When I was a kid, my family and my cousins Rich and Kenny’s family were always involved in a car feud. Their family drove Buicks and they looked down upon those of us who drove a Pontiac. We washed and waxed our car to the nth degree, but that made no difference to them. My stepfather had his fill of the snobbery and decided the only way to beat them was to buy a Cadillac, a nice gold-colored one. We kids had the unenviable task of once again washing and waxing that car to outshine our cousins. That only lasted a few months when my uncle could not take it anymore and went out and bought a new Buick convertible, white with a red top. As you can imagine, the war waged on.
My aunt asked my mother if I could go with them on a trip to Maine to visit my uncle’s family and show off their new beauty. My mother consented and we all headed off on the 10-hour drive. Through the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire and then up the coast of Maine—the whole way with the top down! My aunt was curled up in a blanket on the front seat and we kids huddled together on the floorboard in the back. My uncle refused to put up the top. That trip turned out to be the memory that haunted me the most from my childhood. I remember thinking, as I was shivering, what is wrong with my uncle?
One would think that I would have learned a lesson from this story, but I did not. After joining the military, I was traveling back to base one evening through the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire. I fell asleep and crashed into a stump. Luckily I had no broken bones, but my blue Corvair was left with only two forward gears. Thinking back, I may have hit my head.
I went on emergency leave, followed home by my best buddy Joe in his car to make sure I made it home safely. Back through the mountains of New Hampshire and then Vermont, two forward gears, doing about 25 mph the whole way. My mother said she had found me a nice red Corvair and the price would fit my budget. I was excited until I saw it was a convertible—red with a white top! I bought the car, washed and waxed it up. By the way, Corvair engines were air-cooled and in the winter that car was the coldest thing you can imagine. I struggled with it for two years and was never so glad to say goodbye.
So, if there is a moral to this story it should go like this. Buy a car with air conditioning—a good heater, too—and tell your cousins that your mother said you cannot go on vacation with them.