A HIDDEN MEMORY GEM REDISCOVERED
I was scanning through old images and ran across one I made of my first and only sports car, a 1972 Volvo 1800e. The instant I saw it, a related memory popped into my reality for the first time in several decades. It was a memory of being in the car, although not about the car. For some reason it has become a memory gem: one of those for-no-reason special memories that remains in your brain. It was trivial in the overall timeline, but something worth remembering and recording.
Of course, the car is worth remembering because it was a hard-to-get model, especially when and how I bought it. The circumstances around the purchase were just memorable as the car.
I was on my way to work in the morning driving on the bypass around Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and passed by a new car dealership that had been under construction for a few months. That morning, the front of the building's show room was obscured by seven long trailers all loaded with new Volvos. Volvo dealers were rare at the time and I don't remember having seen one before this one.
I slowed down to get a better look at the cars - themselves also not common in the US at the time. On the top back of one of the trailers was a small, white sports car that I had never seen in real life; only on the British TV show, The Saint, starring Roger Moore. He drove one just like this one and his was the only one I had ever seen.
I pulled into the parking lot, stopped, and walked over to the truck for a better look. I must have stayed too long because a salesman walked up to me and asked if I was interested in a new Volvo.
I pointed to the car and replied, "I want that one," I said with unusual conviction for someone who had not even thought of buying a replacement for my VW Beetle.
"I can see why you would, but we don't open until Friday," he answered, with equal certainty.
"Can I buy it now since I'm already here?" I asked. "I can give you a deposit now and bring a cashier's check at lunch," I replied as if I did that sort of thing often. I was focused on outcome and not process or other details at the moment.
"Well, we only get one of those because we're a new dealership and we get one of each model. If we sell this one, we can't get another until we sell a hundred of the top of the line sedans," he uselessly informed me.
"So you mean that you'll keep this on the showroom floor until you have sold a hundred of your most expensive cars and then you will sell this one so you can get one more? Why not just go ahead and sell this and get your money now instead of waiting however long it will be before you get your money? Either way you won't get another of these until then anyway, so what do you gain?" I asked. I was on a roll.
He thought about it and a response was not immediate.
"You sell it today or wait a year? That doesn't make sense to me," I continued.
Making the first sale before the first car had been unloaded was a plus, I suppose. "Let me go find the paperwork," he said as he walked off.
I stood there looking at the car and thinking of how much better I was going to look in that fine machine than Roger Moore did.
I finally came back to reality and realized I had not asked the price of the car just before the sinking feeling in my stomach arrived.
The salesman returned, invited me inside, and a seat at his desk. He pushed a form over to me and told me that was the purchase contract and that I could give him the underlined amount as the down payment.
I was so proud of myself that I had not flinched when I saw the price. It was twice as much as the five year old Oldsmobile Cutlass had been when we bought it new. It still ran perfectly and so did the VW. I was beginning to see the possibility of needing a better justification for the purchase than I had on hand, which was none!
Deal done, I went to work and then walked across the street to the Planter's Bank to do the dirty business.
I delivered the check during lunch and they promised to have it ready for me to pick up the next day.
Jules, the wife unit, and I finished dinner and I helped with the cleanup afterwards. We sat on the back porch in the shade while drinking iced tea to escape the late September heat. I thought it might be an appropriate time to mention the purchase, so I gave an accurate account and waited.
"That is a good looking car and I'm glad you saw it before someone else did. Can we go see it?" she asked.
The car was parked beside the showroom and I drove slowly towards it. "Gosh, that looks a lot better than the one on TV," she exclaimed. "I really like it!"
She put an arm around my waist. Solid perfection! Pure gold, she was!
So was the 1800. It was almost two years later before I saw another Volvo like it and it was in passing on the Interstate highway near Miami, Florida; not surprising because the US had been allocated only 500 that year. I loved driving it and even entered road rallies with my friend, John, as navigator. We made first place in the Dirty Hairy rally, in Chapel Hill, and we had fun in all twelve of them had fun in all of them.
My friend Charlie was the only female to drive it because she drove like a man and knew how a car was supposed to feel in a tight curve. That, too was perfection.
Jules agreed that I looked better in the Volvo than Roger Moore.
The Volvo 25 years later. Perfect!
The Memory Gem
Oh, about the memory gem.
I was driving from Rocky Mount to Raleigh around noon to attend a meeting, listening to music and enjoying the ride while in a relaxed, peaceful state of mind. I became vaguely aware of a car passing me on the left on the four lane road. It was barely moving faster than I was and was taking a long time to pass.
As the back of the family sedan drew up even with me, I could see a girl not more than eight feet away from me, on the center of the back seat, turned sideways, her right arm on the top of the seat and her chin resting on her hand. I saw her without thinking about her as anything other than part of the passing car.
My mind noticed that she was looking blankly straight at me as if looking through me. Next, I noticed her massive pile of tightly curled brown hair that was somewhere between an overgrown Afro and a long string mop! It was a glorious pile of hair even during a time when "big hair" was fashionable. Hers was so...THERE...that I first thought she had a Puli dog lying next to her head but realized that was her hair!
It was magnificent! Such hair should be preserved as a national treasure!
I stared at her while my mind was fully enthralled. After what was probably too long to be polite, I saw an honest-to-goodness smile start on her face and as it spread wide and exposed her perfect teeth, I raised my left hand from the steering wheel and gave her a thumb up.
Moving her hand slightly, she raised her fingers from the seat back enough to wave them up and down slowly in turn, giving me a "wiggle wave."
She continued to stare at me until the car disappeared.
At that moment and more than anything, I wanted to know who she was. The encounter was random and magnetically intimate without being sexual. "One of those things" does not describe the effect it had on me and still has on me. Not at all.
When I returned home, I told Jules about it; Jules who had far more curly hair than the average mortal.
"Would mine look good like that?" she asked.
the photos are by @willymac
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