It’s coming up on our 42nd anniversary! Do you remember last year? We have gone through many cars, but one car stands out as the Most Bizarre Car Story.
Mitch and I met at the University of Miami (the Florida one). I was in the lobby of our dorm with my roommate Tami, when a friend I knew from Long Island introduced me to a long-haired dude named Mitch from Buffalo. Tami and I said a quick “Hi” and fled to the elevator.
The next day, a few friends and I were invited to a party off-campus, but we didn’t have a car. It was 1976, and we didn’t have cell phones, Ubers, or Lyft; the only way to travel was to hitch, at least in our minds. We arrived safely at the party and stayed for several hours. It was close to midnight when I stepped out to the patio, saw Mitch, who I knew had a car, and asked him, “What time is it?” It was a lame opening line but my ultimate goal was a ride back to the dorms.
(Mitch later opened a watch store called Watch World and always loved that one of my first lines to him was, “What time is it?” -He sold Watch World in the 1990s and it is still in business over 40 years later!- We started dating immediately after this second-chance meeting.
Other Uses for a Screwdriver
Mitch’s first ride in Miami was a boring brown Ford Custom 500 with a sticker on the back saying Save our Water, Drink Southern Comfort, but it still had wheels, seats, and an engine. Later he moved on to a HOT Plymouth Duster 340, where I learned to drive a stick shift. We had to insert a screwdriver into the carborator to start the Duster, but other than that, it worked – and it was fast! Unfortunately, Mitch couldn’t afford the gas, which was about .60 cents per gallon.
He traded in the Duster that summer for a very cool Red and White VW Party Bus. The first time I saw it, I had just flown into Buffalo to visit Mitch. I asked him if I could drive it, and on the way back to his house, I accidentally stepped on the clutch instead of the brake (I was still kind of new to the stick shift thing). We plowed into the back of a Lincoln Continental. We were OK, but the “Love” Bus was totaled. (Mitch didn’t break up with me.)
His next car was a navy Fiat 128.
We drove that Fiat back and forth from Miami to NYS. One day when I flew to Buffalo from Long Island for a visit, Mitch picked me up at the airport in what was now the rundown Fiat. The front fender was rusted through and was held together with duct tape. As we were exiting the airport, a truck was a tad bit too close to us, the side ladder was down, and if we didn’t move, the ladder would hit the left side of the Fiat. So instead of moving out of the way, Mitch stops the car, and the truck swipes the fender. Mitch jumps out of the car and screams, look what you did to my car! (And, I didn’t break up with him!)
Ironically, the Fiat had the next laugh when 6-months later, the car took its last breath at the apex of the highest elevated highway in Miami during rush hour traffic. Mitch and I and his brother Scott were stuck, trapped, and causing a full lane backup for a mile. No phones. No texting; it was 1977. Mitch stepped out of the car and proceeded to hug the railing. His goal was to walk off the bridge to get to a phone. Out of the blue drives up Mitch’s roommate Phil who casually asked. “What are you doing here?” WOW! He saved our day. The Fiat was towed to campus, where we left it in the parking lot of our dorm. (Keep this one in mind because there is a story at the end)
“You Must Really Love Him!”
Next, Mitch bought a 1954 Chevy Belair. My roommate Tami said, “You must really love him if you are driving around in this car!” Mitch and I both recall the day the Chevy died. Mitch and I spent the summer of 1978 in Miami. He worked in construction and sat in the bed of a truck as they drove from site to site.
I still didn’t have my cool car, so Mitch let me use his Chevy. One day as I was driving, the Chevy stopped. I had no idea how to resuscitate the vehicle. And so I did what others may not have done and left the car in the middle of the road. Full disclosure, I have no idea how I got back to my apartment nor any recollection after leaving the vehicle. Still….
Wouldn’t you know it? An old construction truck drives past the Dead Chevy, and in the back of that truck is Mitch! He screams to pull over as his car is abandoned in the middle of the road.
(And again, he did not break up with me )
BUT this isn’t even close to the most unbelievable story!
Mitch graduated, and I eventually got a cool Datsun 280 Z sports car at school (Thanks, Mom and Dad).
Our Most Bizarre Car Story
Now, Let’s move ahead 3 plus years. Mitch and I are married and living in Buffalo. We traveled to Florida and decided to visit the University of Miami and, specifically, our dorm. As we pull into the parking lot, we are distracted by something in a tree. As we move closer, we see it is Mitch’s Fiat! Yes, we just left it there, but… Somebody, or more accurately a lot of somebodies, hoisted that car into the tree!!!!!
Alas, we don’t know the true fate of the Fiat as the next time we visited U of M, it was gone. And, no photos! Damn the lack of iPhones in the 1980’s – We will have to just rely on the memory of the poor old Fiat sitting in a tree… That’s our most Bizarre Car Story
It’s over 40 years later, and we plan to pick up our new ride next month – the EKKO RV. PS- I’m glad Mitch and I didn’t break up!
My newly released book Raising Jess A Story of Hope is a powerful memoir of one family’s survival when faced with adversity. Written with compassion, honesty, and humor, it tells of a family changed forever by the birth of a child with a disability and the courageous decision to choose hope.
“Couldn’t Put it Down! Raising Jess is an amazing book! I started it at 9 pm and stayed up all night to finish it in one sitting. Vickie Rubin’s writing is masterful! Highly recommend!” – Mike S.
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