My first car was a pea green 1960 something Plymouth Fury that my Dad picked out for me because it was the same kind of car the State Troopers drove at some point. Therefore, in his mind it was perfect for his little girl. Most other people saw the heap quite differently. It was fug ugly, stalled alot, tires were devoid of tread, and the brakes were always suspect on rainy days. My Dad thought it sufficient, my boyfriend thought it dangerous, and my Mother said a rosary every time I drove it to night classes at the local junior college. I only drove it at night. Most people didn’t even know I had a car.
It was on one of those nights in the student parking lot that I had my first accident. I was beginning my turn into a parking space when the Fury stalled, the steering locked, and I heard what sounded akin to a very large metal can opening. Thinking, feeling, and trusting that it was going to be bad, real bad; I got out of the car and walked to the passenger side. What I saw destroyed my automobile virginity and frightened me very nearly to the death I was sure my Dad would inflict on me when he found out.
I was stunned like the bird that crashes into your front window and falls to the ground and just sits there unable to move. There in front of me was a sparkling yellow Caddy (Cadillac) visible in the parking lot light. It was perfect….at one time….about a half hour ago. Now it sat there with its shiny silver side trim stripped, twisted and dangling onto the pavement.
Tears began to well up in my eyes and I wanted my Daddy. So I did what was pure instinct. I went inside the building, found a phone, put my dime in and called home. After I tearfully told him what had happened he told me what to do and it is a lesson I have never forgotten and always tried to live by.
I went back to the car and dug through my school stuff for pencil and paper. I wrote a few lines through my tears and wrote our phone number at the bottom. Then I placed the slip under the yellow Caddy’s windshield wiper and drove home unable to bear the thought of actually having to meet the owner.
There was very little sleep for me that night or the next. However, on that third day my Dad told me he had heard from the owner of the car. He would not give his name but he told my Dad that he never imagined anything like that would happen to him. “Uh, oh” I thought and a lump bloomed in my throat.
The owner told my Dad that he could not believe his eyes when he saw the note. He never expected to find the responsible party. He explained that he would pay for the repairs himself and that my Dad should be very proud of having such an honest daughter. Little did the man know it was actually my Dad who was the honest one. I was lost as to what to do. It was my Dad who gave me a great lesson in honesty and the owner gave me a lesson too. He taught me what it means to be truly gracious.
As for the Fury, well a couple weeks later, as I was once again driving to school, the brakes failed completely. Fortunately, traffic was much lighter then. My angel had to have been by my side because I should have panicked. Instead I was calm and thinking logically. I managed to combine taking my foot off the gas and using inclines like brakes. When I got to the student parking lot I pointed it at a parking space and totally by instinct threw the car in park. My body lunged forward, my head hit the windshield, my chest the steering wheel. Sore but alive I went inside and called my Dad. He never let me drive the Fury again.