Last evening I was having some, er, trouble sleeping. When I am like this I tend to let my mind wander. This can be a scary thing and actually does nothing to put me to sleep. Quite the opposite actually, it causes me to be even more awake. I also want to run downstairs and tap it out on the keyboard for all to read. Thank your lucky stars I do not EVER do this because some of what might come out might be very... SCARY.
I was thinking about cars. Specifically the cars I have been in possession of over my life time. But one in particular, THE Tempo (dun dun dun!), stood out. This might be one of the single worst most stupid purchases of my young life. I thought I was mature and knowledgeable about things like cars. I knew the girl, Tanya, from going out and drinking too much at local watering holes and so as one should at 20 yearrs of age... I trusted her. I do not think I even took the car for a test drive. She said her father was a mechanic and he looked it over and said it was fine (I did not talk to this dude mind you - just went on her word...) I desperately wanted a car to get around in this small college town. I did not think I would have this car for more than the two years I had left in college and than I planned to flee from Michigan back to CA and never look back. This is not exactly how life happened.
I took possession of the car and if I had bothered to look likely I would have seen Tanya and her father laughing their asses off at me in the rear view mirror as I drove away for having paid too much for a lemon. It was terrible mistake - the windshield had a tiny crack in it and by the 1st winter, the crack had spidered and ran the length of the windshield both vertically and horizontally like a cross (mine to bear - ah the drama!) The car had tires that were bald and it leaked so many fluids I was not sure where to begin. Did I mention that it was two tone? - that is dark blue and primer gray in various locations - why? I do not know....
Also, the windows did not roll down properly and you could only lock and unlock the doors to the car on one side, passenger side of course! I actually drove that monstrosity up the drive way to the house and proceeded to walk all around town for the remainder of my college career... Why I bothered to waste my money is still beyond me.
I graduated from college with a hideous boyfriend whom I met nearly around the time I bought the Tempo (which is eerie to think about now...) I thought I was in love and would do anything for him (gah what was I thinking?!) I drove that Tempo filled with my worldly possessions down to Detroit to spend the summer with him and his family than on to Milwaukee where I chose to live for a year after graduation with an old college roommate and her boyfriend. I was desperately poor. I always worked two jobs neither of which provided me with enough income to live properly. I made rent and stared longingly at the food my roommates would bring home in bulk from Sam's Club. I used to steal food from them because they had so much and dammit it made sense - I was hungry and they had more than they needed. I used to steal food from the places I worked too. Like a sad scavenger, I would forage about for food.
The Tempo sort of typified how poor and sorry for myself I felt. Looking back that Tempo meant more than just being poor - it was also part of the horrible abusive relationship I was in. The horn did not work because the boyfriend had bashed it in rather than my face because he was angry at me for NOT GIVING HIM MONEY that I did not have to give so he could go spend it on drugs, gambling and alcohol. He cared for me the way one would care for a dirty rag.
The danger of this car (and the relationship) only became worse as time went by. The tires that were thread bare two years earlier were now clicking down the street and one could visually see the steel belting. I blew a tire out in Peshtigo WI one Sunday evening driving back from Marquette to Milwaukee. Two things you do NOT want to do - blow a tire out in rural WI on a Sunday evening no less! Thankfully I met a nice family with several tire irons (gawd, I do not know why...) and the man pried the rusty bolts off and showed me how to attach a spare tire to the Tempo (oh yeah it actually had one, that had air in it...) I drove the 3 hours back to Milwaukee praying that nothing else happened, white knuckled and sad. I had to buy a USED tire to replace the spare. And then two weeks later I had to buy another used tire to replace the used tire I just bought.
The fear I lived in from this boyfriend can also be mirrored in the fact that this car regularly stalled when I was driving it. Like in the middle of intersections with cars coming at me at great speeds. I can remember one particular time when in some Zen moment, I calmly saw the cars speeding toward me. The engine cut out - like I was in a movie and the slow motion feature was activated, I turned the key and got the car started and jammed by foot down on the gas pedal narrowly escaping with my life! Shaking, I had to laugh at this feature of the car, now and then.
I learned how to take care of a car better than most men know how to - changing oil, stopping leaks, changing tires, talking my way out of tickets (because I was UNINSURED on top of it the whole time I drove that beast - dangerous and stupid, I was...) but I also learned how to take care of myself because of this car. I feel that the Tempo came into my life to show me at the ripe age of 22 that I was not yet mature. That I needed to do some learning and this car helped me to learn, to grow up, albeit the hard way.
I was infinitely happy to see the Tempo go though I did not toss that horrible relationship with the boyfriend aside for another year and a half year - there was still a lot learning to be done on that front. Thankfully the Tempo taught me that you can only drive a lemon for so long before trading it in for a fancy new car with good tires and a soft humming engine which I eventually did. That cars and men are not all lemons. So for that, I am thankful.