Get Up….And Go

vauxhall

For a couple of years during our teens, my brother worked pumping gas on the weekends for the snake-oil salesman who owned a local garage. I stopped in one summer Sunday to shoot the shit, and noticed a pile of tires with bright yellow chalk markings of NFG on the sidewalls.  In all my small-town naïve innocence, I asked, “What does NFG mean?” “Haw, haw, haw!!  Oh, you know what NFG means!”

Even these years later, the arrogant stupidity of that non-answer still irritates me. If I ‘knew’ what NFG meant, I wouldn’t have asked what NFG meant.  A couple of years later, when I got out in the cruel, cruel (and often foul-mouthed) world, I found that it meant No Fucking Good.  Why didn’t he just say so?

One day he accosted me. “Whaddya doin’ next Saturday?” “Why?” “Wanna make 25 bucks?” That was the equivalent of a half a day’s wages.  Rather suspiciously, “Doing what?”

A couple of times a year, he would go to a used-car auction outside Toronto, bring home some lemons vehicles, fix them (almost) up, and sell them at a profit.  Oh, he wants another driver.  It’s reasonably safe, and almost legal.  I could use a little extra spending money.  Sure, why not!?

Five of us met at the garage at O-dark-600. He piled us all into a big old Mercury sedan.  He drove, with two guys in the front with him.  Remember those big old boats, where three could ride in comfort on the front bench seat?  Not ‘safely’ though, ‘cause they didn’t have seatbelts.

Two other gullible suckers and I rode in the back. Off we set for a 100 mile, 2-hour drive.  The car auction began at 9:00 AM and we arrived with time to spare.  Mr. Snake-Oil went inside, but, since we weren’t registered buyers, we had to remain outside.

We wandered around, bored, talking to each other and other teens who’d come with other dealers, searching for washrooms and maybe something to eat or drink. At noon, he came out, all smiles.  He’d bought five cars – one for each of us.

We made sure that they all started and ran, and had enough gas for the trip home, and formed up our little convoy. Since I’d previously owned a Morris, and currently owned an Austin, I was assigned a four-cylinder Vauxhall sedan, similar to the station-wagon my Father had recently owned, while the rest got 6- and 8-cylinder Fords and Chevies.

With the chief turkey buzzard leading the parade, we headed for home. I was in third position.  When we reached the 60MPH speed limit of the highway, we quickly sped up to 65/70….all except me.  It seemed that, no matter what I did (not much), the best I could do was 50/55.  Number 4 soon passed me.

A mile down the road, “the best I could do” suddenly dropped to 30/35.  Number five pulled out and passed, and Tail-End Charlie was breathing down my tailpipe.  Then, the wee beast speeded up again, if you can call 50 MPH, speed.

Another mile, and it faltered again. Soon I was number 6.  In a day before cell-phones for emergencies, I wondered what would happen if this thing died all together, as the last of them disappeared over a hill, a half a mile ahead.  I thought about just pulling it off to the side, and hitch-hiking back.

After a hundred miles of this, I finally nursed it home. As I pulled in, he yelled, “Where the Hell have you been?  Did you get lost?  The rest of us have been back for hours.”  25 – 30 minutes, maybe, but, gee thanks for keeping an eye out and worrying about me Boss.  “What the Hell kept you?”

I explained that I just couldn’t get any top-end speed, and that it would die off every once in a while. I said, “It feels like I was driving on three cylinders half the time, and the other half, only on two.” “Oh, you just don’t know how to drive!”  I took my $25 undeclared cash earnings and left. ‘See if I ever do that for you again.’

About a week later, I pulled in to gas up my Austin, and he swaggered over and stuck his head in my window. “Remember that Vauxhall you drove for me?”  I’d been trying to put it out of my mind, but, “Yeah?” “Know what I found?” A llama in the trunk?  Bubble-gum in the ashtray?  A complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica?  “What?”

“When I was working on it, I found that one of the spark plugs was welded closed, and one of the ignition wires from the distributor was loose. If it got bumped, there was no power going to that plug.  It was like it was running on three cylinders half the time, and only on two, the other half.”

