This is the story of my first car, a 1995 silver Ford Thunderbird. It went by many names, most of which incorporated four-letter words I screamed when one of a million things went wrong. Thunder Cunt and Thunder Fuck were a couple of favorites. It also answered (involuntarily) to Thunder Chicken and The Millennium Bird. But the best and most memorable name was The TTTB: The Time Traveling Thunderbird. After facing certain death driving this thing all across Memphis, TN, it's amazing I'm still alive today.
Here is a list of everything (that I remember) that was wrong with ole Triple TB.
1. Broken Driver's Side Door Handle
This is probably THE most annoying thing about the car. Which door and handle is the absolute most crucial for the operation of any vehicle? The driver's side (unless you're a mom, in which case it's the sliding door of your minivan). If the passenger side door handle was messed up, the driver would let you in no problem. But what if the driver's side handle is gone? There isn't always a passenger available to generously let you in after unlocking their door. So what does one do when the simple task of opening a door means crawling over two entire seats to open it?
A 1995 silver Ford Thunderbird that aged much more gracefully than the TTTB (for visual reference).
2. Easy Access Driver's Side Window
Now, that title might make the window sound like some great safety feature, or some enhancement added to make the car a more formidable opponent in this car-eat-car world. Well, it was an enhancement of sorts. When you were too tired or lazy to walk to the other side of the vehicle, open that door, lean across the 2.3 acres inside the vehicle and open the driver's door, then crawl back out, shut the door behind you, walk back around the car to the driver's side, then get in, there was a fail safe way to get around this: Dukes of Hazzard that shit.
That's right, the window could simply be pushed down (a trick I learned three months after opening it the old-fashioned way aforementioned) to allow one to reach inside and open the door from the inside. Or to simply jump in through the window like you were in the effing General Lee. So once I hustled my way into the driver's side seat, I had to get that window back up. No problem, right?
3. No Power Locks/Windows
Let's put it this way: they were great brakes… about 27% of the time.Wrong, huge problem. None of the power windows or locks worked. So I couldn't just roll the window up… per se. I had to put one hand on the outside, one on the inside, grip it as tightly and awkwardly as possible, and pull up on the window. But that only got it so far, because then I had to get that other hand back inside. So I would have to put both hands on the inside and forcefully push on the window, slipping and cursing the entire time. But it's okay, now I can sit down on my…
4. Torn Up Seats
These seats looks like a damn rhino made love to them, then found out they weren't female, then the seat called him a bitch in front of his homies. These things looked rough. Imagine putting a seat full of metal and foam into a giant blender for a few seconds… that was them. Luckily Walmart had a $20 fix for that called "seat covers." I don't think the term seat covers was intended to imply that they "cover" your seats to protect them, but rather that they "cover" up the burned Swiss cheese mess your ass sits on whilst you drive. Unfortunately, that only fixed one of my problems with the seat. The other one?
5. Permanent Gangsta Lean
"Now lean back, lean back, lean- NO NOT THAT FAR!!"I know, I know, that title sounds like a good thing right? Not in this case. As much as I like ordering fast food from the back seat and not seeing anything shorter than an NBA player in front of me while driving, it kind of sucked. Not to mention the back problems it can cause in the future! For those of you not familiar with a gangsta lean, it's when you lean the front seat all the way back so your head is about where a child's head would be… in the back seat. But this couldn't be just any gangsta lean, it was a one-sided gangsta lean. That's right, only the left side of the seat was broken and leaned back, while the right was only slightly leaned. This means I was constantly driving around looking like I was in the background of Snoop Dogg's video for "Gin and Juice." Speaking of one of the greatest early hip hop songs of all time, I need to get some tunes rolling!
6. Busted Fuse Radio
As much as I love cassette tape players—I own three tape cassettes: Korn (self-titled), Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory, and some random songs I recorded off the radio—I wasn't going to be jamming them, so I went and bought myself a nice new CD player. It was awesome; it had a USB jack to input flash drives for playing mp3's years before other stereos started doing it.
