MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION - THE CAR IN AMERICA
I counted down the day until I was able to get my driver’s license as
a teenager. A car represented independence and the rest of my life.
My Dad had started a savings account for me when I was born and had
dutifully put in a couple bucks a week every week. We decided a
suitable amount to spend on a first car would be about $500. It
couldn’t just be any car though — this was MY first car. After an epic
back and forth with my parents, who I can now say wisely wanted me to
get a boring dependable car, I was able to get the car of my dreams or
the closest thing that $500 could get me. It was a 1979 Pontiac
special edition “Yellow Bird” Firebird with t-tops.
It was awful. The t-tops leaked in the rain. They were so heavy. I
was pulled over often because it was Iowa and not a lot happened, so
they had time to check in on young girls with crazy cars. Most days I
had to “two foot it” or constantly give the car slight gas so that it
wouldn’t die at intersections. One door had been dented by the farm
boy who sold it to me and it was very much a different shade of yellow
than the rest of the car. But — I adored it. The imperfections made it
My friend Theresa and I would go over to the East side to cruise the
loop most weekend nights. I could drive myself to school. My friend
Mike and I would jump in without opening the doors like Bo and Luke
Duke and then drive around listening to cassette tapes we bought at
the pawn shop. I loved every minute of it.
The car only lasted about six months total before it stopped running.
My uncle Hulie bought the engine off me for about the price of the car
so I could get my next car. I’ve had many cars, a couple scooters and
one motorcycle since, but I’ll probably never love a car more than
We experience life in our cars — we eat in them, sleep in them, watch
movies in them, and they become a small expression of us.
Guide Note: Photos from Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
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Tammy Mercure is a State Guide to Tennessee. She was named one of the “100 under 100: The New Superstars of Southern Art” by Oxford American magazine.