Faux Car, Faux Driver

Today’s post is from Steve.

I’m not sure how it happened, but when I was a kid in central Iowa I fell in love with sports cars. That was in the late 1950s. Where I lived there were almost no sports cars, although I had seen a few Triumph TR3s, a Jaguar or two and maybe a few MGs. Sports cars were exotic and rare in that place and time. Most folks considered them impractical and ostentatious.

My dad knew a man in Ames who owned a sports car, a gleaming black Jaguar XK 120. Dad said this car was kept in a locked garage, and nobody in town (even this man’s neighbors) knew it was there. The owner was one of our town bankers. He only drove his Jaguar late at night when the streets were so dark nobody would spot him in it. I’ve always been amused and saddened by the image of a man infatuated with a flashy car that he could only enjoy in the privacy of total darkness.

Of course, I never got to drive a sports car. Other kids my age made sneak purchases of Playboy magazines that they studied with great longing. I bought copies of Road and Track and engaged in fantasies of zooming through the British countryside in a swoopy red Italian roadster. Our family car at the time—a ponderous Ford station wagon with tail fins–was as far from a sports car as any vehicle could be.

In 1960 my family moved to Minnesota so my dad could start his own stuffed toy animal factory. He joined three businessmen there who invested in his factory. That was the year I went off to college, but I worked summers in my dad’s factory as a shipping clerk.

One day I was summoned to the office. One of my dad’s partners, a man named John, asked me to drive his car home. The car was a Karmann Ghia. My heart jumped. This was a <i>sports car!</i> John wanted me to drive his sports car!

This car had an odd history. It had recently been stolen from a car dealer’s lot where John had left it to be serviced. The stolen vehicle was then used as the getaway car in a bank robbery. While the Karmann Ghia looked sexy, it was just a Volkswagen dressed up in a sexy Italian body. With a 40-horsepower motor, this car couldn’t outrun the slowest cop car on the planet. It was tiny, so if the thieves scored several bags of money there would not be room for them in their getaway car. And you sure have to wonder about the intelligence of a bank robber whose plan was to flee the scene of the crime in a bright orange (and badly underpowered) sports car.

That didn’t bother me. I was just thrilled to drive my first sports car!

I was so pumped up that I didn’t want the ride to end. In Wayzata I took a detour and stopped the Karmann Ghia on a little side road that went to the lake. I switched off the engine and sat there grinning with my wheels almost touching the water. Decades later the rock star known as Prince would tease a girlfriend by telling her she had to cleanse herself in the pure waters of Lake Minnetonka. Not me. I just wanted to enjoy the moment.

Then I started my orange car up and went to back out so I could deliver it to John’s home. Only I couldn’t get the Karmann Ghia in reverse. The gear shift offered no hints about how it could be put in reverse. I desperately sawed the shift shaft through the four forward gears, but reverse was just not there! My wheels were almost in the lake. I couldn’t go forward and I couldn’t go backward. I was stuck.

And I was humiliated. If my memory is good, I began bawling with shame as I sat there. The orange Karmann Ghia was just a faux sports car, a 40-horse Volkswagen in wolf’s clothing. I was just a shipping clerk from Iowa, a faux sports car driver who couldn’t even put this car in reverse. Faux car; faux driver. All my fantasies rushed back to mock me.

As some baboons know, it is good to be a reader. I had a tickle of memory that related to the gear shift on Volkswagens. I thrust the shift shaft downward as if to shove it through the floor. It moved down an inch or two, slid left and then snicked into reverse!

I wiped away my tears, backed away from the lake and drove on to John’s home.

Have you ever suffered humiliation when your dreams crashed against reality?


42 thoughts on “Faux Car, Faux Driver”

  1. Rise and Blush Baboons!

    Fun story Steve, with a nice resolution–just keep fiddling with the stick shift! No humiliation necessary, just perseverance.

    Crashing against reality seems to be an almost daily occurrence! My parents bought me a brownie camera when I was nine years old for a trip I took to California with my aunt and uncle. I imagined all the National Geographic quality pictures I would take. When I took the film to the drug store for processing and the pictures were delivered in an envelope, I had dozens of pictures with my finger across the lens.


