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The Beginnings

July 29, 2006

1981, 79 Datsun Pick-up Part 2. Going Solo

1981 was a year full of new experiences. Although the underground period ended at some point in late 1980, I remember very little of those months, except for one party that I went by the end of the school year. Nothing remarkable happened from the driving point of view and therefore I will let it slip away.

No one can go through a civil war, a dramatic escape to another country (we didn't took a flight from Managua to Tegucigalpa when we fled Nicaragua, but that story doesn't belong here), the loss of most of one's earthly belongings, the capture and imprisonment of a beloved one, and not suffer alterations in thoughts and therefore, in behavior. Through my mom's position as manager of the school's cafeteria, I was well known by the entire school but I wasn't "popular". I didn't fit the mold of the typical high school guy. However I still managed to have a few true friends. One of them lived a "bohemian" life, or sort of. He liked to play musical instruments and he introduced me to his hobby. If I mention this in a story about cars is because my initial solo drives where due to my friendship with him.

During that year I continued to drive the car on a daily basis from home to school and back home. My mom was confident enough in my abilities to let me drive her to and from her business chores. Also, my non typical behavior gained me her absolute vote of confidence to conduct my life with almost total independence (the dream of any teenager). That included the privilege to take the car for recreational purposes, provided that it wasn't needed for business of course! What I mean by non typical behavior is the following:

  • I took my education seriously. I always did my homework and studied my materials ahead of time without the need for mom to police me.

  • I understood that the family car was essential for economic survival and therefore I would never do anything that will endanger it like racing, lending it to others or even let others drive it.

  • I always understood that business came first and that my use of the car had to be constrained within those times in which it wasn't needed. I could negotiate with my mom, up to a point, when it came to her social use; but that was all.

  • I never got drunk, EVER. Actually, I don't remember any time in which I drank alcoholic beverages without my mom being present; and even then I drank with great moderation.

  • I NEVER did drugs of ANY kind.

This list could go on and on but I will leave it here because my point is merely to explain why I got absolute discretion with the car's use when off-duty.

As you can imagine, this is not the exhilarating story that the series title suggest, but since it is part of my experience with cars I felt I had to include it. This part of my life stretches from 1981 through 1990, and includes the last year in high school, all my years in college, my first 2 jobs and my first months as independent consultant.

Although all new experiences provoke nervousness, I had been driving the car in the mean streets of our city for over a year and even knew how to replace a flat tire. The car had tires with tubes and therefore, such events happened often. I no longer feared checkpoints because of my license; and of course, I never did something that would attract the attention of the authorities. I had driven the car under the heavy rain that's typical of a tropical country and under all kind of traffic conditions. In other words, by the time I got the car without my mom by my side I already knew the ropes and was a seasoned "road warrior" (not to be confused with the image of a laptop-carrying, wireless-equipped person).

That year, after school, the class had to perform social work as part of our curriculum. We were divided into groups and while we were allowed to associate by affinity, the assignment was picked by the school's principal. Since my group was designated "mature and responsible" we had the "luck" to draw an assignment in the city's rural outskirts. The rainy season takes place during the middle of the school year; so, our social duty added muddy roads to the list of driving conditions I experienced; and I am really, really talking MUDDY. That was quite challenging on a 2-wheel drive car; but since that wasn't recreational activity, my mom didn't object to it too much.

As time passed by and my mom got to see how I managed to use the car, I got permission to take it outside the city's boundary for fun. One of my friend's parents had a rural property, and we also visited places outside the urban boundaries. Other than the business use limits I mentioned before, I always had access to the car and also, I NEVER knew the meaning of the word "curfew". Of course, I "earned" such a privilege by my performance in school and later in college, and also by the maintenance record of the car (while not 100% perfect, very close to it). The only arguments we had were related to the gas bill. When I got a job I would chip in, specially when going out with my girlfriend.

In 1982 I went to college and my mom tenure of my old school's cafeteria ended. She started a bakery business which required a heavier use of the car. Fortunately for me, my college's location was within  walking range and therefore, I had low need for a car during the day. However I continued to drive the car in my condition as the family's designated driver to all of our social events.

In 1989 my father's political imprisonment ended and we were a complete family again. By that time I was already part of the workforce and working overtime. I remember that during this period we had to do some scrambling in order for me to get the car and be able to work late at night. My dad, who was still recovering from his experience, usually appeared at the office in mid afternoon. I then took some time off, drove him home and then, returned to work. After his period of adaptation, he landed a job. I don't remember if my mom's working days were over instantly or if that happened a little later (I believe it was the latter); but I do remember that I went to the bottom of the priorities on the car's use. Fortunately for me, by that time I was working at another company located very close to home and I walked every day. It was so close that I managed to go to my house at lunch time. I would use the car in the evening to have fun with my friends and my girlfriend. During what would be my last days as an employee, my girlfriend bought a car of her own; a used 86 Nissan March. Probably it wasn't sold in the U.S. but it's appearance was like the Honda Civic Hatchback, only that this one had 4 doors. It was better looking that our 79 Datsun pick up and suddenly, she didn't like to be seen on that car anymore. Often, I would drive our humble family car to her house, and leaving it there, we would go out in hers with me at the steering wheel. Although my experiences in life so far had stripped away from me any social status consciousness (and therefore I saw nothing wrong with our old car), suddenly I felt pressured to have a car of my own. At this point I need to explain that in our countries a car is not as affordable as it is in the U.S. Also, our culture does not require that every son and daughter leave the house after age 18. It is perfectly OK, even for boys, to live with their parents until marriage. So, from a practical point of view I had no urgent need to have a car of my own and I was comfortably sharing the family car.

However, when I started my private consulting and have to go and see clients, the need for a car of my own grew to the point for me to take the plunge, pavinging the way  to a whole new set of automotive experiences...

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