Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Our Trini Ride

This past week as I was bumping and crashing through the heavily potholed and poorly patched local streets and as I was trying to mop up the leaks INSIDE my poor minivan Gracie I remarked that each day I felt more and more like I was driving in Trinidad with its awful roads and my poor jalopy of a car from down there. I decided to update a very old post on our set of wheels in Trinidad.

I'm a little hunk of tin
No one knows what shape I'm in
Honk, honk, rattle, crash, bang, beep, beep!
Honk, honk, rattle, crash, bang, beep, beep!

Ain't she a beaut? We got her a few months after we arrived. She was an ancient Toyota Corolla. Trinis tended to favor Japanese cars. There were a few VWs around too. Very rarely would you find an American car. I'm not entirely sure why, nor am I certain if it is still the case but cars were outrageously expensive to purchase, even used ones, even jalopies like ours. Once you owned one, a trip to the mechanic was not as overpriced as it is in the US. That was the bargain. The trick was being able to buy a car in the first place.

Our little heap up there was quite the piece of work. You can see the stylish two-tone color scheme. Let me tell you more. She had no AC, so she did not provide a cool ride. She leaked like a sieve. In the rainy season it was wise to wear a slicker while riding in her, or else carry an open umbrella. Her speedometer didn't work, but that was ok. You could judge your speed by watching how fast the yellow lines whizzed by through the holes in the floor. She had no suspension. She spent a LOT of time in the shop. Let me tell you, this car was literally such a hunk of junk that when we were robbed (a WHOLE other post) and the gunmen had the keys to it in their hands, they gave them back after they saw the car. Our friends on the island used to love to tease us about how bad our car was too because they had never met Americans willing to drive such a dilapidated vehicle.

Now, I do not want you to think I am complaining about our little car. Nuh man! Doh get vex wit meh! She was a heap but she was our heap. And she (usually) got us and a whole lot of other people where we needed to be. We worked in a squatter village. We didn't necessarily plan on buying such a jalopy but it worked out well. We could park it in a crime ridden area and be pretty confident no one would interfere with it. When we drove to the village we were going over some roads that contained potholes big enough to darn near swallow our little hunk of tin. We certainly didn't need to worry about her good looks being marred by travelling such paths. She was also mechanically uncomplicated (no computers and nonsense). Just pop the bonnet and you only had the basics. Mr. Lime could work on her himself, not like the cars we have now that have to be hooked up to a life support system for the trained mechanics to even tell you what is wrong before you take out a second mortgage to pay for repairs. Heck, I looked under her bonnet and thought, "Gees, this looks like I could even figure stuff out." Of course, there was also the sheer entertainment value our friends got out of watching us deal with this car. If you can take some picong (friendly but very pointed ribbing) you gain respect and acceptance. This barely functioning Toyota provided LOTS of opportunities for demonstrating we didn't take ourselves too seriously.

Back when we lived in Trinidad there were no seat belt laws so we could cram our little buggy full of however many kids wanted to climb in and get them all to school. The schools there do not provide transportation so if you don't have a car you pay to go on maxi taxis or in private taxis. The people we worked with were among the poorest on the island and several families had to choose between eating and paying taxi fare. If cramming 10 kids in our car helped ease some of that we were glad to do it.

So there she is, our Trini ride, in all her hard working glory.


Beach Bum said...

...they had never met Americans willing to drive such a dilapidated vehicle.

Wish I had pictures of my old AMC Gremlin I drove in high school. Can't complain, it got me to and from school and would drive forever on a dollar's worth of gas.

furiousBall said...

ha! Beach Bum nailed my horrible car memory as a kid. My parents had a Gremlin... why the hell did they name it a Gremlin?

Cricket said...

Great story. Hell, I drove a car almost as bad right here. An '84 Mustang - perhaps the least cool of the breed. I, too, loved my little s---box. This car had been condemned by a reliable mechanic and friend of the family. His exact words: don't put another penny into that car. My sister sold it to me for $1 - bill of sale and all that.

I drove that car for 2 years. It never broke down. Never. Of course, my trunk (or boot, if you prefer) was loaded with a supply of every fluid a car can leak.

The radiator in particular was very bad. If I parked for more than an hour or so, it drained completely. I kept four gallons of water in the car at all times. If I went anywhere and parked, I'd come out to a huge pool under the car and refill. For some reason, it didn't leak if it was running.

But it never broke down. I just came into the means for something a little safer. It was still running fine when I sold it.

Craig said...

OK. . . I drove a Gremlin for a summer when I was in college. That was a real sour lemon of a car. . . But the good news is, my housemates and I learned a TON that summer, about fixing cars when they break down. . .

The first car I actually owned was a '79 Chevette that I bought new when I got my first job. Stories to tell about that car. . . Come to think of it, I suppose I will. . .

Thanks for this story. Good perspective. I also got a smile from - "they had never met Americans willing to drive such a dilapidated vehicle." Funny, ain't it, how what would be a worthless piece of junk here in the richest country in the history of the world, is immensely practical when you just move it to a sufficiently, um, less wealthy place. Thanks.

G-Man said...

A Gremlin was my first Brand New Car...1975!
Worst car in the snow EVER!!
It'd get stuck in TWO inches of snow.

Anyway..Trini....I love Beaters!
It always beats walking!!!!!

S said...

Hey! I had that same car except in faded blue is it a 1986 or something like that?....265,000 miles and still fact, I had to get rid of it because although the engine and transmission were in great shape, the body of the car was crumbling to bits...
We called it the dog house because Rio liked to lie in it when she was outside. We'd leave theback door open for her...I was going to paint it white with black spots like Rio, but never got round to it.
I know what you mean about cramming kids and people into cars, I have seen 10 people in a rickshaw, 20 in a car that size, hey , why not give a lift to the kiddos?
Have a great day!

Kat said...

Sounds similar to a car I once had. ;)
I love the two tone color! It is almost like it was tie dyed! ;)

Cocotte said...

My husband had that exact same car when we met. And it was white too, minus the colored door. Great little car.

Anonymous said...

yeah but how was the sound system....sweet????

Logophile said...

As a teen I drove a sad little Toyota Corolla station wagon in just BARELY better condition than that. It was a 1974 and there were months at a time when it wouldn't turn over. I am the mistress of the pop-start thanks to that car.

It also reminds me of our euro-beaters.
good times, good times

Jocelyn said...

I'm still laughing at gauging your speed by looking through the holes in the floor. Total Fred Flinstone, Wilma!

sewa mobil said...

yeah but how was the sound system....sweet????