FOUR life lessons from my first car
In 1986 I had an problem, I had just been accepted to a PIE High School (Project Individual Education), a magnet school in the south suburbs of Chicago, IL. It was a great chance to get my school life back on track, because up to this now my D average wasn’t doing much for me. The problem in this real life Disney movie is that PIE didn’t have a bus to take me to school, and I was 14 yrs old with zero driving experience and two years before I would be provided a drivers license.
My parents were broke as hell by this point, living off a small disability check that my dad received for his life long dedication to General Electric and whatever food stamps the government offered up for minors in the household. So imagine my amazement when my Mom and Dad showed up with a new (to us) car – a 1978 Chevy Chevette. While the car was only 8 years old, it had been some very hard years. The best part is the car was for me!
My parents managed to scrounge up $250 to buy the car so I could get to school, I imaged my dad would be driving me to school but he also didn’t have a license (because of his disability). My parents solution was for me to learn to drive, as it’s a only a few miles of side streets to get school.
I played it safe everyday freshman year, parking down the block while the older kids parked their fancy new Mustangs, Camaros, S-10’s and Rangers in the parking lot. My sophomore year was different though, the car wasn’t holding up very well.
Lesson 1: There is no going back
On the way to school after a long weekend, I was crossing over one of the busy streets at the light when the car made a noise that sounded like a small bomb went off under the car. It shifted a little hard from first to second but the clutch grabbed fine. I finished the drive to school and parked on the street a block away.
When school was over I waited around a little bit to talk to my English teacher. English was the only class I was having trouble with at this point, everything else went from D’s and F’s to A’s and B’s. It took a while track him down because by this point he expected me. I had this great idea that I could delay him going home everyday by talking about my grade, until he raised my grade enough that I wouldn’t delay him any longer – but that is a lesson for another time.
I finished with the teacher, and walked to the ‘vette, I checked the oil then fired it up. I turned off the radio and listened – NO NOISE. Perfect, I must be all good, I shifted the manual trans all the way left and up, in to reverse as the car in front of me parked a little to close to pull right out. I slowly let out the clutch and feathered the gas. I went nowhere, gave it a little more gas and less clutch – nothing… SHIFT! I didn’t have any reverse. I hoped out of the car, grabbed the door from and pushed the car enough to pull out. Then I shifted to first gear and pulled out no problem.
Not having the ability to easily go back makes you think a little more about where you are going…
Lesson 2: Planning is everything
Not being able to reverse means I can’t miss a turn with out having to go all the way around, sometimes it’s just a block or two, other times it getting stuck at a dead end, on a dirt road, in the dark, when you should already be home, but you climbed out the window to go see a girl…
If I took the time to plan out the trip, that night would have been so much easier. I would have known what to watch for, I would have planned weighed the possible mistakes, and maybe avoided the uncomfortable conversation with Aimee’s dad…
Life works the same way. Taking the time plan helps you to avoid big mistakes like a Liberal Arts Degree or that tattoo of your first loves name that takes up your whole back – good news is at least the tattoo was fun at the time…
Lesson 3: Only stop if its worth it
Shortly after my off-road adventure in the ‘vette’s the starter stopped working. Saying it was the starter is kind of like blaming a go cart for global warming. The starter didn’t start the car because the teeth stripped of the flywheel.
Luckily the car is a stick, and weigh’s about the same as a Harley Davidson. The process goes like this – Put the key in the car, turn on the ignition. Shift the car to neutral and get out of the car. Place your hands on the door frame and push the car until it’s going about 3-5 mph. NOW jump in the car, press the clutch, shift to 1st gear, completely release the clutch, hit the gas and brake, then the clutch and brake to stop before driving into traffic. Sounds simple enough, at some point I’ll be old enough to get a drivers license.
This procedure has to happen every time you turn off the car. It doesn’t care if your stopped on the upside of a hill or the busy parking lot of the mall during Christmas in the snow. If you stop and turn off the car, it better be for a damn good reason. Same rule apply to life, if you stop to smell the flowers they better be some damn good flowers because the compound effect of that time can cost you.
If you stop, it’ll take you time to get going again. This can be to watch a youtube video or check a text message while studying or working. The lesson can be more costly, while dating that person who’s name is tattooed on your back delayed you enough that you missed your “true love”.
Lesson 4: Repairs cost more if delayed
All the things wrong with the ‘vette piled up quick for a broke ass 15 yr old kid. Not finding someone to help fix the issues just made each of the issues larger. If I fixed the reverse issue when it first happened, all the metal floating around in the trans wouldn’t have cause the other gears to wear to the point they needed to be replaced. If I fixed the starter, I wouldn’t have spent my Birthday in the ER after picking up Shannon B. for my party – don’t grab the rust drip rail when push starting you Piece of Shift car.
Learning the difference between Price and Cost is hard for some people. They think they are the same thing, when in truth they are very different.
Price is what you pay when being proactive. The price of hanging out with friends at the bar is an Uber to drive you home.
Cost is what you pay when you don’t pay up front. The cost of driving yourself home from hanging with friends at the bar could be the guilt of not knowing how you got home or the cost could be someone life drive into on coming traffic.
Thats an extreme example but it true for a lot of things…