    Liked by 4 people

    1. My very first humiliation happened when I was five, and it involved a Brownie camera. I set out with my Brownie to take great pictures, just like you, Jacque. I found a horse hanging his head over a fence. I spent half an hour cautiously approaching this horse until I was close enough to touch it. Then I took my photos. When I got them back I was shocked and embarrassed. Those Brownies had wide angle lenses that helped keep everything in focus (but at the price of introducing distortion). I had shoved my Brownie so close to the face of this horse that the face was HUGE and the rest of the body was ridiculously small. Even as a kid I could see the absurdity of a horse whose body would have fit comfortably in his left ear!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When I was learning to drive, I sometimes practised in my dad’s town car and sometimes in my mom’s bug. Once while driving with my dad but in my mom’s bug I didn’t pull tightly enough heading into the garage so stopped and tried to reverse. In those days the reverse was left and down near 2nd gear, as Steve says, and I just couldn’t be sure I was in reverse. Finally my dad yelled at me to GO. Of course I was in 2nd, so promptly crashed into the side of the garage. Luckily my mom was on the patio and witnessed the whole scenario, so my dad got in trouble, not me!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s the only gear shift I know of where you literally push the stick into the floor to get to reverse. I thought of you, vs, when I wrote my story. I didn’t find reverse by random effort but by remembering an arcane bit of car lore that I once had read. Sometimes being a reader pays off when we are stuck!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Story of the computer. No humiliation here.
      Bought an out of the box small Asus laptop. Did not really want a small one but it was in my price range. Paid to have data transferred. Took it home to download three programs. First was Itunes. But ended up with all the songs in itunes files twice. My stupidity, which would take too long to explain. Then downloaded Open Office, but did not look carefully, as I knew I should, yes I knew that. Indeed. Downloaded not from Open Office’s site but from a mirror site that sneaked in seven other pieces of software, malware or close to it. Computer bogged down. Took it back. They had to delete the seven pieces of software, which took some time, while I stood there like a dumb old fart. Then they noticed my itunes error. They thought the computer still had issues. It had a replaced hard drive, which is why it was out of the box. They kept it to work on it. Day later they called me to get it. I was in the process of dealing with itunes when it crashed. Took it back. Got money back. Studied my options for a few days. Maybe just a chrome book, but would do neither itunes nor open office nor my printer. But I could work around those issues. Maybe a desktop. Smart idea but it would be hard to fit the tower and a monitor in my allowed space at home. Went back and bought an Asus laptop out of my price range. 12 G of memory. 1 T of storage. Flies like a bird. Do have itunes in it properly. So today I have to keep facing down the guilt of spending too much AND downloading Open Office.
      Chrome book was the better idea. For sure. Geek Squad at Best Buy here in Kato are wonderful, neat guys. They did not charge me for anything beyond the initial data transfer, not my two errors. Did not laugh it me that much.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is good they did not laugh at you. That’s a sign of good customer service.

        I always think they can laugh at me all they want after I leave, but while I’m face-to-face with them, at least pretend to think I’m not an idiot.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m stuck at the idea of humiliation. It may be a matter of semantics, but I can’t recall ever being humiliated. Disappointment, when reality falls short of hopes or expectations, is a nearly everyday occurrence but humiliation, it seems to me, suggests a certain amount of delusion, a certain amount of fragility and public exposure. Where, I wonder, in matters of private disappointment, would humiliation come into play?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your reply fascinates me, Bill. Where private disappointment becomes humiliation is in the dashed pride of a person who probably has self esteem issues to begin with. You apparently have not been humiliated because you apparently don’t have a paper-thin ego that is easily torn by daily life.

      I halfway expected this answer from someone. I got a crash course in human psychology when I was thrust into dating in my 60s. One of the many shocks I experienced was learning that other people do not live the sort of interior life I live. Specifically, I described a humiliation I had suffered and asked a woman I was dating when she had experienced the same thing. She said she had never had that experience. I didn’t believe her at first, but I came to see that she could be disappointed in life but never humiliated. I later decided I was a dog at heart, whereas she was a cat. You seem to be a cat, too. You and I should not get married.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was not my intention to engage in Psychology 101, but rather to clarify that which was, to me, a sticking point. It’s my own foible to be halted by words like humiliation that seem to carry so much baggage. It’s my own foible to often over-parse the prompt questions here on the trail to the point where I sometimes am at a loss to respond.


        1. And I’m stuck at Psych 101. I never got a good course in that. In my college, there was a palace coup with a Skinnerian psychology group seizing power from the Old Guard. My basic psych course (the only one I’ve had) was all about reward and punishment and training rats. When I tried to teach my rat to drive a tractor, the rat bailed and I got a C. Been stuck there ever since!

