PROLOGUE: This has nothing to do with the rest of the post, but I’m just throwing it out there for self annoyance. At the beginning of the month, I decided to target going to the gym/exercising at least once a day and blog once a day. The latter has been tricky, but I have pulled it off so far. The gym, though, has been even harder with my workload and travel schedule of late – and I’m now behind three days. I went this morning, but in order to catch up I’ll need to go twice (or actively exercise twice – like go for a run) at least three days in the near future. Dammit.
Now on to our story.
In 1993, I bought my second car. My first one – a 1985 Dodge 600 Convertible – was on it’s last leg, and I knew it was time to get something else. Years of hanging out with my friend Eric (and heavy doses of Smokey and the Bandit with some Knight Rider thrown in) had turned me on to the idea of owning a Firebird. So after shopping used car lots around South Florida with my dad, I bought (and partially financed) a used 1988 Pontiac Firebird.
My father was ecstatic.
In his younger days, he had owned a late sixties Mustang, My purchase of the Firebird was the first “sports car” in the family since then. In the months to come, he would occasionally borrow my car by way of bribes. You know: fill up the tank when it was low, etc. and then bring it back the next day. It was like living with a reverse teenager. The best one I recall was the time he and my sister planned to take a trip to the Keys, so he offered to pay to have the A/C in the Firebird repaired in exchange for taking it for the week.
After purchasing the car, we drove home (occasionally above the speed limit). Once there, I started going through the paperwork that needed to be finished and filed for registration and whatnot.
“Let me do that,” he said.
“What?” I asked.
“Let me pay for your registration. I can take care of it for you tomorrow,” he offered. You see, I hadn’t let him pay for any of the car – which made him even more proud. Also note, that back in the before time this wasn’t something you did “online”. You drove downtown and waited “in a line” to fill out paperwork and hand people money. In short: the stone age.
I had classes the next day anyway, so this was super convenient and appreciated. The temporary tag would expire soon, and I needed a “real one” on the car.
THE NEXT DAY I came home from school and dad was at home. (He worked from home in sales a lot, so he had flexibility to be there when needed.) My father, though, had this way too happy – yet somewhat mischievous – smile on his face.
I prodded him. “What are you smiling about?”
“Nothing,” he said, beaming. He was WAY too thrilled about something.
He was lousy at keeping secrets, so he blabbed the whole thing. “Well, I got there and saw the check box where you could get a custom tag and I thought you should have one so I paid for one for you.” The words all came out on top of each other. He was very proud of himself.
I was stunned – and a little scared. “Awesome,” I said. “What does it say?”
“Well, I put you initials and then realized that this was your second car – so it will read TC2.” Once he said it out loud, I think the reality of it kicked in. He had done the equivalent of putting initials in his son’s underwear so he would know they were his.
We both stood silent for a moment.
“That’s not ‘cool’ – is it,” he realized. He sounded a bit defeated.
“Not really,” I replied. “But it’s fine. I appreciate it.” I smiled.
“The office closes at 4:30 PM. You can probably go there and change it.”
I looked at my watch. It was a fifteen minute drive, and the clock read 4:10 PM. There was no time for subtlety.
“Cool,” I said rushing out the door. “I’ll be right back.”
I drove to the registration office like a madman with my mind racing for potential ideas for my vanity tag. When I got there, the woman pulled my request.
“We only have a couple of minutes, so let’s search in the computer to see what names you can get.”
I spouted out a couple of random ideas… all common. All taken.
Then ten year old me spoke up and reminded me that I *was* Luke Skywalker. Luke Skywalker had only one ship.
“Look up X-WING. With the hyphen.”
It was there, and I crossed out TC2 with a pen. I initialed next to it – and then I wrote in block lettering “X-WING”.
I never in a million years would have thought of owning a vanity tag, but my dad decided a I needed one – and I haven’t let go since. That tag has lived on three Firebirds and three Mustangs now. I see people take photos of it from time to time, and the frequency has grown over the past few weeks (leading up to the new Star Wars movie.) A man and his young son once stopped me in town to let me know that his son LOVES my car, loves Star Wars, and even has a photo of my car’s tag on his wall when they first saw me town. The boy was convince I was some sort of Jedi.
A little creepy – but mostly cool in my book.
The prequel era of Star Wars left me underwhelmed. I like parts of it, but none of it was “Star Wars” for me. Star Wars is playing the vector graphics arcade game, reading old Marvel comics, finding a VHS copy of the Holiday Special and watching it with friends… and my license tag.
There was an era in the late eighties/early nineties where Star Wars wasn’t “cool” – but I never fell into that mindset.
So last night I revisited that era again. My wife and I watched my DVD copy of Star Wars. It is a lousy transfer, but it isn’t cleaned up digitally and “improved” by George Lucas. It’s imperfect buy wholly fulfilling… the way it should be.
Tonight: The Empire Strikes Back. Wednesday: Return of the Jedi.
Then friends of mine rented a private theater to watch The Force Awakens in Orlando. Here’s hoping JJ remembers the Star Wars I remember.