Friday, January 29, 2010


Have you ever noticed how some people like to drive a fine piece of engineering down the road while others are content to just steer their wheels? I enjoy driving, I always have. Back in the days when I was first learning to drive we lived in North Central Florida. In those days, you could get a learners permit for driving at age 14. The thinking was it gave you two years of supervised driving before you got turned loose on the public at 16. Thing is, the town was small enough that one person taught every kid in town how to drive. Officer Robert. He was a regular police officer but there was a notion in those days if a cop got to know every kid and every car, well a lot of grief could be spared.

I took to driving like a .... fish to water.
Actually I already had a fondness for cars. My Dad got a new car about every other year so there was that excitement. Another reason for car fondness was because I had learned I could lay down in the back seat of my mother's car and read a book without interruption. If I was in the house, somebody always wanted me to be doing something besides reading. So even before it was my turn to get educated by Officer Robert I had learned to love the feel and smell of hot leather.

Officer Robert did a fine job of educating me. Some of his lessons I heard come out of my own mouth when it was Mermaid's turn to learn. My lessons were supplemented by a few ( very few) outings with Dad. It was soon clear this wasn't a good match for either of us. NObody would ever think of my mother as a suitable choice for teaching Driver's Ed.

I am sure back when my mother was first learning to drive, there was no such thing as an automatic transmission. However, once that engineering was standard issue she never looked back. Until I was in junior high. My Dad had an opportunity to get a really good deal on a Mercedes Benz diesel sedan, which he bought for her. My mother loathed that car beyond all measurement. It was ugly, bulbous, battleship gray, noisy, smelly and manual transmission.
My school was on a hill ( not all of Florida is flat) with the pick up lane down a hill to a circle then back up the hill and a left hand turn to get back to the road. Poor Mama, every afternoon she would be yelling and pounding the steering wheel as she attempted to manage 3 pedals while rolling backwards downhill into the unfortunate car below her. Obviously, driving lessons in this car with Mama were never an option.

Mostly, I had supplemental driving lessons from my childhood sweetheart ( see Crackers Past, posted 4/28/09). My beau was 2 years older so that meant he could drive without any parents on board. The vehicle he had use of was a semi rusty Ford Falcon with stuffing coming out of the seats, a column shifter and a tricky clutch. I was not allowed to go in cars with boys at 14 but go I certainly did. I learned the tricky clutch and the column shifter and I learned to love driving. We'd go driving on old farm roads where few would see us . It would be fair to say we acted more like kids go-karting than teens learning to drive a stick. At least we were not placing others in jeopardy. What's hard to explain is the fizz of excitement I got just being behind the wheel. No Officer Roberts and no parents. The sweet, sweet freedom of it all sang to me in a way that was previously unknown.

The summer I wasn't quite yet 15, my mother suffered an event which made her vow to never get back in that Mercedes. All efforts on Dad's part to persuade her to reconsider fell on deaf ears. Mama was in full throttle mutiny against that car and when she said she would never get in that damn car again, she spoke the truth. We lived in a war zone for a bit but before long Dad came home with a Ford Gallaxie 500 for Mama. I heard a neighbor say he bought her that particular car because it was the cheapest car he could find after buying her a fine vehicle she up and rejected. Mama was delighted to get that Ford. I was even happier.

I am an early riser, always have been. In the summers , with the windows flung open, the birds would sing me awake at first light. The rest of my household would be asleep for hours after I awoke and there is only so much reading and being quiet an energized fourteen year old can endure. I never set out to do something bad. But one morning I went into the Kitchen to discover the 500 keys laying on the counter. Well, I was out the door and in that car in a heartbeat. My early morning cruises became my day starter. I loved that 500! Loved the freedom! Loved the feel of soft summer morning air on my bare skin. Most of all, I loved the fizz. The excitement of it all. My big secret. I can't remember ever slowing down my thoughts enough to actually think about what level of punishment would befall me if I ever got caught. I never did.

I drove that 500 all over the county. Once I saw Officer Roberts a block or so in front of me, it worried me a bit so from then on I mostly drove the back country roads I'd learned with my boyfriend in the Falcon. I don't exactly know what horsepower that 500 engine was but I can attest to it's having enough horses to get me smartly down the road with plenty of fizz.