          Liked by 1 person

        2. My Psych 101 was in Northrup Auditorium. The lectures were all recorded and projected on screens. And, if I recall correctly, the lecturing professor was dead.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Probably, but no doubt I’ve suppressed those bad memories. 😉

    Closest to humiliation might have been when I came to the realization that I was most definitely NOT going to become the next (? first?) great white trumpet player from Minnesota. Just in case you don’t know it, or know of some young aspiring musicians, becoming a professional musician and earning a living at it is probably as difficult as becoming a professional athlete or actor. So discourage the heck out of anyone who dreams that dream. If they are willing to persist against all odds–and TRULY have talent, then encourage them as much as you can. The good ones will prevail despite the naysayers, but they need the drive only the naysayers and doubters can give them. (I know, sort of a strange twist of psychology.)

    Chris in Owatonna


    1. A very strong thread in our culture holds that the message we should give to kids is that “you can be anything you want if you dream hard enough and work hard enough.” But that just isn’t true. What are the most attractive goals for kids these days? Being a NBA star. Being a rock diva like Beyonce. Becoming Miss America. Becoming the next Jacqueline DuPre. Acting in feature movies.

      Liked by 3 people

        1. A world-class cellist who was in her prime in the 50s and 60s, if I recall. (might have been later than that). I believe she died at a relatively young age too.



  5. November 9, 2016. The day of humiliation for me as a Clinton supporter. Losing to a waste of humanity is just hard to accept. And my online protagonists continuing reminding me.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Steve, your description of the Karmann Ghia reminded me that at one of my advertising agency jobs (one I left after less than a year), I had as one of my accounts a company that sold kit cars—sleek body shells that could be plopped onto a VW frame. After a fair amount of work, customers were promised a car with the profile of a Jaguar and the blazing performance of a VW bug. The imposture struck me at the time as so desparate, delusional and pathetic that I had the hardest time not allowing my disdain to creep into the advertising.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Blazing performance” of a VW bug? I never drove one, but as a rider in the occasional bug, I never thought “blazing” was an apt descriptor of its performance.


  7. I think most of my humiliating moments were at school. I’ve suppressed those memories.

    I might have more humiliation of dreams crashing against reality if I dared to dream. Or admitted I dream sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Whew! Just packed the van and daughter’s car for our trip to Tacoma . My Psych 101 was taught by Al, a guy had worked for NASA designing instrument panels, Hal, a humanistic guy who left a lucrative job at Boeing to get his PhD in psych to become a professor, and Al, a clinical psychologist who loved to tell gossipy stories about the great psychologists. I always liked tbe one about O. Hobart Mowrer, a famous researcher who was elected president of the American Psychological Association while he was a patient in a state psychiatric hospital. He had bipolar disorder and was having a manic episode.

    Not much humiliation here, just disapointments at times.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I remember sitting with my mom at the GRA (Girls Recreational Assn.) Mother-Daughter dinner, where they were going to announce (in alpha. order) next year’s Bobettes, the high school dance team. I was so certain I would be named that even as they got to the Ws without mentioning me, I thought they had made a mistake. The disappointment was huge, but the humiliating part, in retrospect, was that I had been so sure.


  10. Love the photo – I always thought it would be fun to have a Karmann Ghia. I got to drive my uncle’s MG once, when I was maybe 23… that was cool. Then Wasband had a 64 Porsche that became our car for getting around NYC, and the allure of sports cars was gone.


  11. Oooh, Crudnicks!! Daughter left the door open where my pepper plants were sitting, and the kitten just ate all the leaves off. I babied those things for two months! we will hope the leave regenerate!!!!


  12. Life makes fools of all of us sooner or later. But keep your sense of humor and you’ll at least be able to take your humiliations with some measure of grace. In the end, you know, it’s our own expectations that crush us.
    – Paul Murray

    Liked by 5 people

  13. We will look for wonderful pepper plants on the West Coast as we travel to Tacoma and Portland this week. VS and I will tag team the blog this week, as she is in exotic time zones and I am driving to the coast with Husband and daughter and sll of daughter’s possessions. Send as many posts to both of us as you can, and we will schedule them. I will meet up with Steve in Portland for brunch on Sunday.


  14. Not exactly humiliation stories but while attending college, I worked part-time at a movie theatre right underneath a fancy hotel. I managed to convince the hotel valet manager I can take on another part-time job. All I wanted then was to get behind the wheels of the sports cars. I didn’t get to drive the iconic Porsche 911 but did manged to messed up the power seat settings on a Mercedes SL while trying to figure out how to unlock the car from the inside. I also had a hard time finding the key hole on a SAAB (it was on the center console in front of the gear shifter). Hooked on tuner cars after driving some ordinary looking Honda Accords/Civics that were super powerful. ….. and don’t believe it when the valet tells you he/she didn’t blast your stereo.

    Liked by 1 person

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