The car I will always associate with my dad is a blue 1968 Ford Falcon station wagon. It’s the car he drove when I was a little kid. He kept driving it after I grew up. It had a few rust spots, the dash was cracked, and it had the old car smell. Dad named it the Blue Bomb
My earliest memory of the Blue Bomb is of sitting on the fender with the hood open while Dad worked on it (my next memory is of falling off of it and hitting my head on the concrete garage floor). The Blue Bomb needed constant work and never seemed to run perfectly.
It wasn’t until I was older that I realized how out of place that car looked where Dad parked it at Austin Peay. I imagine more than one campus officer thought a student had parked in a faculty space. My grandmother constantly chided Dad that he needed a vehicle that befitted his status as chair of the department. Dad wouldn’t hear of it. He argued that it was paid for, got the job done, and he didn’t need a status symbol anyway.
I have many fond memories of the Blue Bomb, but my favorite is of a story Dad tells with great relish.
Dad had to attend a work function at a hotel in Nashville not long after we moved to Clarksville. He, of course, drove the Blue Bomb. The swank hotel had valet parking, so Dad got in line behind the BMW’s and Mercedes. Dad saw the valets working desperately to not be the one that had to park the Ford. It was clear that none of them wanted to get behind the wheel of what must have looked quite pathetic next to the sleek luxury cars.
The youngest of the valets drew the short straw. Dad dutifully explained all the Blue Bomb’s quirks so the valet would be able to start and drive the Bomb safely. Before he left the car in complete care of the valet, Dad handed him a sizable tip.
“Appearances aren’t everything,” he said as he gave the valet a twenty.
Since Dad never got caught up in the trappings of appearances and excess, he had the ability to be generous with what he didn’t spend on himself. It also allowed him to share an important lesson with a young man who surely thought those trappings required pursuit. It also taught me to be more concerned with who I was than how I looked.
Oh, and the valets? After Dad’s function, they fought over who got the Blue Bomb. Perspective is a funny thing.