One rainy summer afternoon my CrackerBeau and I were playing Monopoly with an older sister, her beau and Mama. While we were taking a popcorn break Mama mentioned how she wished the rain would let up cause she needed to get by the gas station and then she said, " I love that Ford car, but honestly it seems to be a thirsty one because I am always having to stop for gas. " Maybe it was the look on my face, or maybe it was choking on the lemonade but CrackerBeau knew right that second what the gas guzzling problem was. Later on , when we could talk privately he said,
" Fishy, your Dad will ground you for the rest of your life if you get caught."
"Shut up"
"Fishy, if your Dad grounds you forever who am I gonna kiss?"
"Shut up!"
Cracker Beau sighed and allowed as how he had to think on things a bit. I guess he thought his chances of keeping me out of that 500 were about as good as Dad's chances of getting Mama back in that Mercedes. Since he didn't want to give up kissing me he found a way to pour a five gallon gas can into the 500 regularly. Bless him, if I ever see that man again I need to be sure to thank him.

In my late teens I had an opportunity to leverage my Uncle Johnny into teaching me how to drive his silver Baracuda. Reputed to be the fastest car on or off track in the South East. That introduced me to a Hearst gearshift and a few other joys which gave a whole new meaning to the concept of "fizz". It wasn't long before Uncle J and his pit crew made some adjustments to my own car. Seems Uncle J hated coming out in the morning to find the 'Cuda missing.

I still love those early morning drives.
I've had some fine fizzmobiles. I never actually got around to getting an automatic transmission until I was half way through being pregnant with Mermaid. It was a sober day for me but I had the notion it was time for me to start acting like a grown up. I was a few months away from becoming a parent and I needed to start acting like one. No more driving with the windows open so I could hear, as well as feel, the exact engine stroke to shift on up to the next gear. Thank God there was Mermaid to look forward to!

I am thinking on these things today because Blowfish and I have been making the rounds looking at cars and SUV's. Blowfish isn't about to part with his beloved dually but as my current "wheels" are approaching the 200k miles mark, I really should think about a replacement. I am in that awful place of not being able to afford what I want and not liking what I can afford. Coming home from a test drive Blowfish asked for my thoughts on the test vehicle.
" Well, it's okay."
" What didn't you like?"
" I think it was fine."
"Talk to me!", Blowfish insisted.
" Well I was thinking about how I am never going to get around to being a real grown up.
Here I sit not being sensible about a perfectly fine automobile choice.
Like some teenager thinking with her heart before her head. I am being stupid is what I am thinking!".
Blowfish was quiet for a spell then said,
" What was missing for you Fishy?"
There was a long pause before I admitted,
" The Fizz".
Blowfish grinned and said,
"Well Fishy, we best keep looking some more."
" I don't know Blowfish, that's a mighty stupid criteria for selecting a car"
Blowfish gave me a little leg pat and said,
" I don't think so, seeing as I am strictly not interested in a Fishy with no fizz.".

Bless Blowfish!
He puts me in mind of that first love who'd come sneak gas for me into Mama's 500 .
Maybe being a grown up isn't all it's cracked up to be.


sparringK9 said...

grherhahahhahaha! the fizz. the exhilliration of freedom...thats what cars represent...until you grow up and drive one to an office.

i am a big believer in used cars. i have a very cool car and it is 25 years old. i keep it shiny and amour alled and tip top shape. its a valet favorite. and is parked right up front. and it was inexpensive. i wont lie - its in the shop now and then, but what are ya gonna do. its a charmer.

good luck on your hunt.

i bet you mama knew and said nothing. i think her comment was a ruse. im guess, but moms are smarter than you think.

Pam said...

Oh, I betcha anything that mama knew. I love this story and have always loved cars too. I bought a fizzy car while my husband was overseas on business. Didn't mean to do it. Just happened. Try explaining that long distance. Honey, I have something to tell you.... You did WHAT????? That was my mid-life crisis sweet blue Mustang, which I traded recently for a pretty fizzy little Mazda hatchback. I recommend. Lots of zoom-zoom.

We always had cool cars growing up; not that we knew it at the time. WE had the first electric windows in a car (dad's '64 Grand Prix) and my brother had a GTO that you could hear from two blocks away.

fishy said...

