In 1984 or 1985, Bob and I bought our first new car — a toyota blue toyota pickup truck. The little ford fiesta needed serious work as the carborator and other things were giving out. I remember selling it for a few hundred dollars (after all it was still working). It took a special touch to drive the fiesta, if you didn’t shift properly the car lurched because the pistons were not working correctly. Bob took that guy out for a drive, he was the only one who could drive the car and it ran beautifully. Then the guy bought the car and lurched off, we were glad to see it go around the block and out of our lives.
But back to the blue truck, we loved that vehicle. And in 1989 when we were in the process of moving to New York, the car got stolen. I had already gone back east to study geography. And Bob was supposed to join me at the end of the year. Right before thanksgiving, the truck got stolen. It was sitting at the curb near to Zucky’s restaurant which used to be located at the corner of Wilshire and 5th. Next to the truck were tables outside filled with lunchtime dinners on a warm saturday. So it was amazing that when the truck got stolen (Bob was gone a total of 15 minutes), no one saw anything. The thieves smashed the window with a brick (left lying on the ground), hot wired the truck by ripping out the ignition, and drove it away.
The police were not much help, evidently stolen cars were not high on the important work list. But eventually the truck was found down near Lynwood and Watts. It had been driven 13 miles and was missing seats, the shell, the back window, the radio, and all the plastic pieces inside. It’s amazing different a car looks when stripped. Then the insurance company took over. First rip off was the rental car. We had to pay upfront for the rental car and they would then reimburse us. But as professional students we did not have the money for a rental car, so we couldn’t use that benefit. Was able to borrow a car from my parents for a few weeks.
The car was towed to a facility about 5 miles from where it was located. And there it sat. The insurance adjustor was probably hoping to keep the car and thus kept stalling. At this time, toyota seats were more precious than gold in Southern California. The hot crime was stealing the seats from the cars. One friend of ours had her seats stolen at least twice from the same car. Now by this point we had determined that the truck mechanically was still sound, it just needed seats, a window, and some plastic pieces. We called every junkyard in LA county — only one about 1/4 mile from where the car was found could provide seats. Furthermore, given a couple days warning, they would even be able to match the color. This junk yard even gave us a really bad seat that we took to the truck, placed (without any bolts) into the car and showed us how to start the car using a screwdriver. So all it took was getting that car released from insurance. We got 5,500 dollars in credit, spent a 1000 dollars buying it from the insurance company.
Finally, the 35 day waiting period was over, 2 days before we had to leave for New York (4 days driving before we had to be at work). Took the car down to the junk yard and they replaced almost everything in 24 hours. It cost us another 1000 dollars. 500 dollars replaced the shell, we returned to Mar Vista, packed, and left an apartment full of furniture, clothes, books, and everything else for the manager. To be fair, we had called GoodWill, but they would not come until after the new year and we had to be at work on Jan 4th.
Enroute, we had to stop in Barstow to buy new tires since there had been no time before leaving and this was a convenient lunch. Then going across the desert we noticed a flapping noise. Got out and found the junk yard / repair shop had stolen the antenna, but forgot to screw the flap back into place. We could understand the logic — since there was no radio, we didn’t need an antenna. Fixed that flap by tying it closed with an old hairband.
We had many adventures with that truck. Notable was our ignorance of winter, after all we were both Southern California kids. Going to flagstaff was really cold. We thought the heater was broken. Turns out our thermostat was optimized for hot weather and that it was something like 10 degrees below zero. So the truck couldn’t heat up the air and it really was probably blasting us with 40 degree cold. Next adventure was learning about black ice in Chicago. After eating dinner, we skidded across the parking lot. Luckily there was a hotel there were we could spend the night. Good decision because that night there was a 35 or more car crash on the highway, we might well have been part of it if we hadn’t stopped. Then we learned about the importance of windshield wiper fluid. In California, one always uses water, after all it’s free and works. But in cold areas, the water freezes and the windshield wipers are useless. It took a month before it got warm enough to replace the water with real fluid. Lots of ugly scrapping and not much driving during that time period.
Maggie was born in New York. Our truck was a bench seat so we got lucky–the car seat could be put in the middle. Never turned it around backwards, it wouldn’t fit. Today we would have been out of luck, but those were the early days of car seats and so we got away with the bad positions. And quickly she grew. One of her favorite games (although quickly discouraged) was kicking the stick shift controls out of position. After all it was the perfect place to rest her feet.
When we left New York, it was messy. No jobs, no place to live, no money. Bob and Maggie flew out to San Diego where they spent a month living with his parents. Then he flew back to Syracuse, we packed up everything, and drove across the country using borrowed money. When Maggie saw the truck, she was happy. It was like getting a part of her home back. At this point, she was almost 3 years old. Everything familiar had been left in a storage unit in New York, only a few things that could fit in the back of the pickup truck came out with us. We lived out of that truck for a few months, moving between Bob’s parents and my parents houses. We would outstay our welcome at one and move back to the other one for a few weeks.
Eventually we both got jobs and were able to establish a home of our own. And that blue truck served us well for years. Bob drove it back and forth between San Diego and Los Angeles going between work and home. When the odometer got to 400,000 miles and the repairs started racking up, I got concerned about him commuting in it. So we sold it for 400 dollars to a friend. This guy needed a car and we didn’t need it. This was about 8 years ago.
This morning, we saw Dave at Curbside Cafe. And we learned the story of this truck. He drove for two years all over Southern California. He even went to New Mexico and helped his kids move stuff with a trailer hitched to the truck. It helped that he had a mechanic friend who got fixed all the initial problems and helped him keep it running. Eventually after a couple years, he couldn’t get it to pass the smog checks. And he sold it to a co-worker who then sold it to a family down in Mexico. That truck is still going strong, I wonder how many miles it still has. And all of us, Bob, Dave, and myself lamented the loss of that blue truck. Everyone of us loved the car and sold it only because we couldn’t afford the repairs.