Most Kitsgals pride themselves on the type of car they drive. It is not uncommon to drive down West 4th and think you have inadvertently wandered into a Mercedes dealership. Me? I have never found it to make sense to buy a car for $100,000 when you can buy a house with that money instead. That is why I have always driven run down old cars. My current car, an old Toyota, tends to cause the other Kitsgals a bit of concern when I park next to their newly leased BMWs. The reaction on their faces is usually one of dismay….like somehow my car has devalued their car by its mere presence.
Growing up, my family never owned a nice car. It wasn’t my parents’ style to spend money on something that was flashy or a status symbol. I remember learning to drive on my mom’s old 1966 two tone yellow Rambler. Manual steering, AM radio with one inch speakers, no seat belts and plastic bubbled seat covers – yes, it was the epitome of cool for any 16 year old girl. I was the only kid in high school that preferred to walk instead of getting a ride. My friends, who would want me to drive them to the mall, would not sit upright for fear of being seen. And my friends were the geeky, nerdy ones with no status to lose. (although it was really fun turning corners sharply as my buddies would all slide to one side of the car given the plastic seat covers and the lack of seat belts – thank goodness, the doors shut tightly)
In terms of taking care of my car, I must admit, I am very poor. If I turn the key and it goes, then I assume the car doesn’t need anything. This rationale works well for a while…until the car does need something and then it doesn’t go. This liaise faire approach to car maintenance was a huge sore spot with my dad. I remember our conversations.
“Hey Dad. It’s Maggie. How are you?”
“When was the last time you checked the oil on your car?”
“I don’t know Dad.”
“Get that oil checked. Now here’s your mother.”
Last Saturday, my dad’s obsessive warnings about checking the oil in my car came true. Ugh. I was in the Downtown Eastside – for those of you who don’t know the DTES, think skid row X heroin X 400 – anyway, I was there to pick up a friend of mine and when I tried to start the car, it wouldn’t go. And, for some reason, the car alarm went off. And wouldn’t stop. The noise was loud and annoying.
Then, the most awesome thing happened. Like a scene out of Dawn of the Living Dead, crack addicts began staggering out of the alleys to help us. I guess the horn alarm was bothering them too. Soon, we met Frank – who used to be a mechanic before he discovered crystal meth. Frank ripped out the car horn (thank goodness) and got the honking to stop. Then he tried to get the engine to go but no luck. I had to have the car towed to a garage but Frank was so concerned that we couldn’t get to our destination, he offered to steal a car for us. I declined but I was touched by his offer.
A few hundred dollars later, my old Toyota is back on the road. But I still think fondly of all the good folks who stopped to help me in the Downtown Eastside. I can’t help but wonder how many people in Kits would have offered to do an indictable offence to help a stranger out of a jam…not many, I am guessing.