Spiders send me into paroxysms of joy. Or my first car, a 1980 Fiat Pininfarina Spider 2000 did anyway. I have no idea how I came to own the car. One day it appeared in the driveway and my mother told me that on the 5th of each month I’d need to pay some guy named Courtney $200.00.
Now, don’t get the wrong idea. I was no spoiled rich kid who got a car for her Sweet Sixteen birthday bash. I was only 15 at the time, had no money, and didn’t know how to drive. Frankly, the idea of a car hadn’t even crossed my mind. I had friends (I swear, I did.). I got around okay. And I don’t believe my mother actually made a down-payment to the Courtney guy.
So, why did I get that car? You know what I think? I think that maybe Mom was sort of crushin’ on that Courtney guy (he was kind of cute, you know, in a charmingly rumpled, on the downhill side of forty-ish sort of way, much like Hugh Grant…in his mug shot plus 40 pounds) and in talking to him one day perhaps she mentioned her teen-aged daughter.
Courtney, an exotic used car dealer (the used cars were exotic, Courtney substantially less so), and not a guy to let an opportunity pass, perhaps then mentioned that I’d need a car, said he had a great one, and voila, car is plopped in front of said teen-aged daughter who can’t drive along with a rather hefty car payment for a 15 year old in 1985.
But none of this deterred me. No, I got in that car and started grinding gears like an enthusiastic waiter with a massive pepper mill looking for that elusive 20%. I taught myself how to drive that car, and I’ve not yet driven another stick shift that was as difficult to master. I was on the road, baby! No, I didn’t have a license, no, I wasn’t even old enough to have a license, but what I did have was goals! You have to have goals in life, right?
One of those goals was getting to the beach whenever I wanted, and that Spider was my ticket. It also looked incredibly cool. What teen-aged girl doesn’t want a little blue convertible? Despite the fact that it leaked (less like a sieve and more like a funnel) when it rained, I had to insert bare wires into a weird little white plastic thingy (I believe at one time it was the light switch) dangling from the dash to turn on the headlights (brights only), and the brake pads (when I had them) were held on with what looked suspiciously like bobby pins.
There were adventures. Some were just plain, good old-fashioned fun. Some I look back on and wonder what I could have been thinking and how I am still standing here today (do not ever interview a certain Janna Underhill. I will deny everything…and I have dirt on her too…). But then, who was ever a teenager who doesn’t look back and shudder? And laugh? And shake their head?
It’s what the teenage years are for; tasting real freedom for the first time and figuring out how to do it wisely. I made it through. I’m even a remarkably responsible adult. I have a mortgage and health insurance and everything. I’d still rather zip down to the beach than wash dishes, but, hey, who wouldn’t?
I see old Spiders on the road every once in a while and smile, remembering, cataloguing the lessons. It’s tough to be a teenager, but if you have the chance to do it in a little blue Fiat Spider? Well, in the immortal words of Ferris Beuller, “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up. “
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