Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ms. Gladys Jackson

The most difficult part about being car-less is feeling stuck. I first learned this when I went to college at SUNY Geneseo. Even though it was a mere 50 minute trip from my parents' house, it seemed like I was in Guam because I had no way to get out unless I hitchhiked. Apparently my hometown is too small to have a Greyhound stop, but there is a stop in the next town over. Somehow, though, the route there from Geneseo takes 14 hours and 35 minutes and includes an overnight stop in Rochester. Odd.

As I've mentioned in previous blogs, non-car ownership allows me to avoid the hassles of car insurance and drunk driving. But I failed to mention that car ownership would allow me to go wherever I want, whenever I want. I wouldn’t be at the mercy of the MTA subway schedule. If I had a car right now, I could decide to drive to Montreal (or, as my friend says Celine Dion pronounces it, "Montrall") this very evening if I wanted to. I’m not much of a spontaneous road tripper and would probably never do that, but the point is that if I had a car, the option would always be open.

While attending grad school at Boston College, I got my first car after discovering two things: my walk to school was a solid mile up a steep hill (true story) and Amtrak-ing it home would add four hours to the normal six-hour travel time by car. She was an adorable white '97 Plymouth Neon. I named her Gladys and gave her a fuzzy aqua blue steering wheel cover. We went through a lot together:
*Driving on the Thruway for the first time—the six-hour trip to Boston, which was 5 hours and 30 minutes longer than I had ever driven before.
*Driving through a Syracuse blizzard without a cell phone—stopping at every rest stop to call home crying that I wasn't going to make it and begging my parents to start a rescue trip to find my icy cold body in case I slid into an embankment.
*Driving home from Boston in a Nor'easter—my mother shouting via phone, "Don't take a shower! You don't have time to take a shower! Just grab your laundry and get out!"
*Driving to Virginia on a road trip with my high school friend Jon—the poor man had to suffer through 8 hours of the putrid smell of mold and Febreze, the combination of which were the result of my attempt to save Gladys from a parking lot that had been drowned in a flash flood. Note: opening your car door in two feet of water is not the best of ideas. Further Note: Febreze does not mask all smells. In fact, it makes some smells worse.

Gladys was my pal. Luckily, I was able to leave her in good hands when I moved to NYC. My sister bought her from me, inexplicably removed the blue fuzzy steering wheel cover, added a dashboard hula girl, and renamed her Ms. Jackson. As in OutKast's "I'm sorry Ms. Jackson. Oooo! I am for reeeeal. Never meant to make your daughter cry. I apologize a trillion times." She used to say that it ran like a go-cart because it putt-putted around town. My sister left Ms. Gladys Jackson in North Carolina when she moved back up north. I would like to say that she left her in good hands, but she actually left her with some schmuck that paid her more for the car than she paid me. I’m sorry, Gladys. I apologize a trillion times.

Gladys was a good car. (Cue: cheesy sitcom montage of special moments with Gladys, such as, but not limited to, going through the McDonald’s drive-thru for a cheeseburger without the burger, fumbling for change to pay tolls in our pre-E-ZPass days, talking to each other about our problems, singing along to the Rent cast recording, sloshing through the car wash. Wait—that last one never actually happened.) Farewell, sweet Gladys. In the words of Sarah McLachlan (pre-annoying animal abuse commercials), I will remember you.


  1. I'm your Mom! Glad you made it home with Gladys, even without that shower!

  2. Three things:

    1) All this car talk reminds me of the night we played that silly game - writing down random directions and then getting in the car and following them.

    2) When I worked at the shelter in AK the woman who worked overnights had some bad B.O. that would stink up the office chair. I would Febreze it every morning despite the fact that it just barely improved the smell. To this day I cannot use Febreze due to lingering olfactory PTSD.

    3. Jon also had to endure a road trip to VA with BF's wet/moldy laundry in the back. What a trooper!

  3. 1) Ha! I can't believe I actually drove for that game. I think that was the longest I had ever driven before I drove to Boston for the first time. Didn't I leave BF on the side of the road at one point? I think I also almost drove against the light on a one-lane bridge.

    2) Ugh. Sorry that happened, but I love the phrase "lingering olfactory PTSD."

    3) And yes, Jon is a TROOPER. Though he let Gladys run so far out of gas that he thought we were going to have to push her to the next rest stop.