In 1983, my parents decided that a new, larger-than-what-they-had car was necessary if they were to haul all the whatchadoozits I required on trips of any length. Their wise and wonderful choice was a new Volvo. It was a blue sedan, had a manual transmission, and ran on diesel fuel. It was, in short, a beautiful car, and would serve as the official transportation unit of the Rutledge family for many years to come.
Most people look at a Volvo, especially a Volvo from the '80s, and see a clunky box with wheels. I know such people are misled, underinformed, and Have Not Seen the Light. In truth, Volvos are quite possibly the best cars on the road. I readily admit to knowing almost nothing about cars, but I do know that The Volvo lasted 13 years, breaking 100,000 miles and enduring The Roads of Italy with little more than rusty floorboards to show for it. This is the story of The Volvo...
During The Technicolor Years, The Volvo was simply the Car In Which I Always Rode. Even then, however, I had a bond with that car. I liked the uncomfortable hard plastic carseat I eventually sat in. I enjoyed sitting on top of the armrest that folded down in the middle of the back seat, even though I knew I wasn't supposed to. I liked the oddly spicy taste that came of sucking on the seatbelt straps. Strange, you say? Perhaps so, but that's the way it was.
Eventually, we moved to Italy, and The Volvo came with us. These are the years I remember best, I think, or at least they are the years I enjoy remembering the most. The house was near the top of a tall, steep hill. The only road up that hill was narrow, had endless switchbacks, and required the negotiation of a strait created by two buildings at its base. This entryway was more narrow than the road itself, and opened onto a fairly busy coastal road; I can't imagine the way my mother felt when she first went through that tiny fjord of a street, but I do know that Italy is where I learned that it's OK to swear if you're driving. My memories of that windy road are quite fond, although they have no real right to be. The day we brought Murphy home, she got seasick going up that road. Puppypuke left permanent stains on the upholstery, and temporary stains on me. The smell was gone by the time we moved to Florida. Another time, my mother was navigating the fjord, when some Italiano went whizzing through narrow space on his moped. A pedal caught the side of The Volvo, leaving a hole in the body right beneath the driver side rear door. My mother was incensed, but nothing ever really came of it, aside from an almost-decent patch job, that I recall.
There were, of course, other good times in Italy besides those on the road up the hill. The Squeeze, where an infinite number of lanes are dropped into one for the length of a city block, is one. I suppose it goes without saying that massive traffic jams were the result of The Squeeze, and that it often took absurd amounts of time, upwards of an hour, to travel that short distance. An amazingly boring and slow trip inside The Volvo and behind one of the orange public busses (built by the Inbus company, and notorious for not moving quickly when ascending slopes of any kind) inspired my first literary work, which I never officially titled, but is easily referred to as "The Inbus Poem:" "Never trust an Inbus, 'cause an Inbus is an "up" bus, and an up-bus goes up hills!" I am surprised at the sense of rhythm I have lost since that day on a hill in Naples. When I had to go to the Emergency Room to have Palm Tree Spines removed from my leg, it was The Volvo we trusted in the middle of the night. It hurt, but somehow that car was comforting. Once I got to the ER, of course, the screaming commenced, but that was only because they used a needle to administer the novocaine. When my parents left me to the confines of the Evil Crucifix Room, it was the receding red light of The Volvo's taillights at which I wailed in terror, not stopping until long after the fading pinpricks of crimson had disappeared. It was in The Volvo that I frightened Chuck and Laura to the tune of "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves."
Eventually, we left Naples for a place on the West coast of another peninsula. In Florida, The Volvo continued in its role as Official Vehicle, and was joined by another Volvo, a grey '91 (I think it was a '91...may have been a '90) that my father drove. This was exciting, as the new car had a leather interior and a fun little secret compartment in the armrest, plus some really nifty sticky black stuff that lined the rear windows. Even so, my true loyalties stayed with The Volvo.
By some miracle, The Volvo survived to Texas. By this time, it had begun spewing black grit from its tailpipe, and occasionally gave trouble on the road, but it still ran. Eventually, though, something had to give. One day, on our way to the mall, my mother and I found ourselves stranded in the middle of the Tomball Parkway (or Hwy 249, whichever you want to call it). The Volvo had fallen ill, a convalescent on an asphalt bed. This was, needless to say, the beginning of the end for The Volvo. One of my last memories of The Volvo before it was sent off to Star Motor Cars is of riding shotgun, singing along to "Rescue Me," right after a trip to Wal-Mart. Odd, the things we remember.
Curt at Star helped my mother find a replacement, another Volvo. This was a program car, a used '96 dark silver sedan that she still drives. I still have a set of The Volvo's keys in a drawer at home, and, every so often, I still jingle them about. They have a very specific sound to them, one that no other set of keys can make. I miss that car.
Back To Writings
Copyright © 2001 Adam Rutledge