Never Tell A Man His Car Is Ugly

Embarrassmonth: Never Tell A Man His Car Is Ugly

Mom and I walked through the doors of Wilb Walker’s, the grocery store just down the street. I was carrying one paper sack and Mom carried the other. People kept looking at me, probably because it was cute watching a boy carry a paper grocery bag the size of him. Or maybe they feared I’d drop it. I was only seven.

“Mommy, if we hurry home we can get there in time to watch the Cubs. Andre Dawson might hit another home run!” I said. He had hit 42 at that point and was my favorite player.

“Oh, just hold your horses, we have to get the groceries in the car first,” she said.

We walked closer to it, a 1986 Ford Crown Victoria. Sky blue. It was a long way across the parking lot, especially while carrying the bag. And I kept yammering until we reached it. Then I handed her my bag of groceries to put in the trunk.

“Mommy, why is that car so ugly?” I said, pointing at a burnt orange something that couldn’t decide if it was a car or a truck. An early-’70s model El Camino.

I wandered towards it to get a better look. The two-door coupe had a shallow truck bed in it, but it was barely deep enough to hold a bag of groceries. So it looked awkward for a truck and even more awkward for a car. It was also covered in rust, which was hard to see from a distance because of its burnt orange paint job.

“Yea, it’s real ugly, Mommy! Why would someone have a car like that? It’s so ugly?”

Mom had just finished putting the groceries away. Something funny changed about her, though. Real quick.

“Oh, I don’t know about that, son,” she said with her back real straight. “I think it looks fine. Plus, cars like those come in real handy. I often wish I had one.”

My brain ticked and tocked, trying to figure out what just happened, and then a father and son appeared right in front of us. They looked gruff – the father with a ratty baseball cap and a scruffy beard, the boy with torn shorts and shoes that looked like he’d worn them 3-4 summers. They were a few cars over and the jangled a set of keys in his hands.

It all clicked. They were getting into the ugly El Camino. Blood went straight to my head.

The man fought back what appeared to be a scowl as he nodded at my mom. She said hi. The boy just stared at me, trying to figure me out.

And I told myself that wasn’t an angry scowl on the father’s face, he was just squinting from the Sun.