Hail to The Heap

The Heap and I, circa 1978, both in our youth.


The car sputtered and jerked, and finally put itself out of its misery with a giant belch out of the tailpipe.  We rolled to a stop in front of the gate of a sprawling, brick-walled estate.

“Now what am I going to do?” I bemoaned, with some choice curse words thrown in.  This was 1986, and cell phones had yet to grace the planet, or at least my household. 

I was going to have to hoof it.  But it was really too far, and I wasn’t wearing appropriate walking shoes, and I really, really didn’t want to cross that big intersection.  I was stuck here on Strait Lane, home to mega-millionaires, the shortcut I used every day to and from school.

My laziness and girl-panic about safety issues got the best of me, and I decided to try and approach one of these castles to see if I could use the phone to call my Dad.  My Dad, who bestowed upon me this massive hunk of junk, a gold 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, that looked like it’d fit in better at the Boat Show than on a city street. 

He would not be happy with this latest development, as he’d been nursing along “The Heap,” as it was so affectionately named, hoping to prolong the inevitable expense of buying a new car.  Dad preferred to call it, “The Bullet,” which could only be in reference to the shape of the beast and certainly not the speed or stealth.

I shoved open the massively long, heavy metal door of the car and stepped out into the hot autumn day.  As I approached the expansive black iron gate of the estate, a sudden realization hit me.

“Oh my God, this is Ross Perot’s house.”

I wanted to die.  How embarrassing to break down in front of a pseudo-famous, definitely not pseudo-rich person’s house.  I pushed the buzzer at the gate, and a staff member was kind enough to let me use the phone at the guard gate, and he even offered me a can of Pepsi Light while I waited for my Dad to come pick me up.

All’s well that ends well, as that was the death of The Heap, and we got a new car.

I learned a lot from that car, though, most importantly that a little humiliation is good for the soul.  I worry about these kids today that don’t suffer the embarrassment of driving around in a big, ugly car that’s had more previous owners than candles on their birthday cake.

There is no car, in modern time, rivaling The Heap, and others of its generation, in bulkiness, ugliness and sheer mass of shame.  The days of the Pinto, Yugo and Gremlin are long gone.  Even the least expensive cars on the market today aren’t nearly as obtrusive as the cars of the past.

I can’t help but be concerned about the effect that all this pretty-car driving is having on the next generation.

In eight years, when my daughter turns sixteen, I’m going to comb every auto graveyard in town to hopefully find and resurrect The Heap.

Character building, my friends.
 

Comments

  1. i hope you do find a heap for your daughter. i think you're right, we are making everything too pretty for our kids. they don't need designer clothes, new cars and fancy gadgets, they need to learn to appreciate the value of things and also how valuing things has nothing on valuing people. we've definitely lost our way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, if I could find an ugly car that was reliable, that'd be the best of both worlds. Funny how back in the day safety didn't seem to be a concern, and now we are obsessed with it. I wonder if we are any better off.

      Delete
  2. I would like one of those heaps now...it would beat what I do drive.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I still have a special place in my heart for that car, even though it embarrassed me at the time.

      Delete
  3. Talk about a drive down memory lane -- I drove an Oldsmobile myself, while all my friends got sporty Acuras and Hondas while I drove the behemoth a.k.a. The White Racer.

    Good luck finding a heap for your daughter. She won't appreciate it at the time, but looking back on it? She'll love it, at the very least appreciate it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The White Racer...love hearing everyone's names for their cars!!

      Delete
  4. I love that this story involves Ross Perot and mentions Pintos and Gremlins.

    My daughter's first car was a Geo Metro that she named Eleanor Roosevelt. It got great gas mileage, but I always feared for her safety because those cars are super tiny.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True, those cars were so small, they look like rental roller skates...

      Delete
  5. Good luck in your Heap search!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have hope that it's out there somewhere.

      Delete
  6. When I was *lucky* I got to drive our station wagon to school. When I was extra lucky, the Dodge Neon. I thought any car that someone in high school owned was the epitome of cool. In fact, the bigger the car, the more of us we could stuff in the back seat! (Safety was not our top concern...good thing things are different in that area now.) I didn't own a car until I was married and had a full time job. I spent a lot of time on the city bus. Do kids do that anymore?

    I would have been stoked to get to ride in the Heap with you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do not know of any mother who lets her kid ride the city bus, oh the horrors! We are all safety-phobic, probably to our detriment.

