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I Married a Gearhead

All I know about cars is they need gas. The rest I leave up to my wife

My wife comes from a family of, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, gearheads. Her 50-something parents just bought a sports car. I constantly hear family conversations about stock-car racing, engine overhauls and what kind of wrench delivers the most torque. And though my father-in-law has never openly admitted it, I think he's a little disappointed his daughter married someone who thinks "headers" is a soccer term.
My wife, gleefully knowing I have no idea what she's talking about, sometimes mentions "glass packs," "dual exhaust" and "four-barrel carburetors" in the course of a conversation. Apparently these are parts of a car. Not one that I have ever owned, however.

They say you can tell a lot about a man's personality by the type of car he drives. If so, that would define me as slow, rusty and hopelessly out of date. Which isn't surprising, considering my taste in cars falls toward the frugal end of the spectrum. My wife, on the other hand, would categorize it as embarrassingly cheap. I'd buy a sandbox on four wheels if it was priced under $1,000 and someone told me it got good gas mileage.

To give you an idea, I once bought an ugly 1973 Honda Civic for $1,000. I then spent almost $2,000 on repairs and sold it a year later for $325-so I'd have the funds to buy something even more hip: an AMC Pacer.

My wife called it "a fish bowl on wheels" and was mortified to be seen anywhere near it. Yet of all the cars I've owned, it remains my favorite. Those distinctive wrap-around windows. The dissolved paint on the roof due to a previous owner's bizarre chemical accident. The engine with all the power of a portable sewing machine. All of those features-plus the $700 price tag-made the Pacer a natural for me. I drove it until a part called the "brain" wore out. At least that's what my in-laws told me. I half-expected them to say my car also needed new lungs. Thinking back on it, I suspect they made it all up just so I'd unload the car.

It's not that I don't like nice cars, it's just that I never learned to get excited about them. In high school, when most kids dreamed of driving their dads' sleek, fast cars, my family drove a 1971 Toyota Corolla. My brother and I christened it The Death Machine. It was robin's-egg blue (at least what you could see behind the rust), got great gas mileage and boasted a top speed of 50. It was the type of vehicle you'd find in a children's book called "Sammy the Car Saves Happyland."

I learned to ignore ridicule. While my friends would spend $20 on gas for the weekend, just to cruise up and down State Street in their big Chevys, listening to Beach Boys music while they compared carburetors and chrome exhaust pipes, I trolled along in The Death Machine, grabbing all the gusto I could at 30 miles per hour.

Maybe that's why speed never appealed to me. Through the course of our marriage, I've slowly driven my wife insane by ambling down the road at 47 mph, my brain operating like a blank Etch-a-Sketch, oblivious to the line of traffic behind me. I suppose I could go faster, but why?

The same slow-lane philosophy applies to auto body repair. When our current car, an Oldsmobile station wagon, started to rust, my solution was to rub the rust spots a little, then spray reddish-brown primer on them. The bill: $2.69. I never got around to the finish paint, but since the primer was roughly the same color as the car I didn't think it would matter. When the rust reappeared, I simply sprayed on more primer. The car now looks like it's camouflaged for military duty.

This year, the station wagon is dying a slow death. It has 171,000 miles on it, and bits of rusted metal fall off every time someone slams a door. My wife and kids have been after me to buy a minivan, and I'm sure if it were up to them they'd go out and get something boring and expensive.

But I have my eye on something a little older, for a lot less money. We can always spray some paint over the psychedelic flowers.

Jim Killam is a freelance writer living in Rockford, Illinois. He can be easily spotted on any major highway.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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Adventure; Differences; Marriage
Today's Christian Woman, Fall, 1996
Posted September 12, 2008

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