Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Apparently, the only beaters around here are eggs

So driving into work today through the campus where the 19 Minutes World Headquarters are located, one couldn't help but notice the car with the bow atop it in the parking lot of one of the dormitories. Now, it's Flagstaff, Arizona, and there is no shortage of old cars with strange objects (beer bottles, "Star Wars" action figures, etc.) glued to old cars. But this was one of those Nissan SUVs that looks like a cross between a slug and a bowling shoe, and so it led me to believe some lucky student was getting it as a gift; one might guess 21st birthday or a graduation present.

At the risk of turning this into one of those "Back in my day..." rants, the number of upscale cars on this campus is staggering. When the 19 Minutes staff went off to college 18 years ago, we were driving a 1978 Ford Fairmont that featured a bumper sticker that read "This Vehicle Not Purchased With Drug Money". (Hey, it was 1987, and with "Miami Vice" on TV, that sort of thing was funny. Or maybe it wasn't.)

This was a car that, if you wanted to be charitable, you could describe as 'having a lot of character'. A less-charitable person would have described it as 'a piece of crap.' By the time it died a glorious, rod-throwing death on the highway outside Cumberland, Maryland, nearly all the dashboard lights were out, most of the little lines on the rear defroster were non-functional, the wipers were unintentionally intermittent, and in order to get the FM radio to receive stereo brodcasts, you had to shove a plastic spoon in the mechanism that changed the band from AM to FM. (Don't ask me how I figured that out.) In the end, I was actually a charitable person, donating the decomposing car to the Allegany County vocational and technical program.

My wife was smart enough not to actually take her high school car on to college, as the 1976 Chevy pickup may have caused unnecessary biohazard problems. And I recently ran across a picture of my college girlfriend's original car, which was a Chevy Malibu of (I believe) early 1970s vintage and remained in Colorado through her college years. My brother's wart-shaped 1978 Toyota Celica was the exception -- an unlikely candidate to make it all the way to New Hampshire -- but one which actually lasted all the way through his freshman year.

The point is that your high school and college cars are supposed to set you up to appreciate the better cars you'll drive later in life. For example, had it not been for my '78 Fairmont, I would never have found a car my '85 Subaru wagon (one part paint, five parts rust) could have compared favorably to.

So my theory is that these college kids are going to get into a retro-car thing. Within a few years, they'll have their jobs as investment bankers and athletic trainers (or, perhaps, fry cooks), and they'll drive their 2005 Nissan Muranos and Jeep Cherokees into the Verde River, and go off in search of 1978 Fairmonts. And if any of you are reading this, and you're traveling through Maryland, let me know. I think I may have a line on one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you think college students have no vehicle expectations, you should check out some high school parking lots, at least in some finer neighborhoods. What can these kids expect to drive in their workaday worlds? Oh yes, they probably belong to the chauffered limo class!