I learned to drive at 35, after moving from Manhattan to Charlotte, NC.
I hadn’t learned to drive in high school, and once I moved to Manhattan to go to Parsons and study design, I spent the next 17 years without even thinking of driving. Who needs a car when you have the yellow river? Just stand on the curb, stick your arm out and you’ll have a ride within seconds.
That had to change when I moved down South. Everything is spread out down there, w-a-a-y out. It would have taken me over a half hour to walk from my house to the nearest bus stop for an hour-long ride into town – the same trip would be only 20 minutes by car. Since bumming a ride from my elderly grandma wasn’t going to be a dependable option, I had to learn to drive.
I started on a second-hand Oldsmobile, but sold that when I got laid off from a job and wasn’t sure I’d be able to make payments. At the time my grandma was out of commission with a broken ankle, so I used her car. But when she got better, the first thing she wanted to do was drive, and my work-search schedule was in direct conflict with her early-morning Wal-Mart runs. I had to find my own car, no doubt about it.
I put the word out, asking if anyone had a car I could borrow until I was able to buy another used one. A friend’s roommate came through with a miraculous offer: he had a vintage BMW, only slightly messed-up, that he’d give me. He’d rolled it in a ditch one drunken evening at one of Charlotte’s notorious house parties, and it was a little banged-up here and there. Once he re-aligned it it drove fine, with just a very slight tendency to veer left if you let go of the steering wheel for too long. He worked at an architectural firm and in spite of the car being a 1985 BMW 528e, his bosses asked him to please not drive it to work anymore as they were afraid it ruined their image. The guy was embarrassed and was just about to give it up for scrap when I came along. So for one dollar we transferred the title, and the car was mine. At first, I called it Lefty.
But Lefty was beige, and that’s NOT my color, even if you do make it slightly shimmery and call it champagne. A paint job was definitely in order. Black, red and green with yellow flecks on the top edge of the wheel wells and white polka-dots all over? Now you’re talkin’! The Dotmobile was born. And after I cracked the back bumper even more than it was already cracked by backing up into a tree one time when my back window was too foggy, I added red and yellow plastic flowers back there to disguise the mess.
I drove The Dotmobile around Charlotte for several years, but gave her away when I moved to Europe. She lives down in Wilmington now, at the Juggling Gypsy, either neglected, made over or both.
Here’s a video of Dot in the making.
And even though I don’t have a car anymore, I do have the Dotbike . . .