?!
"Oh, that. Don't worry about that sir. That's just my dog."
"Your dog! Heh. It's, uh...should you really keep your dog in the trunk?"
"Oh, I see. No, it's cool sir, don't worry about it. He's been dead for weeks."
Swish. Thump. Silence.
We arrived and the cadets hopped out and were back just long enough for me to recover from my laughing fit. We rode back to the unit in silence, neither asked to store their gear in the trunk.
When we arrived I retrieved my little steel box and unlocked the big steel lock so that I could open the heavy steel door. Not ten minutes had passed before the CO poked his head in with a concerned look on his face.
"Spoon, I need to search your vehicle."
"Sure thing sir, is there problem?"
Door, lock, box, CQ.
Of course when I opened the trunk the Captain saw only the transmission and not the dog I had made up to confuse and frighten the cadets. The Captain closed the trunk, sighed deeply and faced me with the imploring mask of a beleaguered mother.
"Dammit Spoon, I need you to give these ki, uh, cadets a little respect. Please? They're gonna be butter bars in under a year and this kind of crap, while damn funny, can't come from you. Understood?"
He made me get rid of the transmission, said it was a safety hazard. I wasn't sure what to do with the damn thing. Late one Saturday night in a fit of drunken inspiration, I manhandled the transmission out of the trunk and into the dumpster outside the barracks. It made a hell of a racket when it crashed to the bottom of the can. I thought for sure someone would look out, see me, and turn me into the MP’s, but I never heard anything about it.
I wish I'd been there when the garbage truck tipped that dumpster up though. Damn that would have been funny. It must have sounded like the world was going to end.