A car can massage organs which no masseur can reach. It is the one remedy for the disorders of the great sympathetic nervous system.”
~ Jean Cocteau
I am a gal who loves cars.
When I was 16 years old, I got my dream car — a white ‘66 Ford Mustang. I called her my “little deuce coupe” (loosely) based on one of my favorite songs at the time — the 1963 song by The Beach Boys, “Little Deuce Coupe.” I had a customized license plate. I think I still have that plate stored away somewhere — in one of the plastic bins that survived the Ida flood.
I drove my Mustang to only a few places regularly — to and from high school, my volunteer job at a hospital (I was a candy striper), and my boyfriend’s house. After high school graduation (once I was less timid and more comfortable with my robust and fast wheels), since I commuted to college, I drove her 45 minutes each way nearly every day of the week. Unfortunately, winters in the Mid-Atlantic states can be surprisingly challenging, and I learned that ‘66 Mustangs (even with studded snow tires!) do not fare too well in snow and treacherous ice. So, after one year of commuting in my adorable coupe, I traded her in for a used Jeep Wrangler, which suited me perfectly for the next three years of college commuting.
Back to my Mustang — as I am reminiscing . . .
In high school, as a senior, I was captain of the cheerleading squad. Hanging from my rearview mirror was a mini cheerleader doll. It seems creepy and strange in hindsight, although I thought it was real cool at the time. While not considered popular in high school (despite being the cheerleading captain), I thought I was pretty snazzy driving an old Mustang. The funniest part about me driving a vintage car was that the car was not made for a petite teenage girl — I was only 4’10” at the time (I have shrunk since then!). Not only did my dad install harness seat belts in the front seats for safety, he also had to rig up the gas and brake pedals with 2” wood blocks so I could reach both effectively. To top it off (yes, it gets more humorous and embarrassing), I drove sitting on top of a Yellow Pages phone book (remember those?), and concealed it with a faux sheepskin cover! To be even more inconspicuous, I covered the passenger seat with a matching cover. Within a few months or so, I replaced the clunky (and uncomfortable) phone book with a thick piece of foam.
Every now and then, I think back fondly on my teenage years (they were quite positive), and especially my little deuce coupe (again, I used this term loosely and in jest). One of my other preferred songs is “Mustang Sally,” so when I hear the song from time to time, I conjure my Mustang and recall the special times I drove her as a teen. She brought me a lot of joy.
As I said, I am a car gal, and I still enjoy driving fun cars. I also remain a cautious driver to this day, so I don’t rev up, nor do I take my car up to uber fast speeds. I consistently drive at a fairly slow, yet reasonable pace. These days, I do not listen to The Beach Boys. I have traded that music in for some good country tunes. However, my all-time favorite driving song is “Drift Away” by Dobie Gray.
To reiterate, I am not a speedy driver, but rather, one who prefers to enjoy the leisurely act of driving.
When people ask me, “What do you do to stay sane and calm during these chaotic times?” I respond with the obvious — which is spending quality time with my family, including my beloved animal companions — but I also add that music and driving fulfills me as well. The music stirs my soul, and driving excursions calm my mind. I am fortunate that I live where I can drive for many miles through preserved open greens, and rolling hills, and mountains with huge boulders that dot the sides of the roads, and plenty of horse and sheep farms. It is sheer delight for me.
Do you have cherished memories of your first car, including any distinct song, or smell, or sound that may be imprinted along with your remembrance? Please feel free to share in the comments, or simply feel free to share a valued song or special activity that brings you joy, makes you come alive, and offers respite in these uncertain and unprecedented times.
P.S. Last night, after drafting this essay, I had a fantastical time travel dream. I should preface this by explaining that I am a very light sleeper, and I rarely have dreams (or at least, I do not remember having them). Back to this dream . . . which was clearly reflective of what was on my mind, given how it relates to this essay. To elaborate, I was driving in my current SUV, when suddenly I was magically transported back in time — to what seemed to be the mid-1950s. And guess what? I was driving an actual deuce coupe — a 1932 V-8 equipped Ford Model 18. I ended up stopping at a home inhabited by a young black man and his family. The young man looked to be around 15 or 16 years old, and he was surrounded by musical instruments (which — outside of my dream — indicates to me that he may have been a young Dobie Gray). We did not engage in too much conversation. As I was about to leave from this spontaneous visit with the young, budding musician and his family, I thought to explain that I was from “the future,” and I felt compelled to describe what was coming. In my head, I was thinking I could tell them about neat “techy” stuff, but should forewarn them about the detrimental downsides of this pervasive technology; however, I was also concerned about speaking in any way about the future, as (theoretically) it could influence the timeline, or impede what should “naturally” play out for this particular family. That said, without reconciling this inner conflict, I quickly and awkwardly blurted, “Just so you know, you can’t catch a virus. Viruses are not contagious. So one day if you are told there is a viral pandemic, just know, it’s not real. Okay?” I received some confused blank stares in return, and I was out of there in a jiffy. Then I woke up, and I still felt a bit embarrassed. At the very least, my delivery could have been better! Had my chance . . . muffed it.