      Delete
  7. Character building indeed! For three years in high school I drove my mom's big white mini-van to school. In some places, it wouldn't have been a big deal, but at my private school where my classmates were gifted shiny new SUVs and sassy little sports cars on their 16th birthdays, my Dodge Caravan was about a conspicuous as they come.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh, a Dodge Caravan, that is definitely a statement!!! At least you could cram a lot of friends in it.

      Delete
  8. The detail in this story that made me smile was the can of Pepsi Light.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I sure do miss Pepsi Light with the little lemon on the can.

      Delete
  9. I must have some serious character (just like you) cause I drove a big ole Buick LeSabre heap all through high school. Now I think I was lucky to even have a car, but at the time I hated it. Can't wait to offer same opportunities to my girls! Wonderful writing as always!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the compliment! And my Dad drove a Buick LeSabre, at one point, that I narrowly escaped inheriting. Those were good cars.

      Delete
  10. OMG, I am DYING DYING DYING. First, I had a two toned 1978 cutlass supreme and it was called the DOOKIE. And the minute I saw Strait Lane I thought, "Ross Perot lives over there." Then BOOM! So Naturally I love this story so much. I suddenly feel totally homesick.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You wouldn't be homesick if you could see how much Strait Lane has changed. Even Ross's house is so walled off you can't even get a glimpse of it.

      Delete
  11. I agree with this! I learned to drive in a minivan. 1) Very not cool. 2) Very dangerous to drive in the snow. It trained me & my ego well. And -- how hilarious that you were in front of Ross Perot's house!! Ha ha ha, of all the random things that could happen!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Learning to drive on a minivan would pretty much prepare you for anything in life, I imagine!

      Delete
  12. I am totally with you - I drove a powder blue Chrysler holiday - I am sure you don't even know what that is...But knowing how neurotic our generation of mothers are - we will be too worried about their safety to take off driving "heaps"

    ReplyDelete
  13. OH MY GOSH! My first car was the Blue Bomber, an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme--DIESEL. My dad bought it new and I drove it til it died in 2000. I LOVED that car, and heap is such a great name. I once backed into a giant truck and there wasn't a scratch on my car, but I busted in the whole side of the truck. It was a tank. You've got me all waxing nostalgic. I love that you stopped at Ross Perot's house.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Oooh, a gold Supreme! My grandparents had the maroon one (it did replace the gold barracuda though). I ended up with their chocolate brown Chrysler Lebaron and its presence on the college campus was humbling. My son turns 16 in two weeks. Do you think his choice of a 2004 minivan or a 2009 one is good/bad enough?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. p.s. I got caught up in the fond memories and neglected to mention that I loved this post!

      Delete
  15. My first car was a 1989 Jeep Wagoneer that my Dad was in love with! A few months after I got my full driver's license, they bought me an awesome, but used, Jeep Cherokee that I LOVED. My Dad was more than happy to get his Wagoneer back. While I was sick of the constant breaking down and bulkiness of the vehicle, I secretly loved that car and was just as sad as my Dad when they, scratch that, my Mom finally decided to get rid of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have always thought that Jeeps are the coolest cars!

      Delete
  16. My kids are 8 & 5. As all things are cyclical, in fashion and hopefully car manufacturing, I'm hoping that the trend moves back to big hulking masses of metal, so that when they are old enough to drive, they will get a pure clunker. Good for the character, indeed!! Nice post.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I couldn't agree more that our children are entitled. Working hard for material things and success is an important lesson. I drove an old station wagon when I got my license and currently our son is driving our 1995 station wagon. It is good for him. This is a relevant post.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Absolutely!!! You never know true embarrassment until you drive a piece of crap car. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Until that piece of crap car dies in front of Ross Perot's house.

      Delete
  19. My first car was quite a heap as well. It's so true that those awful breakdowns and whatnot make for good stories and character building. Great story!

    ReplyDelete
  20. 'Sheer mass of shame' is a priceless line! I've been in quite a few of those.
    What a story- going to the home of Ross Perot. I smiled at how nicely you were treated.
    And I'm glad your daughter will have the privilege of character building bestowed upon her. Perfect!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Am hoping to resurrect the Heap for my daughter, but not holding much hope, considering it would be 45 years old by that time. But a girl can dream.

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular Posts