The Brown Van

The are a few family legends, most of them about our family characters. Some of them are about our family characters that are not alive and never had been.

I’m speaking of our brown Chevy van. I can’t remember the year, but it had that 350hp engine that ran forever. It was an automatic, but somehow the lug that put it in reverse had sheared off, so technically it was Park, Neutral and Drive only.

I drove it to work daily, the kids called it the “kidnap van” because it had no windows in back. On one rainy Halloween night, I had all the kids in the back, driving very slow in the street with the sliding door wide open. There were no seats in the back, just some side benches. The kids just jumped out at every stop to beg for candy, and then jumped back in the van. They still talk about that Halloween.

It was brown, a very soft brown, a very “oxidized” soft brown, kind of mottled in parts. I once drove to a vendor friend of mine, and we spoke for a few minutes in the parking lot while he leaned on the van. The next day he called me and asked why I had poisoned him. He developed a very bad rash where his skin had contact with the van.

So now I had two issues, I never drove into a spot that required me to use reverse to get out, and I tried not to park where someone would touch the paint.

Actually, I did keep a large screwdriver in the glove compartment. When I absolutely needed reverse, I would put it in neutral, set the emergency brake, them pop the hood. With the hood up I could use the screwdriver to pry the transmission into reverse. It would take a minute to overpower the emergency brake so I had time to shut the hood and get into the drivers seat. Most times… eventually it was moving while I was swinging my but into the seat. Fortunately I still used the reverse to get out of the position, the van was too heavy to push. My best trick was to use gravity to back myself out of danger.

It had character, that brown van. It ran forever, but the rest of the vehicle just fell apart. I gave it to my son and he tried to clean it up, but too much was wrong, so for safety sake we got rid of it. It’s engine is probably still running.

It joins the list of other vehicle characters, like the Jeep Wagoneer that never backfired unless we were in a underpass. This was where the sound was magnified. There were dozens of Vietnam veterans that had hit the sidewalk with PTSD. I waved an apology but it was hard for them to see me from the ground.

About johndiestler

Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
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