Just blame it on the van


For the past few weeks an extra vehicle has been parked in my driveway. It’s not an unfamiliar vehicle. In fact, for the past four-plus years you could find it in the same location in the summer, on holidays, and occasional other weekends.

It’s a Volkswagen Jetta that I nicknamed, less than affectionately, The Gangster Mobile, due to its special rims, low-profile tires, and deeply tinted windows. I was not in favor of the purchase a few years back. But since I had given my youngest son what he considered poor advice on his previous purchase of a truck, had turned down my nose at several jeeps he looked at, and he and his mother had scouted the Jetta and she gave her approval, I grudgingly gave mine – remembering all the time about a similar Saab my stepson once purchased that did not turn out well.

Actually, the Jetta served Chase somewhat decently for a fair amount of time, except that someone forgot to tell him that a Jetta needs a new timing belt every so often. Maybe we could have researched a little better, too, but that’s all history now.

Anyway, when Chase was on his way home from Morehead, Ky., a few weeks ago, the Jetta died. We had it towed to a shop, hoping it might be a fairly inexpensive fix. Instead, we found out it would cost more to fix it than it was worth, due to bent rods caused by a worn out timing belt.

Not having a vehicle wasn’t much of a problem for Chase the last few weeks of school, but since he will come home for the summer this weekend and has a job, he will need a way back and forth. My dad has graciously offered the use of one of his vehicles until we decide on a plan. About the only thing Dad asked was that Chase take good care of the car.

As soon as I heard those words come out of Dad’s mouth, I cringed a bit. My mind drifted back several years to when I was a teenager and I often received the same instructions from Dad.

I had my own vehicles from the time I got my driver’s license, but often they were broken down, or I wanted to drive something a little nicer than a 1957 Volkswagen or a rusted Chevy Vega. So, I would borrow one of my parents’ vehicles.

There was a silver station wagon. Except for the time a female friend bounced a bottle of wine off the side of a bridge and back onto the station wagon, I think I treated it pretty well. Why that bottle didn’t break on an iron bridge, but did on the station wagon, I’m not quite sure. But I have a notion that it was someone’s way of telling me I was not being a good boy.

There was also the time I took a female friend out on date in the station wagon – when I only had my driver’s permit. She didn’t have a license either. So we had to have another friend come along with us. To make a long story short, she ended up chewing tobacco that night, kissed some other guy that somehow got in the car with us and was taunting me, and that was the last time I dated her.

For a time my dad had this big orange pickup truck with that wood-looking siding down the side. It was pretty, but it had a 454 engine and got like six miles to the gallon. If you punched the gas pedal hard you could literally watch the gas gauge drop. That’s the vehicle I ran out of gas in – while parked alongside a backroad with another female friend – and had to call my dad to come and help us.

That truck was rough on the wallet, but it had these really heavy duty tires on it and they sure made a cool sound when I’d leave a little bit of those tires on the road.

My parents also had a Thunderbird for a time. I liked it a lot. It was pretty and fast. And it could leave a nice black streak on the road really easy. I specifically remember a time during my first year in college when I was coming home from a date in Dayton and was driving the Thunderbird. I was stopped at a stoplight when some dude in a little sports car pulled up beside me. He started revving his engine and glancing my way. A few seconds later the dude and his cute little car got a good taste of some Thunderbird fumes.

Then there was the van – an extended version that we insulated homes out of. I drove it a lot. It served me well a few times, like the time I did a 180-degree spin going down a hill on a very narrow, ice-covered back road, and somehow never left the roadway. But mostly it caused me lots of trouble. I would go into details, but I’m afraid I’d incriminate myself. Let’s just say I got stuck in it in odd places a couple times, took a trip to a police station after crashing it, got robbed and nearly mugged while sitting in it at a bowling alley and… Well, you get the picture.

Back then, believe it or not, I thought I treated my parents’ vehicles fairly well. I mean, there was only that one time I brought one home with any noticeable damage. Funny how a few years can change your perspective. I hope my son does better.

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.

Jeff Gilliland Staff Columnist
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