Question: What weighs a little over a ton and shares its name with a lady of the night?
Answer: A 1989 Ford Escort.
The 1989 Escort was my first car. She became mine 19 years ago – the summer after my sophomore year in high school. That Escort was a simple car: no air conditioning, no power windows, no power locks, no power anything. It was so small, it didn’t have horsepower; it had Shetland horsepower. But it also didn’t have any rust, it got fantastic mileage, and it was a good fit for a guy who had to sit on a pillow when he drove the driver’s ed Chevette two years earlier.
When you buy a car, you need to give it a name that sticks… a moniker that gives the car some personality. If you don’t believe me, just ask my friends and family who had vehicles named Bingo Mobile, Oregon Explorer, Green Machine, Brownie Mobile, and Electric Duck. My car’s name came about almost instantly, thanks to help from my friends: the Silver Streak. The Streak didn’t travel to any exotic places during high school, but it still had its share of adventures.
At first, I would drive it to school every once and a while, just to get some miles on it. That seems fairly normal, until you realize that I lived ONE BLOCK AWAY from the high school. What can I say? Teenagers will look for any excuse to drive their car, even if you can reach your destination before the heater warms up.
Eventually, the adventures began…okay, not really “adventures,” but more like “interesting occurrences.” I slid it nose-first into the ditch on a gravel road (luckily no damage). I backed it into another guy’s car after post-prom my junior year (guess what? no damage again). On a trip to sell yearbook advertising, we fit six people in it (the owner’s manual said the seating capacity was four; boy, were they wrong on that one!). My newspaper co-editors and I would go to Wal-Mart to pick up developed film, and somehow we’d “end up” at Dairy Queen. Maybe the car had a mind of its own?
College saw more of the same. I assumed the role of designated driver to help out my friends who liked to drink tasty beverages. I drove it to Decorah, Dubuque, Dyersville, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Edgewood, Oelwein, and everywhere in between. It got packed to the ceiling every time I moved between home and school (and believe me, you can fit a LOT of stuff in an Escort if you know how to play Tetris). It made frequent trips to Burger King, which doesn’t sound like much until you consider the round trip from college to the nearest Burger King was about an hour and 20 minutes. Sometimes you’ll do anything to have it your way.
After I graduated from college, the Streak stayed with me as I sold and delivered Cedar Rapids Kernels tickets for a summer job. Then it got me to my first official “real job” as a graphic designer/columnist for a certain weekly newspaper which will remain nameless here.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. In 2002, good ol’ Silver Streak was 13 years old and was starting to show her age a bit, in performance but not in appearance. She had somewhere over 150,000 miles, but still no rust. She held up well, but it was time to upgrade. From a 1989 Escort, I moved up to a 1999 ZX2 (translation: sportier-looking Escort), a car that stayed with me for nine years.
They say you shouldn’t get attached to material possessions, and I agree with that. But a car is different. It’s with you when you go on dates… and road trips with your buddies… and late-night runs to Burger King. If you’re lucky, it’s with you for a long time and you become attached to it. That’s how I felt about the Silver Streak. It was dependable and made a great companion for life on the road. Almost two decades later, I still feel the same way.