Friday, April 30, 2010

Pretty Mean Buick

Show and Tell


This week, my eldest nephew bought his first car. And he paid cash.

He's taking driver's ed, and got the opportunity to purchase an old Oldsmobile from a family friend for the princely sum of $1.00. Which means that yes, it needs some work. But it runs, all the basics work, it's got airbags, it's all in one piece, and the interior is in remarkable shape for being a 16-year-old car. But what really counts is that it's a car, and a 16-year-old boy has entered the realm of the driving public.

Which got me thinking about my first car. I didn't buy mine when I was in high school. I did pay cash, but it wasn't no stinkin' dollar. After I graduated, I took the money I'd saved and went to a local used car guy and plunked down $3,500 smackers on an eight-year-old Buick Riviera luxury coupe I'd been eyeing in his lot. It wasn't the car in the photo above; mine had two-tone light blue paint, one of those puffy landau tops in light blue vinyl, and rally wheels.

Under the hood lurked a massive 350 V8 engine, and I used to enjoy freaking out my passengers by waiting until the last possible moment to pull out into traffic... and then flooring it so my Pretty Mean Buick could surge forward at break-neck force.

"Pretty Mean Buick" came from my license plate: PMB-985. Yup, I still remember it.  One of my female friends from high school was coming up with acronyms for everybody's license plates, and that's what stuck for mine.

GM's notoriously unreliable power window switches haunted this car - as oddly, they do my nephew's 1994 Oldsmobile. While my Riviera guzzled gas like crazy, at $0.95 a gallon, the price of gas didn't really faze me. I remember when it finally hit $1 a gallon, and like everybody else, I thought the world was coming to an end. Oh, for the good old days!

About three years after I bought my Buick, I left work at the old Six Flags Mall here in Arlington and walked past an accident scene in the parking lot. It wasn't until I had walked past my Riviera that I realized it was one of the vehicles involved in the crash scene - which didn't make much sense to me at first, since it had been parked for several hours!

I remember a police officer walking over to me, and asking me if this was my car. I looked at the horribly crumpled wheel well and door of my car, and realized it was. Apparently, a drunken shopper had gotten into her car - a retired police cruiser with reinforced bumpers - and somehow backed into four other cars, totalling two of them: mine, and a car she pushed mine into. The teenage girl who owned that other car was crying as she saw the damage inflicted by my Pretty Mean Buick, pushed into her little Ford.

When I got the official word that my insurance company would be totalling my first car, I went to the impound lot where it had been sitting and said my goodbye's. Eventually, I had another GM car - oddly enough, an Oldsmobile - with unreliable power windows, but I've never owned another car as classy and powerful as my Riviera.

And with gas costing what it does these days, that's probably just as well.

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