Saturday, September 19, 2009

It's nice to have a cheap, reliable car

About six months after reporting aboard the Seawolf, at MINSY, I bought a car. I had been in the Navy for a year and I had a little money. Most of the San Francisco Bay area had great public transportation. They were building the BART. Buses ran everywhere, day and night and cost a quarter. Transfers were free for the asking. Navy bases routinely provide frequent shuttle service between barracks areas and the main gate.

Our barracks was out in the middle of nowhere. I'm not sure I ever even saw a city bus in Vallejo. In order to get to San Francisco or even the East Bay, where there was good bus service, you had to take the Greyhound over the Carquinez Straits and down to San Raphael, at least. I needed a car.

A shipmate of mine, Bee Traven, an A gang striker, had a car to sell. He was broke, pretty much like always. With only a year left on his enlistment, he was having nightmares about having to become a lifer when his time was up. He wanted to start saving some money. For $350, I got possession of a 15 year old Ford Fairlane coupe. It was a good deal. The tires had tread. It ran smooth. I changed the oil every once in a while. Other than that I never put a nickle into it.

I tried to get car insurance. The insurance people just laughed at me. Nobody insured young, single sailors then. They probably don't now. The car had a red enlisted sticker on the window, from some previous owner, not Bee. He had no more chance of getting insurance than I. I just never got insurance. Nobody checked in those days. I had the sticker to get on base. You were supposed to scrape them off if you sold the car but nobody did.

I kept the car for a year. I was pretty liberal with its use. If somebody needed the car, I lent it to them. If they were going to a bar, I'd probably go along. People got arrested for driving drunk in that car but not me. Bee Traven borrowed it a lot. He was good about keeping the tank filled, if he had the money. I figured he had the car before and nothing bad ever happened. That's just the way sailors think. It's one of the reasons they're sailors. I had good times with that car.

After I had the car for a year. Bee Traven came to talk to me. He was getting discharged and was going home to Arizona. He needed a car. I figured what the fuck. He had always been a good shipmate. I sold it back to him for the same $350 that he had sold it to me for. No harm, no foul. I was starting to think about my own discharge at that point. I wanted some kind of van that I could sleep in if necessary.

About four months after Bee Traven was discharged, the local police contacted the XO. The Fairlane had been used in a hit and run in Arizona. Somebody got the license number of the car. An old lady had been run down. The car was found near by. It was still registered in California, in my name. Bummer.

I just said that the car had broken down and I didn't have the money to fix it. That I had parked the car and when it disappeared, I just assumed it had been towed. I never did anything about it because I didn't want to pay the towing fees and didn't have the money to fix the car anyway. The XO gave me the look he always gave me when I was lying. At least I think that's the look. It's the look he always gave me. He said he'd take care of it. I never heard anything more about it.

I knew I was in the clear. One thing the Navy does well is document daily where you are and what you're doing. On top of that, the boat was at sea when the incident happened and I was on the boat. I figured no need for any explanation beyond that. Sailors are really stupid, everybody knows that.


Steve Harkonnen said...

Only decent people do the things you do. I've always felt that doing something good for someone comes back at you.

bothenook said...

ah yes, la bomba.
there were several cars along those lines when we were on the boat. usually available to barracks rats that needed a ride.
we were a pretty egalitarian and socialist group in those days, weren't we. it was kind of like living in a commune at times.

reddog said...

Geez, Bolman. Nice to here from you. I was beginning to think you were dead.