How Not to Take Care of Your Parents’ Car


Last week I wrote about some pretty serious close calls I’d had with automobiles in my younger days.

This week I’d like to relate some of my more foolish, but less dangerous, moments involving cars, namely vehicles belong to my parents. These were all my fault and the factors involved in the three incidents were stubbornness, thoughtlessness and — vodka — in that order.

First, my stubbornness. When I was at LSU, a bunch of friends decided to have a beach party. Well, the only thing resembling a beach fairly near the campus was the Mississippi River batture, that sandy area between the levee and the river.

The girl I was bringing was a first date. At the time I was driving a smoky old Simca Aronde, a little French sedan that badly needed a valve job. I wanted to impress the girl so I talked Daddy into letting me drive his pride and joy, a 1960 Ford Thunderbird.
The loan of the car came with a warning. “Son, do not drive that car over the levee. It’s built very low and you’ll tear off the muffler.”

“Okay, Daddy, I won’t,” was my well intended response.

However, when we arrived at the party site, all my buddies were driving their cars over the levee, so I’d be darned if I was going to make my lovely date trudge through the grass up the levee. So I carefully made my way up the incline in the T-Bird. Of course when I reached the top, that old levee just reached up and grabbed the muffler right off of that car.

“My gosh,” I thought. “Parents do know some things after all.”
That rather ruined the rest of the beach party for me and my new date must have wondered why the guy she was with was so gloomy on such a fun occasion.
I manned up to Daddy the next day, admitted what happened and ended up paying for a new muffler.

The incident involving thoughtlessness had to do with Mother’s 1957 Oldsmobile. She’d let me take it out for a Friday night ride with my buddies when I was in high school. We headed straight for Hopper’s Drive-In on Florida Street, THE place to see and be seen for teenagers in Baton Rouge in the 1950s.

We had innocently ordered burgers and cokes and were listening to rock and roll on the radio. I was a would-be drummer and I vigorously kept time to the beat by pounding my hand on the top of the padded dashboard. Of course, my high school ring cut a hole in the vinyl and I got a good talking to from Mother the next day.

Well, believe it or not, she loaned her Olds to me again. I was in college then and took my date dancing at a night club, a popular and what I thought was a sophisticated spot on Airline Highway.

So, it seems that that night my date and I decided to introduced ourselves to screwdrivers — a potent drink made up of vodka and orange juice. Because of the orange juice, it goes down smoothly and quickly. Before we knew it, we were very mellow. We got up to dance and we swayed and dipped, not in time to the music but under the control of the vodka.
We decided we’d better get on home before we got even more drunk, so we weaved our way outside to the Oldsmobile, with me promising myself that I was going to drive very carefully on the way home.

Well, I didn’t get out of the parking lot unscathed. I saw a tree in my rearview mirror as I was backing up. I thought it was a big tree far away. No. It was a middle-sized tree much closer. The loud thump of the back bumper hitting the tree was a dreadful sound.
That made me drive even more carefully for the rest of the night. But Mother was really mad about the new indented curve in her back bumper.

All of these mishaps were lessons learned. A teaching moment, as they like to say today. But boy I’d love to have that ’60 Thunderbird and that ’57 Olds right now.