Many years ago I had 77 blind dates in one year. I know, I know…
Rod the mechanic was late for our “let’s just kick down a beer and bullshit” date. Those were his exact words during our brief, introductory phone call. However, I was still planning to move forward because I had heard from our mutual friend who’d given him my number that he was Erik Estrada cute and loved to talk cars.
Our go-between was sort of correct, but Rod had a dirty appearance. He looked clean, but grungy. He’d most likely showered, but he was wearing men’s Red Kap indigo blue work jeans. Now, I know my blue-collar uniforms, and, in fact, I am a fan of coveralls and all things Carhartt. But something about wearing work pants to a first meeting in public looked like he either thought he should dress the part, or maybe he just lived in denim and cargo pants. Or maybe he was just clean, but grungy.
“Chicks just don’t know crap about cars,” he grunts about ten minutes into our fifteen-minute-late linkage, he being the late-comer. Whoa, a double red flag in one sentence! “Chicks” and he’s a potty mouth on the first date. Let’s make it a triple red flag for his blatantly sexist-generalized statement, too. Schmuck!
“I have to disagree,” I respond. “I think most women know how to refill gas, anti-freeze, and oil.” He scoffed, so I had to clarify by saying that I wasn’t talking about changing the oil, just topping it off. And I’m sure most can put air in the tires, adjust the mirrors, even hang air fresheners on the rear-view mirror, and all of them have probably seen a TV show teaching them how to get out of a trunk if abducted and locked in.
I immediately don’t like him. Rod imbibes his Michelob in one mouthy swig, then asks me what I drive. I thought this is an open invitation to have a little fun at his expense.
“An AMC Gremlin,” I lie straight-faced. “It’s puce with command seating. What sold me was that the inventor sketched it on an airsickness bag and released his first model on April Fool’s Day.”
Rod isn’t pleased. “You know, vehicles reflect who you are, to some degree; if you don’t care about what you drive, your car says that, too. Well, the car doesn’t say that, but it says it about you. And how can a Gremlin have command seating?”
Quite earnestly I tell him that beginning in the early 1970s, AMC moved towards all-new compact car designs based on the Hornet, which included the Matador and Pacer. In an effort to create a more efficient cost structure, in the 1979 model year, AMC eliminated the Matador line and then, in the 1980 model year, eliminated the Pacer, focusing almost exclusively on their Hornet-based cars. They finally introduced the 4-wheel-drive Eagle and decided to make command seating in the Gremlin to boost sales and stop it from looking so dorky.
Half of this is fact, half fiction. I am just talking at this point. He catches on that I am full of it and wants to know what I really drive.
“A Jeep Wrangler. It’s black,” I add, thinking that might mean something to him. “In the back I carry antifreeze, a flare, bungee cords, and pretty much all over is the remnants of cat stench. Last summer all the cats in my neighborhood thought my topless Jeep was their traveling litter box.”
That was all he needed to know. He was instantly disgusted by me. It seemed that Rod had a button pushed that he couldn’t get unstuck. The tone of the date went downhill from that point on. I wanted to say, “Hey, buddy, it’s not like I asked the cats to pee in there!”
Apparently that wasn’t what Gear Head wanted to hear. He wanted meat, so I threw him a chop.
“My absolute favorite muscle car is the 1966 Dodge Charger. It’s not exactly pretty, but it’s effective. And it provided one hell of a chase for Steve McQueen’s ’66 Mustang Fastback in Bullitt. Chargers are equipped with hemi engines and can go from zero to sixty mph in just six-point-oh seconds, but I’m sure you knew that.”
I had Rod’s attention so I ran with it. “The Charger was introduced on New Year’s Day 1966 and was based on the Coronet, but with a fastback roofline. One difference was it had retractable headlights, giving the car a sporty look.”
I told Rod that my three favorite things about the Charger were the name spelled in block letters across the full length of the back tail light, the rear bucket seats that folded forward individually, and the instrument panel with four large, round pods directly in front of the driver. I even busted out the word “tachometer,” but he only gave me a non-smile, a sort of cocked-head glare.
This guy might have had a set of tools, but he was clearly not the sharpest one in the box.
In a gesture of defiance for all “chicks” out there, I picked up my half-empty glass of St. Pauli Girl, slugged it down, slammed it on the table, smiled, and summoned up a belch. (It was a bit more ladylike than I wanted at the moment, but we do what we can.) And with that, I was out of there.
“I guess I crashed, but I didn’t exactly burn,” I reported back to my dad on the phone that evening.
“I don’t know, Liz. I think things might have gone differently if you worked into the conversation that the secret of your Scout derby trophy was your trick of only three wheels touching the track. Not many girls know there is less friction on three wheels rather than four.”