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Naperville
Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Real Life – Hotwheels

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When the last of our children bought a first car at age 33, it became clear how much times have changed since when we were growing up.

I started driving at 15, and reluctantly managed to delay car ownership until after college.

My father would undertake the two hour expedition to deliver me onto campus each semester, and I would usually find my way home using the Ride Board. Drivers would post an index card with trip dates and destinations on it, looking for passengers to help defray expenses. It operated like a travel agency when boredom struck, as well as a way to get somewhere you really had to go.

A free bus service linked the five colleges in The Pioneer Valley, so we had miles of mobility. It was also common and generally safe in those days to hitchhike, a practice I was surprised to learn is still legal in 44 out of 50 states.

In 2012, an Android app called Sidecar was even rolled out to facilitate hitchhiking. Back in the 1970s, we just took our chances – and if the weather turned sour, a weekend hitchhiking trip to Boston could mutate into an extremely long adventure.

The summer after I finished college, I learned to drive stick on a cross-country journey to Oregon. The car’s owner was pretty blasé about my novice status, napping as I almost drained the gas tank dry in the middle of nowhere. I, of course, had no idea how to downshift to get off the highway.

I bought my first car for $300 cash in Eugene: a ’65 Chevy Nova; no electric, no radio, no air.

She took me all over the US, before meeting her end at the hands of a drunk driver.

After much insurance unpleasantness, I had a meager settlement check, no car, and not enough money to buy a new one. I was back to taking the bus.

But not for long. (c)

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Patti Koltes
Patti Koltes
Real Life © by Patti Koltes. Contact her at pkoltes@gmail.com.

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