Meet Clarence. He was my very first car.

Small side note: This isn't actually my car. This was before the camera phone era and apparently I never took a single photo of my car, me in the car, or happened to have the car in the background in other pictures.

Anyway. When I turned 16 the idea of driving was magical. Total freedom! What must that be like?! So when my parents told me that they have found a car for me to drive (note that they did not say that it was my car), I was pretty stoked. Then they pulled up in Clarence, a 1991 Ford Tempo.

Clarence was one of those glorious cars from the 90s: total red interior and moving seat belts. I was mortified. I couldn't go to school in this car! It was hideous, archaic, and I was so going to get made fun of. It also seemed to have this permanent sticky film on the center console, like someone spilled a Diet Coke on it every night or something. His A/C was also subpar. It wasn't so bad that it warranted a repair, but it also wasn't quite good enough to cool you down so I was either slightly sweaty all the time or had some seriously windblown hair. But the other option was to walk so it was me and Clarence and we went everywhere together.

I had some great memories in that car. It was the first time that I really understood the power of the radio. Sometimes Clarence made some weird noises, so I'd just crank the dial and pretend like nothing was wrong. I also think that I was perpetually running on fumes in that car. I had to pay for my own gas, so there was never more than ten bucks in the tank at a time. The seat belts were always good for a laugh too. One time I gave a girl a ride and she literally opened and closed the door four or five times to watch the seat belts move.

Perhaps my favorite memory, though, happened my senior year. Clarence and I were pretty tight by this point. I realized that having an old clunker had it perks. Someone would ding my door and I wouldn't even flinch. They'd ask, "Oh my gosh, is your car ok?" And I'd look at them like, "Dude, have you seen my car? It's fine." See, no stress. And it didn't matter if people painted the windows and accidentally got some on the door or whatever. I figured I'd just list it as a custom paint job when it came time to sell him. So things were good between Clarence and I. It was a few days before Senior Prom, the pinnacle of high school. My friend Erika and I were driving back to my place right at dusk. I lived out in the country a bit so we had some pretty deserted intersections between my house and hers. We decided at one of them to do a Chinese fire drill. You know, when you get out and run around the car and then drive away like nothing happened? So we both get out and start running around the car and I totally biff it. I'm talking all out sprawl right on the ground. In a few minutes Erika comes around the corner and finds me on the ground with tears rolling down my face from laughter, which means she immediately starts to laugh too. Apparently she had done the exact same thing on the other side of the car, but got up right away and kept running. The intersection we'd chosen had just enough gravel to pull us both down. I woke up the next morning and had a massive bruise on the side of my knee and I was pretty stiff, so at prom my dancing was inhibited.

And that's Clarence.

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