By Bob Huber
My wife Marilyn nagged me into writing a funny, poignant, offbeat family story in 100 words or less so she could win a Luxury Edition SUV the size of a Sherman tank. The contest advertisement stated that the SUV had all-wheel drive, a premium sound system, a wide load permit, and an option to buy shares in an oil company.
I told her the last thing I wrote in l00 words or less was a note to the bug man who came once a month to stir up insects in the house, but she wouldn’t listen. “Face it,” she said, “you just don’t like SUVs, do you?”
So I shook my head and sat down and wrote a short, funny, poignant, offbeat story, and Marilyn was so tickled, she went right out and bought an American flag the size of a bed sheet for the SUV’s antenna on top of the gun torrent. All of which, for some mysterious reason, made me think of the Crosley automobile my mother bought when I was in high school, and how it affected the rest of my life.
You don’t remember the Crosley? Shame on you. Crosleys were prototypes of all the smooshed down, underpowered, itsy-bitsy cars we’ve come to know and love in these days of Middle East oil cartels and petroleum company scandals. And they were cute too. In fact, they were so cute they weren’t even glimmers in the eyes of Japanese engineers.
Crosleys also set the stage for something that’s enticed me all my life — tiny vehicles. You know, little pickup trucks, sports cars, and other adult toys. I just love to drive them, which isn’t easy, because I’m 6 feet 4 inches tall, and even big cars today are made for pigmies.
I don’t want to say our Crosley was tiny, but no matter where I parked it, my fun-loving classmates picked it up and placed it some other place, usually accessible only by rope ladder or Scuba gear. One time it was on the third floor of our high school. One time it was in the principal’s office.
On top of that whenever I went to a school dance, I had to date a girl less than five feet tall so I could squeeze her into the front seat between the radio and the heater. Parents were happy to have me date their daughters, because there was no question about getting anyone larger than a squirrel into the back seat.
My mother, with warm Nebraska farm charm, offered this solution: “If the Crosley bothers you, don’t drive it. Besides, I’m tired of getting calls from the principal to get that car off his desk.”
“I don’t see why we can’t have a regular car,” I said. “No one else in school has to get his car out of the school’s piano.”
But we kept the Crosley anyway, and I was torn between my changing genes and my opposition to walking anywhere. I finally consulted my friend Smooth Heine about how I could stop all the hilarious pranks by my classmates. “Ha ha,” Smooth said. “That was a good one yesterday when those girls put your Crosley in their locker room.”
“Yeah,” I said. “A real knee slapper.”
“I can see you’re serious,” Smooth said. “I’ll ponder a solution, although I must say I’ll never forget the time they put the Crosley on the auditorium stage before the third act of the senior class play, and the hero tripped over it and fell into the orchestra pit.”
So the next day I stopped by the Heine farm, and Smooth presented me with some sacks of cement. “All we have to do is squeeze a dozen of these in the Crosley,” he said, “and voila —no more witty pranks.”
It was a slow drive to school that day, because I had to dodge pebbles in the road, but it was worth it when I saw the expressions on the faces of my carefree classmates as they grunted and groaned, but couldn’t get the car off the ground.
So you’re thinking that solved the problem. Ha ha, another knee slapper. This time the problem was an afternoon rainstorm, and the windows to the Crosley — were open! The rain soaked into the cement and became a lasting solution.
“Why are the tires on the Crosley flat?” my mother asked.
“I installed a new, permanent suspension system,” I said. “Boy, that Crosley really hugs the road now.”
Bob Huber is a retired journalist.