Everyone remembers their very first. That good old nostalgic feeling one gets when they decide to take a wee stroll down memory lane and marvel at life’s simple milestones that prove just how far you’ve actually come. Take them all into account—first day of school, first job, first romance, first apartment, etc. These vital “firsts” will forever occupy an important space within our personal history and serve as the blueprint to the ways we began to independently live our lives.
I know this is probably sounding a tad bit philosophical or emotionally charged, but there’s something truly freeing about your first car that gave you a sense that you were finally going places, both literally and figuratively. Here is the story of my very first car —my feisty white ’94 Plymouth Neon and the kick-ass adventures it took me on…
It was spring of 2007 and I had just finished my first year of Broadcast Journalism at Sheridan College-Oakville Campus. At the time I was living with my parents in Mississauga, so each morning I would leave extra early for class to take the bus, unless I got really lucky and caught a ride with a friend—those free ride days were huge! At this point in my life a car wasn’t really on my radar, and I was starting to accept that I’d probably be taking public transportation for the foreseeable future — until a miracle happened. My sweet old grandmother (RIP) had passed away just a few months prior and left me with one last parting gift: her 1994 white Plymouth Neon.
I had many fond memories of riding in this very car as a youth when she would take my sister and me to the Polish deli or bowling alley while she took care of us after school and during the summer months. I grew up with this car as a passenger, and now I had been given the keys to continue its legacy as its new commander and chief. This was an emotional gift to receive, and I promised myself and my sweet ol’ Grandma upstairs that I would treat this little Neon as if it were a Benz—because just like her, it deserved special treatment.
I’d cruise into work right on the dot every morning with my drive through Tim Hortons breakfast, cool shades and radio blasting feeling like the king of the town
When I first started driving this gem, it was clear that an old lady owned it. It was a 13 year old vehicle with only 140k on the odometer…so in my mind it was practically new. I literally went from taking the bus and shamelessly bumming rides to offering my services as a personal chauffeur to anyone who needed a lift. I installed a sick sony CD player and tweaked the sound levels perfectly to bump my summer soundtrack of Wu-Tang Clan and Rage Against The Machine as loud as I could. I feel like grandmother would have been proud…
Getting to sleep in an extra hour before summer work was also a sweet perk, which made me realize that the benefit of owning a car was more than simply easy transportation — it preserved your sanity and improved overall happiness. I’d cruise into work right on the dot every morning with my drive through Tim Hortons breakfast, cool shades and radio blasting feeling like the king of the town, and no-one could tell me any different. Of course all the windows were manually rolled down because the A/C didn’t work…but i convinced myself that A/C was for turtles and I was a rabbit—hair blowing in the wind.
One memorable trip to Algonquin Park had me fill the little Neon to the top with camping supplies (and PBR…but I’m not certain) as I made the long trip up north with my chest pressed to the steering wheel, cargo engulfing my friend in the passenger seat. I relied heavily on that little car, but it always delivered without major issue… except maybe the stereo wiring shorting out for time to time. First world problems, I know!
Now i’m no religious man, but my beloved ’94 Neon will forever go down as a godsend from my late-grandma who knew what she was doing when she left me the best gift I’ve ever received. I took that car from university house to university house between London, St. Catharines, Hamilton, Kitchener/Waterloo and everywhere in between. That summer of 2007 was my “Neon Summer”—a memorable time of independence, exploration and self reliance that helped to mould me into the travelled man that I am today.
Personal growth is all based on trial and error, triumphs and losses and playing life’s game of cards one hand at a time. Personally, when I look back and attempt to gather my list of milestone “firsts”, I’m left with a mixed feeling of nostalgic pride and youthful embarrassment. Hey, if we all kept our first job, married our first date, and drove the same second-hand jalopy for the rest of our days…life wouldn’t be the unpredictable journey that its suppose to be. Thanks Grandma for letting your Neon be my first!
Wheels.ca will take a journey back in time and ask our writers to tell us about their first cars and the memories that likely shaped who they are today. We will feature a new story every Thursday. #TBT.
We would also love to hear your first car experiences. Share them here firstname.lastname@example.org and Wheels.ca will publish the best ones. Links to previous stories below.