The Price of College

As a 30-year high school teacher I now realize how important a teenager’s first car is. It’s little wonder, then, that I was deeply disappointed in my first car, a 1950 Studebaker.

I bought the car from a little old lady across the street who kept the car in the garage most of the time, preferring to walk rather than drive her Studebaker to nearby stores, and who would blame her. Despite being nearly ten years old, the car had less than 40,000 miles on it, and, given the opportunity it probably could have lasted another ten years.

I hated it the moment I saw it. But I was still living at home and working for my dad, so his opinion weighed heavily, very heavily, on my decision to buy it to get to college. He thought it was a very practical car. So did I. A sure strike against it. The front seat had sunken so I needed to put blankets under the seat covers so I could see out the windshield, and at 6 foot I wasn’t’
particularly short. Later I discovered that the car had spent so much time in the garage that the rubber gasket holding the windshield in place had dried out, and water poured in when I drove down the freeway in the rain, an all-too-common event in Seattle.

I suppose I should have been grateful to own a car at all. After all, I drove around West Seattle picking up fellow students who couldn’t afford a car. Without a car it was a long, arduous trek to the U.

I wasn’t. Grateful. The car had “LOSER,” or, worse yet, “NERD,” written all over it. Despite Studebaker’s claims it was “the car of the future,” it was really the car with no future, and it didn’t take a genius to figure that out. Perhaps, in a way it really was the perfect car for a college student, one who had sacrificed the now for a future that never quite turned out the way he hoped it would.

Luckily my high school girl friend and I had parted ways at the end of my senior year because it would have been embarassing to pick her up in that car after years of picking her up in my dad’s sporty car. I know I wouldn’t have taken her to high school football games and shown up in front of old friends.

I still blame that Studebaker for the fact that I dated very little the first two years of college, though, in truth, working 30 to 40 hours a week while attending college full time and being naturally shy might have had as much to do with that as the car. Still, when I was finally able to afford a better car my senior year I could hardly work enough hours to pay for all my dates.