Do I get a free tank of gas for diagnosing the problem for you? Of course not!  Not even a thank you or an admission that I was right, much less an apology.  What an arrogant, self-centered asshole.  When I went back to school after moving here to Kitchener, I met his then-divorced wife.  She couldn’t stand him either.  Later, his brother was elected President of the United States.

Gremlins – The Aftermath

Gremlin

A recent post on BrainRants’ site regarding him preferring old Mustangs to the new ones, brought a comment about missing Commenter-Supreme, John Erickson.  Rants’ all-too-true reply was that our lost Illinois-boy would probably expound on the relative merits of AMC Gremlins.  For those who don’t remember, Gremlins were the car that didn’t have quite the sleek styling and performance capabilities of the Ford Pinto.

All of this takes us to Bob, another of my auto plant co-workers.  Bob was a nice young man, but a bit of an odd duck.  (Who am I to point a finger?)  Handsome, mid-20s, single, earning a good wage – and living at home with a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses parents.

Once asked what he was doing/getting for his Mother for Mothers’ Day, he replied, “We honor the Bible, not our Mothers.”  And yet, doesn’t the Bible insist that we all, “Honor thy Father and Mother?”

Not content with the workout he got at work, Bob often frequented a gym.  He had six-pack abs, instead of the keg I lug around.  He met a well-toned female, who he eventually married – a total surprise, because she wasn’t a Jehovah’s Witness, and his parents did not approve.

Long before that happened though, Bob bought a Gremlin.  In 1985, he bought a 1979 model, the last year they were produced – from a little old lady – yeah, right??!  He purchased a car that someone else was anxious to get rid of, and paid $2000 for something that should have sold for half that – because he wanted that Gremlin.  That was significant money in 1985.

He told several of us that he was “going to soup it up”??  It’s a Gremlin!  That’s like putting soup in a sieve.  Actually, what he did was ‘doll it up.’  He put a bigger, better carburetor on the anemic little sewing-machine, six-cylinder motor, all the rest was cosmetic.

Gremlin, hot

Always a good idea, he had it repainted – in Electric Blue, and then had it pin-striped.  He put on wide rear rims and tires, and fancy wheel discs.  It didn’t need it but, before he painted it, he traded in a hood with an air scoop.  He added a burst-eardrum kick-ass stereo system, and, long before they were common, a decent security system.  All in all, he added another $5000 ($40,000 in today’s dollars) to one of the most sissy cars ever built.

His girlfriend became a fiancé, and finally a wife.  Fun was fun, but she finally told him he’s have to get rid of his boy’s-toy, and get a married car, probably soon a family car, how about one of those new mini-vans that were becoming popular?

Sadly, he listed it for sale – and was outraged that the best of a few offers was only $1500.  “Don’t they see all the improvements I’ve made to it?”  They’re not improvements!  They’re just highly personal customizations to a lunch-box on wheels that was a piece of crap the day it came from the factory.  Take the money and run.  I don’t know if owning a Gremlin made you stupid, or if only stupid people bought Gremlins.

Every car maker has had a cosmic failure or two.  Ford survived the Edsel, and later the fire-bomb-on-wheels, the Pinto.  GM had the Chevy Nova, which they couldn’t sell to Chicanos, because the name Nova, in Spanish, means, ‘It won’t go’.

Poor little AMC already had one foot in the grave, and the other on a banana peel.  It wasn’t long after they stopped making this Cracker Jack toy, that they were gobbled up by a bigger fish.

#453

Flash Fiction #25

Edsel

 

 

 

 

 

SPEED KILLS

Bob was the weirdo who bought an Edsel – the Ford sucking a lemon.

He lived a mile outside town, past my house and the hospital, where the speed limit dropped from 50 MPH, to 30. Never content to do merely 50, he screamed in at 80.  Accustomed to standard transmissions, he used the automatic, to slow down for the hospital zone.

Equipped with a Pushbutton Transmission, the controls were located on the steering wheel hub. One day, Bob inadvertently poked ‘Reverse’, instead of ‘Low.’  That was 1960.  They cleaned up the oil, but parts are still falling from the sky.

 

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site, and use her weekly photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story