Among the many things that attracted me to my wife when we first met - her smarts, her looks, her superhuman ability to put up with me - one of the leading factors was that she owned a car.
I am using the word "car" loosely here, as the vehicle she owned when we met was a Ford Pinto. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this model, I have a theory regarding how Ford came up with its name.
First automotive executive: "This new car is really small. We need to find a name that disguises the fact that it's just a breadbox on wheels."
Second automotive executive: "Yeah, it's a weenie little thing. One might even say that it's a pint o' car." First executive: "That's brilliant. We'll shorten 'pint o' car' into Pinto!"
Despite its lack of oomph (rubber band-powered balsa airplanes have more snort) and its general tininess, my wife adored her little Pinto. When I asked her why she bought that particular vehicle, she replied, "Because it's a pretty shade of blue and I really like blue."
As good a reason as any, I guess.
We continued to drive the Pinto for a year after we were wed. We traded it in shortly before our oldest son was born due to safety concerns. Not so much because of the Pinto's reputation for bursting into flames during rear-end collisions, but mainly due to worries that it was so corroded that it looked as though it might, without warning, randomly disintegrate into a jumbled pile of rust.
They don't make cars like they used to. Thank goodness.
Back in the good old days, corrosion was such a problem that I suspect some cars came off the assembly line with large amounts of rust preinstalled. Like Tom Cruise, modern cars don't seem to change with age. And like Tom Cruise, I find this a bit creepy.
The Pinto's tires were approximately the size of a Krispy Kreme donut, but were less resilient. I say this because my wife would often get flat tires on her drive into work. She would call me and I would remove the offending wheel and take it to the tire shop. The tire guy would re-inflate the tire and find nothing amiss. His theory was that the bead of the wee tires broke when the car hit a bump. He was right. My wife had no more flats as long as she took it slow over any bump that was larger than a thimble.
We traded the Pinto off for a Chevette. I'll admit that this wasn't an upgrade size-wise, but the Chevette came with numerous advantages. Among them were improved safety features and a monthly payment that kept us out of the shopping mall.
The Chevette, like the Pinto, was woefully underpowered. If you were driving on the interstate and wanted to pass a truck, you had to start the process an hour ahead of time.
The Chevette was totally worthless on snow. Not only did it have ground clearance that was low enough to spook a snail, its dearth of horsepower rendered it incapable of dashing through any snow deeper than a sparrow's ankle.
For instance, my wife needed to go to town one winter's day. She secured our two sons, one of whom was a baby and the other a toddler, in the back seat of the car. She backed out of our driveway, pointed the Chevette down the gravel road and went - nowhere.
The car's back tires were spinning on a small patch of packed snow. It would be similar to getting your roller skates stuck on a wad of gum.
Frustrated, my wife swiftly devised a plan. She put the Chevette into first gear, let out the clutch, opened her door, jumped out and gave the car a shove.
Her plan worked better than expected. The Chevette indeed moved off the patch of snow, but it also kept right on moving. The car began to slowly motor away, our oldest son gazing out the back window with a look of astonishment on his face.
He was no doubt impressed that his harried mother had somehow found the time to invent a driverless car.
My wife ran after the car, caught up to it and leaped into the driver's seat. Watching all those episodes of Batman when she was a girl had paid off.
We now own a car that has more computing power than a Google campus. It even sends us monthly emails to share how it's feeling.
Which is pretty cool. But I sometimes long for the time when car problems were simple enough to be fixed with a shove.
Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.