Flashback Friday Moment of The Week: 3/13/2015

by Juan Thomas
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The last couple of days, the weather has been bright and sunny…and very warm. In fact, as I sit and write this post, it’s currently 77*F outside which is a far cry from being in the 20s just a week ago. It’s so nice and warm outside that I was riding around today with the windows down, arm out of the window, music playing just a notch about normal volume. And for those who know me well enough to ride shotgun in an automobile I’m driving, they know I rarely let the windows down. Today kinda had a nostalgic feeling to it. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: The Deuce.

How I first came across this moment? Back in 2001, when I was slaving away in Steve’s hot box—otherwise known as the UAB location of Domino’s Pizza—I actually managed to save up an incredible amount of money. Working 37 hours a week at a $7 clip minus the lone expense of a monthly bus pass ($19 in 2001) made things fall that way for me financially. As I had wrote in Triumphs & Tribulations I, the top priority for me in getting the Domino’s job in October 2000 was to get my own wheels. Over the course of 14 months, I managed to save up $3500…something that impressed my Honors English 11 teacher when she found my checkbook ledger after it fell from my backpack in her class. My target vehicle was the Toyota Corolla as I loved the body style of the mid and late 90s versions. In fact, peeks through Triumphs & Tribulations I and II reveal daily counts of Corollas I saw passing by on the street. Then came January 22, 2002. My father paged me and he put 911 in there to let me know it was an emergency. I called him back and he said he found me a car. I was on the MAX bus and had gotten off to hit up a payphone so he picked me up in Woodlawn and we drove to this used car lot. He pointed me towards a 1994 Mazda Protégé DX…metallic grey in color. It looked like a decent vehicle and the salesman gave me his pitch about how it was well-maintained. My dad and I took it for a test spin and I immediately felt comfortable in it. The salesman agreed to a $2600 price and I was off to SouthTrust Bank to withdraw cash money. An hour later, I had the keys to my first car. After getting insurance on it, my dad paid for my first fill-up and said “well, she’s all yours now”. After some final instructions, I departed for my evening shift at Domino’s. All of my co-workers were congratulating me on finally getting a car. That same evening, one of my co-workers asked if I would give it a nickname because “first cars always have to have a nickname”. I quickly decided on a moniker for the Protégé: The Deuce. Back then, I used to bump that “Somebody Like Me” by Silkk The Shocker and Mya heavy and my ride was like half the size of his ride in the music video. He called his “a four” and half of 4 is 2. From the day I got that car, I literally only went home to sleep. Because I was no longer dependent upon MAX or rides from other people, I ventured about the city at my leisure. I often found myself cruising the city listening to 95.7 Jamz or rolling out to some jam in my portable CD player (I had the car kit for that). With wheels at my disposal, my confidence shot up like a cannon. I started asking chicks at school that were considered “out of my league” out on dates because not only did I have the funds, I now had the transport. I took great care of The Deuce. I washed it every Friday after school, put premium grade gas in it, and kept a logbook of all maintenance. I had great times in The Deuce up until I left for college and basic training in the Summer of 2003. I had an agreement in principle to sell it to my mother on installment payments but she never held up her end of the deal…essentially getting a car that was worth $2100 for $300. When I returned home to Birmingham after basic training and first semester of school, I was appalled at the way my mom treated it. For the rest of its useful life, I felt sorry for it.

What it meant to me then? Having The Deuce meant the world to me as a 17-year-old. You couldn’t tell me anything. I had wheels and the world was mine.

What it means to me now? Today, that first car serves as lesson in life. The insurance and upkeep of The Deuce was my first real responsibility in life. All of that money I saved up to get it quickly went by the wayside. It also made me a better driver being that I didn’t want to wreck my own property or somebody else’s…oh, and then there was the delicate cargo that usually rode shotgun. Having seen how my mother just drove it and didn’t really keep up with the maintenance taught me the lesson of always taking care of the things you buy. Whether it was the Red Fox (2001 Pontiac Grand Am SE), the Midnight Blue Express, or even today with The Gazelle, I’ve always given the automobiles in my possession the very best care. That’s something I hope to have the opportunity to pass along to a kid in the future.

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