Being a cheap asshole, I decided to install it myself. Well, something sparked and smoked while putting it together, and then blew something up. The stereo worked, but it reset every time I turned the car on and off. This meant that not only could I not save radio station presets, or that my CD wouldn't start playing where I left off, but I constantly was tricked into thinking it was sometime after noon, or midnight. It seems like it was always 12:05 while driving that thing around. Oh well, at least the radio worked. My God, it had to in order to cover up the sound of…
7. The Rattle
No, The Rattle is not the next big screen horror movie, or some comic book character that uhhh… does something with rattles…. The Rattle is the only word I can think to describe the sound that bellowed from beneath my car when it took flight. It sounded like a cross between constantly running over a giant orange road hazard barrel and constantly having the underside of my car hit with a hammer by a gremlin, as if he were on the porch of an Old West ranch ringing the dinner bell. It was a pretty god awful sound. So bad that I lived in constant fear of the entire TTTB falling to pieces at any moment. I got it checked out and the mechanic told me it was nothing that I needed to take care of immediately, but that I did need to get to it eventually. Which in my book means "fuck it." Oh well it's not like I had to worry about…
8. No Brakes
Okay well "no brakes" might be a slight exaggeration, but… they certainly weren't very good brakes. Many a time was I nearly run over getting off Sam Cooper at Highland because I was slippin' and slidin' all over the place trying to get off the ramp. Let's put it this way: they were great brakes… about 27% of the time. The other 72% of the time they were awful. And that other 1%? That's when I was completely unaware I had brakes at all. But at least I didn't have to worry about no brakes when it was raining, because…
9. Rain = TTTB Shutdown
This thing was so shitty that if I so much as ran over a puddle, my car would give out and die. Anywhere. Including the interstate and Germantown Parkway. It got so bad that I literally could not drive in the rain, and if I did I risked an almost certain stranding in the middle of nowhere. This is actually where the term Time Traveling Thunderbird comes from.
Never failed; every time this piece of shit rear view mirror fell, no matter where my face was, it hit me on the bridge of my nose. It was Monday August 29, 2005 and I was on the way back from a studio in the middle of nowhere. If the date sounds familiar, it's because it was the day Hurricane Katrina hit—and the day it made its way through Memphis. Granted, it wasn't a hurricane anymore, just a really pissed off grandpa hurricane way past his prime, but it was storming its ball sack off. Sideways rain. It was sucking hard out there. We managed to get about halfway home when the inevitable happened: Dead Car. We joked and said if we could push it 88 mph (if you don't get the reference, please just Google "88 mph," thanks) we would jump back in time and save ourselves from the drive. Thus the Time Traveling Thunderbird was born. Too bad we just ended up pushing it off the road a few feet. Fortunately, we managed to find someone to pick us up, and I returned to pick up the car the next day (half wishing it was gone). It wouldn't have been such a big deal driving through a hurricane if I didn't have…
10. The Levitating Windshield Wiper
It's anybody's guess what's happening on the road through the driver's side.No, it's not a super sweet magic trick, it's what my driver's side wiper did when I drove over 40 mph. Once again, just the driver's side. In fact, in retrospect, maybe I should have converted this thing to be a right side driving car… hmm, that woulda been schweet!
Anyway, once I hit the magic number 40 mph, my left windshield wiper would wildly flail about in the open air, like a kid out of Ritalin running with a kite and only 5 feet of string. When it rained, I'd have to decide whether I was going to drive under 40 mph, or move my body to look out the amazingly clear passenger half of the windshield. Sometimes I had to do both. At least I didn't get a flat tire, ‘cause then I'd have to deal with…
11. No Lug Nut Key
You know how some cars have a special lug nut on the rim with weird squiggles on it? No, there's nothing wrong with it, it's actually an anti-theft feature designed to prevent would-be thieves from stealing your tires. It's actually a pretty smart invention. Unless you don't have the special lug nut key to take it off yourself in case of a flat.
