I bought a 1992 Saturn from my niece in 2000. It had 72,000 miles on it, and was a motley-colored bluish/greenish exterior with grey/black cloth interior. One had to carefully place CDs into the CD player as the car would sometimes “chew up” the CD. The radio played, but not as well as I was accustomed to. I could not get all of my “favorite” stations. The car rode well and I comforted myself about the purchase with the assurance that this was the car to get me between points “A” and “B.” No muss. No frills.
As I drove back to Connecticut, riding in my new purchase, the first thing I noticed was that the Saturn was good on gas. I brightened up a bit and thought to myself, “This isn’t all that bad.” Delaware to White Plains to Connecticut was not such a short haul and the Blue/Green Saturn (BGS) was doing fine. I opened the sunroof and relaxed for the ride home. I found myself thinking back on my first car.
Having grown up in New York City, I realized early on that car owners in the City took on a “midnight job;” be on the lookout for midnight shoppers carrying hotwire tools. Consequently, I had no intentions of becoming a car or learning how to drive. Life was easy. I either rode train or hailed a cab. If traffic backed up, I simply got out of the cab and walked. I rarely rode buses; walking was so much quicker and often gave me time to “clear my brain” of the day’s clutter.
The first time I tried to hail a cab in New England, culture shock that I had been trying to avoid, set in. One Sunday morning, I decided to go to work (new job) and put in a day, getting myself situated to a new City, a new environment. I was applying New York living to New England lifestyles. Around five o’clock, I had had enough and headed back to the bus stop to catch a bus back to my new home.
I stood next to the transportation kiosk, where there was worker inside. After waiting for more than an hour and no bus, I happened to see a yellow cab. Like any good New Yorker, I stepped into the street and eagerly waved my hand. The cab driver looked at me oddly and continued on his way without stopping. Another thirty minutes pass and another cab driver does the same thing.
At this point, the man in the transportation kiosk begins to walk over to me. He is closing up. And I am beginning to realize how desolate the area is fast becoming. He asks me what I am doing. I explained that in the absence of the bus coming, I was trying to hail a cab. The man chuckled a little and explained that the bus I was waiting for stopped running three hours previously and that one cannot hail a cab, one has to call a cab.
Culture shock seeped in between my feeble attempts of self-consolation and tears that began to well up. As I headed out in a brisk pace, looking for a phone booth (no cell phones 30 years ago) to call a cab, I longed for the teaming streets of New York City. The smelly subways mingled with the acrid odor of overflowing garbage bins and whatever the restaurants were serving were so vivid a scene, it was as if I were “home.” Then and there I made a determination, “I have got to get a car … as soon as I learn how to drive.”
The first car we owned, which was actually my husband’s car from his college days, was a 1969 blue Volkswagen Beatle. At the time, it was ten years old. It ran like a charm and cost pennies to fill up. It was amazing how we fit six passengers in that car. My husband and I rode in the front. Our two older sons rode in the back seat and the twins rode behind the back seat in the bumper area. Whoever sat in the back behind the passenger side had to keep their feet up. The floor board was worn out and one could actually see the street. From time to time, we would mend it with a cookie sheet that was held up with a couple of hangers tied together with a sock.
Eventually, the car became to small as our children grew and me too (number five child was on the way). The Beatle kept going. The only problem we encountered besides the lack of space was that the roof on the front passenger side leaked whenever it rained.
Our next car was named “the Boat.” It was a 1970 (moving up a bit) white Impala with red leather interior and white/red tires. It was not good on gas, did not have a radio (we sang on long trips) and it too rained in on the front passenger side. In fact the next two cars, including a Chevy Caprice station wagon, all had leaky interiors on the front passenger side. This became a family joke – mom has to use an umbrella in the car. I actually did, on occasion. Our first new car was a Honda. Despite trying other cars, we’ve been buying Hondas ever since – except for the Saturn.
We gave the Saturn to our youngest for college who decided to go to school in upstate New York. The Saturn proved to be a great car for our son. He traveled to Canada, and other northeastern states, and on occasion, to some of the southern states with no problem. One of the biggest assets was the Saturn was so cheap to fill up. My son put close to 290,000 miles on the car before it took its last breath, or so we thought. My son purchased a new Honda and rode off into the sunset, leaving behind a worn out, bluish/green Saturn, with a leak in the roof on the front passenger’s side (!) that sat in our garage for a number of years.
About a year ago, my husband was cleaning out the garage and called one of those “junk” dealers and asked if they wanted the car. He told the man on the phone, “If you can get it out of the garage, it is yours.” My husband found the key and gave it to the junk dealer. Just for kicks, he decided to put the key into the ignition to see if the engine would turn over. To everyone’s amazement, the junk dealer drove the Saturn out of our garage and down the driveway – after sitting idle for a number of years.
I still drive a Honda, a 2009 with all the bells and whistles, Bluetooth, GPS, security locks; one could not break into this car with out destroying it first. When I drive up to the gas pump, I find myself remembering how little it cost to fill up the Saturn.