In 1991, my Uncle Jack passed away. Even though I was 14, he left a car to me in his will.
I was thrilled at the prospects; once I got my driver’s license I would be able to drive myself anywhere I wanted to go. The savory scent of my future freedom permeated the air around me. Less than two years would pass and then I would no longer have to depend on other people to give me a ride. Opportunities abounded making it a fine car, indeed.
The two-tone brown 1983 Dodge Omni sat in my Grandma’s garage for almost two years. My dad would occasionally start the car, but for the most part it just sat and developed some minor character flaws.
I got my driver’s license in September of 1993. The minute I got home from the driver’s license bureau I was literally off like a shot. The power of being able to drive was exhilarating.
Having a car gave me the ability to quit my hated job as a bus person at Jonah’s. I interviewed for and was given a job at Foster & Gallagher. I was movin’ on up. Now I would be paid the sum of $4.70 an hour plus commission on the number of magazine renewals I was able to obtain. This was a vast improvement over the $4.25 minimum wage I was paid at Jonah’s.
Before October 1st, I had four flat tires. Really. Four. flat. tires. Although my dad made sure I could change a tire before I was allowed to get my driver’s license, I never had to put my skills to the test. I would pull over to the side of the road and get out the spare tire and the jack, but men always stopped and finished the job for me. This was prior to the advent of cellular phones into daily life. I didn’t have the ability to call someone to help me. Now it strikes me as odd that random strangers always stopped to help. Society has changed a lot in the past 16 years. Now, it is assumed that everyone has a cell phone and can call for help, so the random men just keep on driving.
One premium feature of the Omni was the rusted floorboard on the passenger side. When driving through a large puddle, water would splash into the car dousing the unsuspecting passenger’s feet.
The tan fabric on the roof of the car had come partially unattached and would flutter in the breeze if the windows were rolled down.
The car came equipped with an AM radio. Back then, I loved gangsta rap music, so I drove around with a boom box in the car blaring my Too Short and Easy-E tapes. The amount of D batteries I used to listen to such horrible degrading tripe blows my mind.
Gas was less than $1.00 a gallon. It cost between $8 and $10 to fill up the tank. Friends would donate a dollar or two to the cause and we would cruise around Peoria for hours.
One of the finest days in the history of my Omni occurred in the winter of 1994. I picked up my friend Kristy before school for our daily ride to school and work together. That morning we decided to go through the Hardees’ drive through to pick up some breakfast sandwiches before school. As I pulled into the drive through we noticed the car was making a loud thump with each turn of the tire. It was snowy out. Mechanical geniuses that we were, we determined that the thump was caused by snow caught in the wheel well and went about our merry ways.
After school we were off to Foster and Gallagher for a few hours of trying to get people to renew subscriptions to Nursing, Grit, and Playboy magazines (by the way, I was always one of the top telemarketers, due to my sexy telephone voice). We headed down highway 116 to work, driving the posted speed limit of 55. The noise got louder and louder, sounding like a helicopter. Although it did add some needed bass to the gangsta rap music we were jamming out to, it wasn’t the right beat.
The night was over and I took Kristy home. The noise remained at the same level during the ride home. At the bottom of Bloomington Road I decided that the best way to solve the problem of the “Omnicoptor” would be to turn the steering wheel all the way to the left and then all the way to the right. Surely that would dislodge the snow.
The entire wheel fell off.
A friend of my father’s came and towed the car away. A few days later it was as good as it ever was.
Several months later the Omni just stopped moving as I was driving down the road. It blew a head gasket and the cost of repair was tenfold the value of the car. So, the Omni was no more and I had to depend on my mom and my friends to take me places for a few months.
Rest In Peace, Omnicoptor, wherever you are. Thank you Uncle Jack. You gave me my first taste of freedom. I have never turned back.