It was the summer of 1986. I drove my brown 1972 Mercury Comet to Washington DC for a Church Leadership training conference.
Having my own car gave me an awesome feeling of independence and freedom!
I drove daily to work and felt familiar with the traffic near the University of Maryland, College Park, campus where I was staying.
It was nearing the end of the summer and I was driving by myself to find a restaurant that I wanted to check out. My fiancee and I were planning a special night out.
I slowly started moving through the intersection after the light turned green. Looking for the restaurant sign at the nearby strip mall, I suddenly crashed into the rear bumper of the car immediately in front of me. They had slowly come to a stop, mid-intersection to take a left. But oncoming traffic prevented the turn.
I jumped out of the car at the same time the woman in the other car did. We met in the space between our two cars. Her newer car had a rubbery back bumper and NO damage whatsoever. My older model car’s smashed-in front grill had steam pouring out, the hood was buckled, and green radiator fluid was pooling underneath on the hot August pavement.
The woman left (since there was no damage to her car AND the crash was my fault. I was able to drive my car into a corner gas station parking lot about 50 feet away.
I asked the attendant if I could leave my car and pick it up in a few days.
Without much money, I enlisted the help of my 19 and 20-year-old friends. One said that he had the resources to fix my radiator. So another friend drove me to the gas station on Sunday to retrieve the radiator…ONLY the radiator from the car.
We shlupped it away without talking to anyone in the gas station–big mistake.
When I returned later on Monday with the repaired radiator, my car was gone.
The station attendant said that the gas supply truck was there that morning. They couldn’t get ahold of me–I hadn’t left a phone number. They couldn’t move my vehicle–I hadn’t left a key. So they had my car towed.
Now my car was at the Blue Plains Impoundment and Storage Facility several miles away. (Have I mentioned yet that I am a small-town Wisconsin girl and my car is now impounded in a pretty big and scary city?!?)
So. My friend Susan and I drove to the facility to retrieve my car. Unfortunately, in talking to the large, very large, grumpy gentleman who ran the yard, I also had one more “leetle problem”…no proof of ownership. You see, this was a hand-me-down car from my grandma and the registration was packed up with my college dorm belongings, in storage, in Wisconsin.
The man in the entrance booth glared at me.
I had the radiator.
He had my car.
I think my Wisconsin accent gave me away as a midwesterner and I tried to look sincere. He growled, “Get your car and get out of here. If I find out this vehicle isn’t yours…I. Will. Find. You.
I think I had to pay $25 and he indicated the direction my friend and I were to go. We quickly found the radiator-less car. We lifted the radiator into place. I connected it to the engine and filled it with water that we had brought along.
I left the impound yard rather proud of myself.