My career journey story would not be complete without acknowledgment of my faithful steeds (the metal and gasoline kind). I tried digging through facebook for photos but was unsuccessful so you will have to use your imagination…. unless mom can dig up that one she posted in 2015? 2016?
My first car was a gift in many ways. In 2004 I got my driver’s license but I depended on borrowing my parents’ van. Now for any of you who are parents or young drivers, you know how hard it can be for a dad to pass his beloved car keys to his offspring. This was the case. Dad would sigh, lift his eyes to the heavens and lift his eyebrows even higher.
In the spring/summer of 2005 a miracle showed up at our bakery. A lovely gal, Rhianna was her name, had come from Australia and was travelling around the island. She offered to work for my dad in the bakery while she and her friend worked on making a documentary about moving houses. Rhianna was a joy to have in the bakery. She taught us how to make “lambingtons” (the australian version of a twinkie and way way better!) and she also had a car. A 1981 Chevrolet Malibu with steel rims and hood ornament. The malibu was a gift from Ethel, an elderly lady. The car was named in her honour.
While Ethel’s model was classic, the paint job was anything but. Some neighbourhood kids and taken it upon themselves to help Rhianna with the design. On one side of the car was an explosion of colour. Streaks of red, orange, blue etc… going every direction. Some streaks were clumped together, some were spread out. Ethel’s other side was painted simply a solid green with the explanation, “I can’t find my paintbrush” scrawled along the top. This was my first car.
Rhianna moved on in her travels and Ethel stayed with us. Finally I had freedom and style.
That summer, I got my first home support job with a private company. Part of the job description included driving clients to and from appointments. So there I was driving through the comox valley with seniors in a wild hippy car. My parents borrowed Ethel for a trip to Seattle and got quite a few interesting looks.
While the colours were fun they also lead to some misjudgments. On a dark rainy evening while driving home from a friend’s house I made a huge mistake of looking down at the road to make sure I was in the right lane. The visiblity was terrible and I was a very new driver. I must have been looking down for a while because I didn’t see the red light that I was supposed to stop at. I was in the right lane but I was also hurtling straight towards the driver’s side of a van that was turning left. I came so close to T-boning someone and perhaps seriously injuring them or worse. It’s hard to explain what happened next. I was in shock and not really doing anything but suddenly my wheel turned to the left and the van just hit my bumper.
We both stopped and I heard a very angry voice. “What were you doing, you punk? Get out of your car!” A wildly painted car running a red light… typical joy rider.. When she saw a terrified crying young lady, however, the anger melted immediately.
“Oh, I didn’t know… I’m sorry. It will be all right. We’re both all right. It was an accident.” She drove me to the nearby community center where my parents picked me up. A neighbourhood mechanic patched up Ethel’s bumper. All was well. It was my last rainy night accident but sadly, it wasn’t my last accident.
I realized that an image change was crucial so Mom and I gave Ethel a beautiful spray paint makeover. She was now blue with a shiny silver trim. A more confident, experienced driver I sailed around in Ethel for another 2 years. Her wide bench seat was a comfort in between work shifts. I felt like I was driving a little house. Comfortable, but also a gas guzzler eating away my precious earnings. I knew her time would have to come to an end. Her bumper never fully recovered from the accident and after a few potholes, we had to tie it up with some rope. A generous couple donated some money and found me another car. I got ready to have Ethel towed to the junk yard… but she had one final surprise gift for me….
While my new car was getting some work done, I took Ethel out for a final ride…. and I got rear-ended. This time it wasn’t my fault. whew! Again, no injuries for either party. Ethel’s bumper fell right off and she was an ICBC write off. ICBC took her to the car graveyard for me, handed me a cheque for $550 and a free brand new rental for a week. Ethel went out in glory.
Next time…. Cherry Pop and Emerald Ethel, stay tuned!