We are looking for a low mileage
"pre-owned" but not vintage car.
I tend to keep a car for a decade so I really need to like it a lot. Lots of criteria besides "fizz" but not so interesting to write about :-)

I did tell my mother a few years back about my relationship with her 500. She looked at me and said, " You Did? You Fishy did that?" my guess is she didn't know. In those days she was quite the night owl so she was maybe an hour or two into her sleep cycle when I went driving.

CX7 or 9 ?

Buzz Kill said...

I gotta tell you, in the first couple of paragraphs "back seat of my mother's car", "Officer Robert did a fine job of educating me", "feel and smell of hot leather", I thought this was Penthouse Forum. Bwahahaha

My motor head days was about trucks. I had a '71 Chevy C10 Stepside with a 307 small block that I practically rebuilt. I put side pipes, headers, Crane cam, 4 barrel carburetor and my 1st Hearst shifter into this thing. It could pass everything except a gas station.

I had manual transmissions until 3 years ago when my '99 F-150 was crushed by a tree (long story for another time) and I had to scrammble for a replacement. I bought the crushed truck new and had to special order it for the manual transmission. I remember when trucks had to be special ordered with automatics - the good old days when only working people bought trucks. I blame the SUV.

Anyway, I got another used '99 F-150 with the insurance money but it had an automatic. I still find myself looking for the clutch with my left foot. And my fizz days are long gone. Thanks for the story.

fishy said...

Well it doesn't sound to me like your motorhead days are over. It sounds to me like you loved your stick F150. I'm also not so sure your fizz days are over either, what with that searching left foot and fond memories of the Hearst...

And Buzz, for the record. My mothers hot leather seats was because the 500 was parked in the Florida sun right in front of the house. Officer Robert was a really good guy, much respected by teens and parents across the county and I was 20 something before I had that implied education. And certainly not from Officer Robert.

Pam said...

Much smaller. But I'd drive everything before you commit to anything.

moi said...

You and I must have been separated at birth in this regard. Fizz is right. Because we live in the mountains, an SUV is a must. When we purchased our first one 15 years ago, I despaired of finding one that didn't make me feel like I was driving a washing machines with wheels.

We spent weeks driving everything on the market, with me getting grumpier by the day and S.B. seriously beginning to question my sanity. Until I finally spotted a cool looking used Land Rover. That was it. Love at first sight. After 15 years, though, it started need more and more repairs, at higher and higher costs. But S.B. knew better not to broach the subject of selling it without first finding me a suitable substitute.

Have you checked out the new Jeeps? Totally bad ass, and if Blowfish is anything like S.B., he'll lift it off the ground for that extra few inches of bad assedness, too.

chickory said...

if i could have any fizzy car i would choose the 1981 ford mustang mach 1.

fishy said...

A Moi twin?!? Books and Fizzmobiles! So glad I am not the only one unwilling to forsake the fizz. I spend a lot of my life in a vehicle for work as well as for visiting my scattered loves. I need to enjoy my transport!
And really, right now, a little extra joy from any source is welcome.

Blowfish, even though he ain't no Louisiana Coonie, gets lots of credit for being a fine transport man. A few years back, he acquired a classic
1985 JaguarXKE VandenPlas
into which he dropped a 1996 Corvette 350 engine. He was always generous about letting me fizz around in his custom baby. Sad thing is I didn't really enjoy it all that much cause I could never get my neck comfortable in that car. Too bad, that one had great fizzfactor.

Blowfish is not a fan of Jeep. This is the only time in our three decades of history he decreed a desire to buy me a vehicle. Wow, wow, wow! I want him to like it too so we probably won't be looking at Jeeps.

Definitely a fizzmobile! One I would surely enjoy as my weekender. Very doubtful a vintage or classic car would fare well in my trips on and off construction sites. And the quantity of miles I drive annually, devalues whatever we buy.I always go into a purchase knowing I will have the transport many years as I have to drive my money out of them, there's no rolling them to a new car every other year.

Sigh. Lots of criteria to meet but I am so thrilled others find "fizz" a valid criteria!

Aunty Belle said...

Snickerin' over heah on the porch readin' this--

Bwhahahah to BuzzK!

well well well... MAH Pappy Cracker taught us'uns to drive in a cemetery...he said, "If ya make a mistake drivin' ya end up in heah, honey."

truth is, me an' Uncle was a thang afore I got an itch to drive--so I had mah own chauffeur til collich.

