I’d like to say that I am older and wiser, and that I am given to deep and philosophical introspection. I’d like to say that, but the truth is probably closer to the fact that I am older and simply have a lot of memories rattling around in my cranium.
And just like the items we all stuff in our assorted storage or “junk rooms,” some memories get piled on top of others until they are “lost” for long periods of time. Then, just like when we are looking for that tool we know we bought at some point or some other thing that isn’t constantly required, we run across memories that make us smile.
Sometimes, of course, memories are sort of jarred loose by random things as well. Case in point was when I was driving my “new” truck to pick up something from the Habitat for Humanity Restore in Huntington. I say “new,” but the truck in question is a 1995 Chevy S-10 that hasn’t been new in quite some time. But that’s OK, because it’s new to me. I bought it on the cheap (bonus!) and it does exactly what I ask it to do. It hauls stuff, and I don’t have to worry about scratching the finish or making exorbitant payments — also a bonus.
So, I’m driving down the road listening to what I am sure are parts of four different songs as the radio slips between stations, complete with the consistent crackle of static; sort of like what you hear on those paranormal shows when they are using a “spirit box.” Honestly, I half-expected my great aunt Ethel to come through in the middle of the half of a Bob Seger song I heard — just kidding, because I don’t have a great aunt Ethel. And the words “hurt you,” I’m certain, were part of a Rick Astley song, unless dear aunt Ethel’s voice got a whole lot deeper in the afterlife.
The exhaust is too loud and the air conditioning doesn’t work. On the plus side, it does have electric windows instead of cranks, and it pops and cracks the way I do when I get out of bed in the morning. But those things notwithstanding, I am deliriously happy with my purchase. And as I am nearing home on the return trip, a thought occurs to me that literally makes me laugh out loud. I pull into the driveway, shut it off, and hurry into the house to share my cleverness with my wife.
“It’s like being a teenager again,” I tell her. And when she is nice enough to indulge my random statement by asking why, I tell her, “I’ve been driving down the road in an old beater with no AC, a loud exhaust, and a crappy radio. It’s just like being in high school. And I think I’m almost out of gas.”
We had a good laugh over this, and it got us thinking with all the fondness only nostalgia can bring about all of the other “beaters” we have owned over the years. There was the old Ford Courier pickup I bought while we were dating that would backfire every time I shifted gears, and the Firebird I had to use Vise-grip pliers to change the gears because the shifter was operated by a cable, and of course the cable had stretched. There was the AMC Eagle that didn’t have a park in the transmission; I had to use a big rubber “chock” like the ones they use to keep the electric company trucks from rolling off while they are working from the boom. The list — and memories — go on.
Nostalgia aside, the (numerous) times my old Chrysler overheated and left me fuming through my radiator and my head on the side of the road was not the slightest bit amusing at the time. But that is the thing about nostalgia; bad stuff often becomes amusing after a certain amount of time passes. Making sure I always had two or three jugs of water with me was a pain at the time, but now when I walk through the isle at a grocery store and see rows of bottled water, I just smile to myself and “remember when.” Life and experiences are weird that way.
I suppose the reason things work that way is that things are never completely bad. I had a lot of good times in those cars, after all. The old truck took me and my wife on a lot of dates, the Firebird was an awesome car once you got it into gear, and the Eagle was one sweet ride until you tried to park it on a hill. And even the old Chrysler made a lot of memories; my daughter and I took it to a convention once, with her wrapped up in a blanket like a burrito because of course the heater didn’t work either. But it did have heated seats at least, and they worked really well. Bad, I suppose, never truly eclipses the good; even if it is only later that we realize it.
So, I guess Bob Seger is right, after all. I am a few years past the whole “Sweet 16 turned 31” thing, but I do have the “feelin' weary when the work day’s done,” down pat. But like rock-n-roll, I never forget — at least not forever — the good things.
We might not realize it at the time, but those are the things that make life what it is and give it our own individual flavor. Even the bitter parts. So, I will continue driving my “new” truck to the lumber yard and the Restore, and I’ll probably take memory lane to get to both. Life is good, and the truck even has a cassette player. Now where did I put all those mix tapes and Silver Bullet cassettes?