Monday, July 20, 2020

The Saga of Zela’s Automobiles (part 1)

My grandmother Zela was an atrocious driver. Now true, she got even worse as she aged, but she was NEVER a good driver. While her husband was alive, he kept her in Nash Ramblers. The Nash Rambler was a heavy, underpowered tank of an automobile.

A Rambler - Now a Museum piece oddity


I believe I had posted the worst of her driving stories previously. She drove to work one day and hit a parked car.  She was upset and my grandfather helped calm her down, figured it all out and she drove again.  The very next day, at the same place, she hit a pedestrian (or car again – it got changed in the retelling). Again, my grandfather helped calm her down, but with this spoken caveat, “Damn it Zela, tomorrow at least drive to work on a different street.”


Zela loved her husband, but was a bit annoyed that she never got a car she wanted. After he died, her one purchase was a 1972 Chevy Impala 4 door with a V8.  That car was a rock! She bought it in 1972, and we took it across country on our trip in 1984! After she got a new car, it was gifted to a cousin, who drove it for another 2 decades.

Zela's was light biege, but otherwise, very much like this


But, the new car didn't help the driving. She continued to drive terribly. She ruined many a tire by her parallel parking “skill”. I get as close as I can, then turn the wheels and drive till I hit the curb. Sometimes it worked, more often she seemed to be parking diagonally, when no one else was.


I tried to get her to stop driving after 1995 and her accidents. That is another story and DID NOT GO WELL. As a compromise, I told her I would pay to fix the car, but she would have to find and pay for her insurance and if she wanted to drive.  I figured with her record, age and eyesight she wouldn't find anyone to insure her. She did! I actually called the agent and told him he made a terrible mistake and would pay for it later – and he did.


I asked the doctors to take away her driving and they wouldn’t do it.


At one point after one of her many accidents, I helped fix her car, but refused to pay for her to get it painted. My thinking, if you see a car with a mismatched door and bondo – you’d steer away.


After her final accident (I turned left, I know I looked at on-coming traffic, but that car that rear-ended me was speeding!), I simply refused to fix the car. And I refused to buy her another one. There were a bad few months in our relationship.


But her friends then stepping in and took her to the places she went to (brunch on the weekends, bible study during the week and shopping whenever she wanted to). So she relented and didn't complain too much.


She asked me once Everyone is happy, I’m not driving now. Was my driving really that bad? I actually did say back to her, “Now Zela*, you know I’m not going to answer that. There is no good answer.” We laughed and crisis aborted. But yes, she was a terrible driver.

For me the final straw (I know, not all the accidents?) the final straw was I drove out to see her one day, and just missed her. I saw her leave the driveway as I was driving up. I thought, since I drove all the way to Orange County I would follow her to the store or whatever. Well I followed and on Katella Blvd (a big road, see below) she decided she needed donuts (she was going to bible study).

I swear, true story, I watched her get to a gap in the medium (no planted and palm trees) and just pulled a u-turn to get to Winchel's Donuts. No signal. No move into the medium. Her head didn't move. She drove over double yellow lines mid-block. It was one of the scariest things I ever saw. I turned and left to go where ever I was headed before I stopped by. Ed and I were more convinced than ever that she couldn't drive.


* I called her Zela whenever I had to be very honest.


I am pretty sure this has been paraphrased