Adjusting to America

My First Car

By Olga Sapp

BEHIND THE WHEELFirst time we saw it at a used car dealership. It kept somehow aloof, yet drew my husband's attention. He liked the silver-blue Audi immediately. First, it was affordable; second, it was a good brand. My husband took it in his head that I would certainly crash my first car, so he did not want to spend too much money. But, thinking of my safety at the same time, he wanted to choose solid, durable, metal. The next day my husband came home from work and happily informed me that the car is ours and we can pick her up right away. We went there.

I was solemnly presented the keys and got behind the wheel of this nine year old lady. I felt immediately it was a "lady". Unlike my husband's brand new, obedient, Pontiac, she would prove to have a willful temper. After opposing me a little, she started abruptly and we jerkily moved onto the road. After touring a residential area we headed to the highway. Glancing in the rear view mirror I noticed, with displeasure, a small truck tailgating us.

My task was to get on the highway, where cars can rush past with a speed of 50 miles per hour. My husband said, "After this green one, go!". After the green car there was another, and I realized I wouldn't make it but went anyway. Seeing the situation my husband screamed "Stop!". I stopped abruptly and immediately heard the bang of collision. The small truck had crashed into us. I didn't have my driver's license yet so I permitted my husband to handle the discussion with the police. However, there wasn't any debate. It was the truck driver's fault. I knew everybody was guilty: the young truck driver who followed me too closely, me, who's reactions were twice as slow as my husband's, my husband who was unwilling to understand the peculiarities of my thinking, and the car who immediately made a declaration of loathing.

Why she continued to hate me I don't know. I will never know now. I sucked up to her in every way imaginable. I washed her with shampoos, waxed her with the best polish, and sprayed the interior with deodorants. Stubbornly she kept hating me while she favored only my husband. She behaved disgracefully in my hands. She refused to start and sniffed suddenly in the middle of the highway. Once when I made an attempt to park she shut down insolently. She was blocking cars and would not budge. We had to take immediate action so we sent her away for repairs. My husband paid $1500 for the treatment. The mechanics replaced many of her internal organs but a few days later she balked at starting again. We should have returned the car to the shop immediately for them to mend their shoddy work but it was a weekend, so we decided to keep driving her while praying for luck.

After starting the car, my husband gave me the wheel. We left our "village", and headed to the highway. The car was flying among her fellows with a speed of 70 miles per hour. I seized the wheel and, speeding up, felt her slight resistance. We got off the highway successfully, drove up to a store parking lot and chose an empty parking space. I drove up to the curb with green grass behind it. We roamed the store then went back to the parking lot. Once again she car was unwilling to start. So my husband gave me some tips to handle her stubborn temper. I put my left foot on the brake, and my right on the gas and started to alternate pushing the pedals. The car started! I put my left hand on the gearshift and, instead of putting it in reverse, put it in drive. Naturally, when I let my foot off the brake, the car started to slowly climb the curb. My husband screamed "STOP!". My primary foot was on the gas so I pushed it as hard as I could. My left foot was on the brake pedal, you know.

Then events developed with the lightning speed. I saw the green line of lawn approaching but didn't manage to push the brake. It felt like we flew right into a ditch that was hidden from our view by a small line of stunted bushes The car flapped her front wheels in the air then gravity crashed us in the ditch. The front end dug into the soft, damp, ground, while the rear end remained on top of the ditch. As we hung in our seats at a 45 degrees angle and I came to, my husband realized that we were alive and started to kiss me. But I couldn't accept my failure in either a direct or metaphorical sense of the word. There were people running up to us to offer help, police car alarms, and a crashed car. A policewoman trying to bring me to my senses said, " It is all over, it is all behind." My husband assured me that it happened to him to when he began driving. Nothing helped. Feelings of guilt and pictures of the crash repeating in my mind left me despondent. In few days I calmed down. My friends helped me, first laughing at the story, and second, blaming my husband for letting me get behind the wheel of a broken car. My guilt was gone. Besides, I realized it was a gloomy event but we are alive and nobody got hurt because of us. We got lucky.

She suffered the most. She chose to die over my friendship. But in the history of my driving experience our names will always be together. They will recall us this way; "Remember, it was that year when Olga flew in her car?" or " Yes, it is the Olga who wanted to fly in her old Audi." It will almost be true. In fact we left the ground and, for fraction of a second, soared over it. At that moment I didn't have time to be scared, but had a feeling of great astonishment. I don't know what she felt but I am sure some unusual excitement passed through her metal nerves.

My nerves and, by the way, my husband's nerves were broken during the aborted flight and needed a long, arduous, rehabilitation. I was scared to get behind the wheel and my husband Warren was horrified to see me in driver seat. Speaking of feeling of guilt, it replaced with feeling of tremendous responsibility. I will always remember my husband's friend Jim who said, "Drivers are always responsible for everything happening on the road, even if a brick falls from the sky." God forbid! I have had enough flying heavy objects.

Translated by Alla Musshorn

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