The Car Went “Beep! – Beep! – Beep!”

There once was a boy.  There once was a car.  There came a day in the not too distant past when the boy and the car met and became partners in life’s journey over the assorted highways and byways of the tri-state area.  Wherever the boy drove in his car he attracted the gaze of many a passer-by due to either the boy’s devilishly good looks or the car’s appearance, though the boy had his own suspicions…

The car, you see, was a 1979 Plymouth Volaré.  Before I shush your exclamations of envy and jealousy I should mention that the car was not your average roadworthy slant-six beauty.  The colour of the vehicle was “blonde”, according to the documentation, though I have heard it described as “lemon chiffon” or “pale yellow” as well.  In addition to the understated colour palette used for the exterior, the car had an odd ten-foot-long dent on the passenger side that was the result of a close encounter with a telephone pole.

Shocking though it may seem to you, there once was a time when I was lacking in both patience and common sense and I attempted to squeeze between another car and a telephone pole.  At the first hint of resistance I gunned the motor and scraped a healthy bit of paint off the passenger side of the car while at the same time flattening the contoured shape of the doors and quarter panels.  I don’t believe I even cursed at my own stupidity as the car was made for beating up the environment and taking a beating in return.  It added to the car’s character.

The blonde Volaré was also noteworthy for it’s obvious lack of any front suspension.  The entire front of the car seemed to be held together with rubber bands so that each tiny discrepancy in the road resulted in a stomach churning bounce somewhat akin to a mechanical bull set to “Let’s Move ’em Out!”.  I often joked that you could feel it if you drove over a nickel in the road, though I never tested the theory.

The front bumper was also damaged from an incident involving a hit and run perpetrated by one of the illegal immigrants who lived down the street from my parents.  It seems that the driver lost control of his car and hit my car, which was parked in front of my parents’  house.  The driver then floored his vehicle in an attempt to disengage his front bumper from mine and succeeded in breaking the tie rod and smashing into the rear bumper of Cheryl’s car (parked in front of mine).  There is an entertaining story there, but suffice it to say the front bumper of my car had a little extra character.

I’m sure I could go on and on about the cornucopia of idiosyncrasies and deficiencies related to the car, but there is a tale to tell behind all of the dramatic build up.  To sum up the rest of the car’s description, there were few working dashboard instruments including the dash light, speedometer (above 33 mph), the gas gauge and the temperature needle.  I was handicapped at night in that I couldn’t tell with any degree of accuracy how fast I was going or how close to empty I was, though the worry was academic for the most part considering the state of the instrumentation.  Many a night was spent fingering mental rosary beads in an effort to get a little extra going for me in the way of a possible miraculous recovery or law enforcement avoidance attempt.  It was always an adventure driving in that car, though it had a great engine that seemed unwilling to quit regardless of the thin patina of oil in the tank or the numerous close calls with the uglier side of fate.

I should note that the only station I could get on the AM radio was a country and western station that played the dubious classics from a genre nearly as appealing to me as the sound of a dentist’s drill hard at work on a decaying bicuspid.  Why didn’t I invest in a new radio you ask?  I neglected to mention that the front driver’s side door would not lock.  Many a time I wondered if a truly desperate individual might happen upon my car and attempt to steal it only to return it after driving around the block.

The car was overdue for inspection and as I felt I was pushing my luck every time I even thought about driving, I reluctantly drove to the shady service station I used for the auto repairs I needed to keep the car in it’s questionably roadworthy state.  I knew it would be a gamble whether or not they’d even let me drive away after listing the many maladies afflicting my car, but I figured I might be forced to finally make some repairs I’d avoided for years.  I parked in the lot and handed over the keys to the gentleman behind the counter before taking a seat and beginning a silent litany of prayers.

As the clock ticked away the minutes I imagined I could hear the mechanics laughing at each discovery made at my car’s expense.  I was roused from a doze some time later by the manager who asked me to follow him to the bay where my car rested following it’s examination.

“Slant-six… a beautiful engine man.” he complimented as he got behind the wheel.

“Thanks,” I replied with some trepidation.  He seemed to be on the verge of some sort of punchline, and considering the state of my car I had a pretty good idea what the joke was.

“Did you know that your horn doesn’t work?” he queried as he pressed the once sensitive area on the steering wheel that was (in an earlier era) depressed in order to issue an auditory warning to other motorists.  I shook my head and prepared for a long list of additional problems I knew plagued my car.

“Let me hear you say ‘BEEP!’ as loud as you can.” he said with a straight face, though the other mechanics snickered behind him.  I was stunned for a second or two before I comprehended the amazing opportunity before me.  I took a deep breath and produced a credible ‘BEEP!’ using only my vocal chords and a decided lack of self-consciousness or pride.  “Once more.” he ordered.  I complied with another ‘BEEP!’, this time using my diaphragm to get an additional fraction of a decibel for my effort.

“Good enough.” he said as he scraped the outdated inspection sticker off in order to replace it with a valid one.  I payed maybe $35 for the whole process, though the experience was a priceless one for all involved.  The following year the entire crew of the service station was fired for some reason and the new management was a little more stringent in their inspections.  I did get another two years out of the Volaré, though I can only speculate as to how many additional years I might have gotten out of her had the service station not gone through it’s purge.

Sometimes when I am driving along I vividly recall the feeling of invulnerability I felt behind the wheel of a Volaré.  Did I ever tell you about the time I attempted to outrun a pair of NJ State Troopers in the Volaré?  No?

It was late one night, or early in the morning depending on one’s perspective…

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