When I was 12 or maybe 13 my foster brother Bob purchased a 1971 Mustang Mach 1, that’s “Mach” as in the speed of sound not “mock” as in to brutally make fun of something, which is important because Bob knew he was very mock-able, and I’m sure that he hoped that this amazing black and gold mighty sports car would put an end to all derision and place him on the road to cool-Dom. It worked on me, but then again, as a teacher I can confirm that most 12 year olds are still pretty stupid!
I washed that car more times than I can recall. I remember hoping for a sort of sympathetic magic that would cover up the humiliation of my own bright yellow mode of transportation: a Bike McCycle. Yes, you heard right, a Bike McCycle. My parents entered my name in a raffle at the McDonalds on Allen Street and the *ahem* winner got a bright McDonalds yellow 10 speed bike with Bike McCycle on the frame.
“Hey Shultis, nice Bike McCycle”
It was a nice bike. I’d never had a 10 speed before. It would definitely take me further faster than whatever bicycle I had before. But every ride brought humiliation. By the time I took the key to the lock I now needed to protect my oh so valuable Bike McCycle and scratched off those horrible marketing school inspired words it was too late: I rode a Bike McCycle; and the jingling of that key from my belt running around the bases at baseball practice got me my first junior high nickname: Chain Legs.
In high school the most beautiful girl in my grade, Tammy Crouse, was dating a guy who drove a Trans Am. Yes, the Pontiac Firebird with a giant decal of a Phoenix on the hood. In my future was a car with a decal of another sort. During the oil crises of the mid seventies my mom had chosen to buy a fire engine red Toyota Corolla station wagon with faux wood paneling in the form of giant stickers from the front all the way to the back: Bob’s Mustang had a higher cool quotient in its gas cap than could be found in my mom’s entire car, but starting in February of 1980 that became the car I was to drive on my first date, to prom, to college in Utah, and home from my wedding.
But sometime between washing that Mustang and now my attitude toward the automobile has changed completely. I hate them. I hate what they do to the environment. Most of all I hate how much our Post War development pattern has made us so totally dependent on them. I still own one, but I’ve gone out of my way, little by little, to make the automobile a diminishing presence in my life. In the row of 5 townhouses on my street in downtown Springfield, mine is the only one without a single allotted space for a car; I park my car half a block away on a side street. Behind the house, where we might have been able to park some vehicles, we’ve instead planted a garden: some raised beds, a few fruit trees, and a handful of grape vines. I have some rain barrels I use to water the garden but I never, never wash my car