Mah favoritest fizz machine was a 1969 bronze Riviera wif' a cream top, leather seats and the first ever phone in a console.(disconnected as we couldn't afford it--but it look SO kool. That buggy had been Uncle's boss's car) Then it was a hand-me-down to me from Uncle who went an' got hisself a mallard green winged back (Boattail) Riviera that we called the Bat-mobile.

Hold out fer the FIZZ Fishy--ya know, at this point it's all about the TR factor. : )

fishy said...

Aunty Belle,
LOL about your Pappy Cracker teaching y'all to drive in a cemetery! Never heard that one before but come to think on it,
it's a right smart idea!

I remember some awesome looking Rivieras and just the name implied you were worldly. Plenty of fizz in looks alone, with or without a phone.

You'd hold out for the fizz? Great news. I did tell Blowfish if he was going to buy me this awesome present I need to love it. I want to be able to get into the new ride every day and feel great that Blowfish did this fine thing for me. I sure as heck don't want to get into the new ride and start my days thinking, " Damn that Blowfish, why'd he buy this thing?"

I know lots of husbands buy vehicles for their wives. But this is a big deal for me so I do need to choose wisely.
There will be fizz.

Unknown said...

Hmmmmmm.... the FIZZ. I completely understand the need for FIZZ. I am your daughter after all which means I come by it naturally. Of course all of this makes me laugh because all through my teenage years and even now you give me a hard time for being a car chick. I love cars and I love horsepower in all its forms. Obviously I've never owned a car with FIZZ, but that hand me down Diamante had plenty of FIZZ for a teenager.... Then of course I have my fabulous truck. Love my truck, and he's my reliable, dependable, surefire way to get from here to there and haul lots of weight, but not much FIZZ. Over the years I've supplemented my need for FIZZ with various boyfriends cars (corvettes, camaroes, and firebirds), and friends extra cars, and that has suited me.... for now. Unfortunately my most recent toy car had to go back to it's owner and back to the shop for more upgrades and customizing and by spring I promise to take you for a very fizzy ride! Even Blowfish found it to be pretty damn fizzy for a little bitty kick ass roadster. God i miss that Audi! It might have been my favorite borrowed toy. The vintage Z, and the firebird were definately fun. Loved the 'vette, but hell who wouldnt? I personally think you should just give up and go get the Porche Cayanne... 400+ horses in one amazing little SUV. Fun! Just be sure you pick a vehicl with lots and lots of FIZZ!!!

fishy said...

I should maybe start thinking about the reality of you reading this blog. No doubt you are finding out things about your Mom from a different perspective.

I should think you get all the horsepower FIZZ you need galloping over jumps on complex obstacle courses at top speeds on a giant sweet beast. Don't know how you do it, I barely have the grit to watch. But ! next show, invite me and I will assume the position of gripping the rail and saying the prayers :-)

As for the Porsche Cayenne... yep that's a nice dream. And you nailed it, I have had that specific dream. However, it falls short on some of the other criteria and then too my budget falls a bit short of the Porsche category.

Have I mentioned recently you are far too far away and I miss your energized charm? Your quick wit? Your get over it and get on with it attitude? Maybe I mentioned I miss seeing your beautiful face, miss your lilting laughter and am eager to whip you at quiddler?

Pam said...

Fishy (and Mermaid) ... you have hit upon a problem I have with my daughter and the blog .... how much is too much information, eh? Ahem ahem cough cough.

Meanwhile, I had to come back and tell you that my first fizzy car was a 1970 Pontiac Firebird -- my high school ride. My dad's friend who was our mechanic said it was "faster than a striped ape." What? "Well, have you ever seen a striped ape? That's how fast they are." I've been fizzy ever since. And one test drive of the Mustang Pony Package a few years ago and, sigh, I had to have it. And my Mazda3 is plenty zippy, but we went with the bigger engine hatchie instead of sedan.

Meanwhile, I loved your idea for suggesting our own PR challenges, stop back by the last PR page and see what I added.

fishy said...

Can you believe no more Pontiacs? Some of those had great styling and great fizz. And a Firebird! Way up there on the cool factor in my region. On the occasions I stroll through a car show with Blowfish, I am still drawn to the Pontiac muscle cars of decades past.

On my way over to the PR post now.

Jenny said...