So what happened when I finally blew a tire? Shit, that's what happened. The key is normally stored in the glove box, or with the jack and spare tire, but mine was nowhere to be found. Luckily my father is a real life MacGyver and finagled his way into getting the lug nut off to change the tire. After that wonderful adventure I balled my hands into a fist and hit my…
12. Cracked Dash
I've seen some cracked dashboards before, but this thing looked like it was dug out of the tomb of Tutankhamen and set fire by grave robbers. It was in such bad shape I wondered why I still had it. Or what the hell had happened to it. Did the previous owner shoot it? Knife it? Axe it? Bomb it? It sure as hell looked like it. Sun can't eff up a dash that damn bad. I thought about replacing it, or simply removing the damn thing to see what it would look like; surely no dashboard was much cooler looking than a nasty crusty one. Too bad that wasn't the same reasoning I had with my arch nemesis of the car…
13. The Jerry Rigged Rear View Mirror
The rear view windshield stem had fallen off long ago. Where was the next rational place to stick the mirror? Wedge it between the car ceiling and the sun visor. It actually worked great… until it would randomly (and I don't really think it was all that random, because it would happen at the most inopportune times) fall on me. Now it wouldn't have been such a huge deal if it fell and landed on my thigh, or my lap—hell I'd rather it landed on my nuts than where this heat-seeking bastard ALWAYS fell: the bridge of my nose.
Never failed; every time this piece of shit fell, no matter where my face was, it hit me on the bridge of my nose. Put your finger where the middle of your eyebrows are (or your unibrow you hairy bastard), move your finger down about a half inch, then tap that boney ass part of your nose with a fingernail. It's pretty uncomfortable, and depending on how much of a man you are and how hard you tapped, it probably hurt a little bit.
Now imagine a two-pound mirror falling one foot and unexpectedly hitting you right there, totally out of the freaking blue. Not only did it hurt, it scared the living shit out of me. Do you know how many homeless people/puppies/midtown bikers I almost hit because I thought the Scranton Strangler had risen from the backseat and decided to make me his next victim? That shit sucked hard. It's not like I needed the mirror though, this car was so banged up…
14. I Didn't Care When People Hit My Car
This thing had so many dents, dings, scrapes, and paint on it that wasn't mine, that I didn't care when I hit something, or when things hit me. I remember ramming many a Walmart cart in the parking lot at 2am with my friend Jesse; it was fun, and it didn't matter, ‘cause someone else had already used my car to storm the Fortress of Helm's Deep (again, if you don't get the reference, Google it).
In fact I remember being stopped at a red light once, and a lady backed out of her driveway and rammed right into me. My car had so many dents and shit that the first thing the lady said was, "I didn't do dat!" (I like to imagine she snapped her fingers twice and rocked her head side to side while puffing her lips out and making eye contact—too bad she didn't). My car was so messed up that she wanted to make sure both she and I knew she didn't cause the massive scrape from the front of my car all the way to the back tail light by simply bumping into me while I was stopped. I just said, "Yeah I know, looks fine, I don't care, have a nice day," and left. I was more shocked at how you could get in a car, see that I was parked behind you, then drive your car into mine knowing I was there. But oh well, shit happens.
Sadly, the TTTB met its match one summer's day on North Parkway (the best place to have your car blow up!) and we had to part ways. A blown radiator was just too much to fix, and I was long overdue for a new (read: different) car.
All and all, I liked that car. Sure it was a death trap and the very bane of my existence, but it got me from A to B, and that's all we really need from a car. The car was a gift from my godfather and I genuinely appreciated it. If I ever become insanely rich, I would probably buy another 1995 silver Ford Thunderbird for nostalgia… then promptly destroy it, not only out of rage, but out of respect, to look like my old one. But I loved (lie) my old TTTB and I'd like to believe it made me the man I am today.
Now I drive a fucking Ford Taurus station wagon. An effing mom mobile… and a money pit. I've had to fix that lemon three times since buying it (from my parents, who also paid to fix it, so it's all good). But hey, it gets me from A to B right?