Friday, October 22, 2010

Memory Lane: The Big Brown Cadillac

When I was around four or five years old, my best friend Sonya’s grandma owned a brown 1980s Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham. I can still picture it there, sitting in her parents’ driveway when she would come to visit every month or two. This was in the mid-90s, and back then, every old person in Michigan – and I mean every old person - drove a big, rectangular, excessively ornamented 1980s Detroit land barge. Nowadays we call them pimpmobiles, but to my young eyes, it was the ultimate grandma car. So huge, so square, so formal and old fashioned from the chrome tailfins to the proud, shiny hood ornament. No one under the age of 70 could possibly have one. Certainly not either of my frugal, Toyota Corolla-driving parents, not a chance.

One day, Sonya and I were playing hide-and-seek outside her house. I needed a place to hide, and fast. Her grandma happened to be visiting at the time… see where this is going? It was right there, sitting in the driveway, like the Titanic next to the green Ford Escort that Sonya’s dad owned at the time. I quickly swung open the heavy driver’s door and stealthily climbed inside. It slammed behind me, and there I lay, sprawled across the leather bench seat, body pressed flat against the upholstery as to be completely hidden from sight. In retrospect, fooling around in an adult’s car without their knowledge or permission was probably not to most polite thing to do, but I was too young to realize it at the time. Or maybe I was just an inconsiderate brat. Yeah, that's probably it.

I laid there for quite a while, feeling so proud of my clever hiding spot. But no one came. You see, that is the fundamental flaw with the hide-and-seek. It is a lose-lose proposition. If you are found, your hiding spot was mediocre. If you’re not found after a sufficient amount of time, your hiding spot was excellent, and you want to show it off. But no one will ever know about it, because they never found you.

So, my smug satisfaction having turned to frustration with Sonya’s sub-par seeking ability, I decided to climb out of the super-sized chamber of unapologetic luxury. As a sat up to open the door, I got a quick glimpse of the dashboard out of my peripheral vision. Whoa! Hold on a minute! The interior of this car was almost as wild as the exterior! It was all so foreign to me, having been born and bred on Japanese econoboxes. I distinctly remember being absolutely entranced by the horizontal strip speedometer. It was completely flat; straight across the dashboard! And the digits were all so thin and stylized, or, to quote it more in line with my four-year-old vocabulary; “fancy looking”. How I desperately longed to see it in action. But wait… it stopped at 85 miles per hour. What happened if you went above 85? Did the car explode? Oh, the mysteries of youth. So many questions, no answers.

Sonya never did find me that day. As the years went by, the Cadillac graced the driveway less and less frequently until, eventually, grandma passed away and I never saw it again. Oh well, it was back to mom’s silver Corolla. *Sigh*. Why couldn’t my parents be old and have a cool car with shiny tailfins and a fancy looking speedometer that spread straight across the dash?


Martin van Duijn said...

Lovely story, and once again showing your writer's talent. This is a story I'd like to read on Saturday morning over cofee...

Just this week I spotted a Cadillac like that here in Katwijk. Took some photos, but I have not uploaded one yet. These Cadillacs were popular as wedding and funeral cars here, and Mr. Heineken - yes the beer brewer - who lived nearby used them as his preferred transportation. Always two behind each other, dark tinted windows and heavely armored, after he was kidnapped once.

When I was a small kid, I was always impressed when my Dad borrowed his boss' 1965 Buick Skylark Hardtop Coupé, black with red leather seats. Being used to Opels, this was literally a different world for me. I remember how my cousin and I could sit together in one bucket seat in the Buick.

Andrew T. said...

Ah yes, the big square-rigged Cadillacs of yore: They definitely lived up to the stereotypical depiction of "unobtainable luxury" from my youth. I never climbed inside one, but I do have recollections of gazing into windows and marveling at the analog clock on the passenger's side of the dashboard.

I prefer the 77-79 models myself, but that's just me.

Mark Brown said...

Great story, Max!

I love reading these recollections - reminds me of my own youth. :-)