January 25, 2012

When Lady Laura and I moved from North Carolina to Pennsylvania we did not own a car. Our old Oldsmobile gave up the ghost a few weeks before we moved so we thought that we would buy another car after we got settled in our new home.

We lived with Laura's parents for our first two years in Pennsylvania. Her mother had a little car which she did not use very much, so, in exchange for us helping them around the house, they allowed us to stay in Laura's old room and use her mom's car.

It was a off-white Renault - not the kind of car I'd buy but it was a car. At least it looked like one. The 1980's car was the my mother-in-law's pride and joy. Well, the first time we needed a car we borrowed her mom's. It was on a Saturday and we went out for a night on the town.

We returned to the house in the early hours of the morning and parked the car on the street. Since the street where her parents lived was parked full, we had to park a few blocks away. We told her mother that we had parked the car on a side street but she said she didn't want it parked on the street and that we were to park it in her back yard. At this point we were unsure where we had parked the car. It was still dark but after some searching we eventually spotted the white Renault on a dark corner.

Now these old Renaults had a bizarre column gear change. I had spent spent half the afternoon perfecting the gear change sequences. Anyway, now I just could not get the car into first gear. Laura chipped in, "any gear will do Joe, try second." But I would not have it; I doggedly went through the sequence that I had learned for first gear.

Laura knew that there was no point is arguing with me, so she just twiddled her thumbs and looked around the car. "Joe," she said, "What are all these cups doing on the back seat?"

"Joe," what's all this curtain material on the floor?" We then simultaneously looked out of the window and saw another white Renault parked across the street. Without a word we got out and into the other car.

As luck would have it, the mother-in-law's model was a year older than the other Renault, we later learned that during that time, Renault changed the column change gear layout. Also, in case you are wondering, in those days it was not unknown for one car's key to fit another, but I still say we were lucky that her mom's key started the other car's engine.

In a more mischievous mood, I wonder what would have happened if Laura and I had driven off in the wrong Renault. I would have paid good money to see the confrontation when her mom realized that she had the wrong car. In our defense, it WAS dark. On closer inspection one was an ivory white and the other more of a cream - to us one white Renault was as good or as bad as another.