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Personal Statement: An ode to LBJ

Illustration by Megan Mulholland
Illustration by Megan Mulholland Buy this photo

By Josephine Adams, Daily Copy Chief
Published February 18, 2013

I’m in love with my car. That sounds weird, I know, but it’s true. Ask anyone.

Ask my sister, who gave me the car as a hand-me-down six years ago; ask my friends from home, who love the fact that I volunteer to be designated driver; ask my mechanic, who has told me multiple times that the car is shit and should probably be given to Cash for Clunkers as soon as possible. They’ll all agree — I’m in love with my car.

I learned to drive in a Dodge Caravan. Sexy, I know. You don’t need to tell me. At the time — when I was 15 — I liked to say “jank.” Why? I don’t know, but I thought I was cool and “jank” was cool, so everything was cool. So my friends and I named this Dodge Caravan “Whip Jank.” You can mock me all you want — if you’re reading this online the comment boxes are down below — but I drove around in a car named Whip Jank. And then … he died. My family has a habit of paying for cars that are bound to be worthless in less than five years. Anyway, moral of the story: I got LBJ.

LBJ, you ask? Like the president? Well, perhaps. The Honda Civic was smaller than the van, so he immediately became “Lil Whip Jank,” which became “LWJ,” which became “Lil William James,” which became “Lil Billy James,” which became “LBJ.” Some people call him Lyndon B. Johnson, but that just doesn’t flow off the tongue as well. So, LBJ it is.

If I’m being honest, which I’m normally not, it’s a pretty crappy car. It’s a 1994 Honda Civic. It’s black, the “Check engine” light has been on for three years and the “Maintenance required” light has been on for four. It failed the emissions inspection required in Washington, D.C. two years in a row, so now we just pay the fine. The windshield wipers somehow manage to smear rain across the glass so it’s actually harder to see, and when it’s cold enough — which it always is in Michigan — the driver’s side window doesn’t roll down. The trunk is jammed and hardly ever opens, especially when you’re running late for the airport and need somewhere to put your bag. The two back doors make dying-animal sounds whenever they open and close. If you’re easily embarrassed, you probably don’t want to get out of my car in a crowded parking lot because people are undoubtedly going to stare.

You’re confused — I get it. How could I possibly love a car that is in worse shape than Subway’s Jared before six-inch Veggie Delights came into his life? The answer is divided into three parts.

One

I like to tell people that I peaked in high school. That at 17, I was the coolest I was ever going to be. And while that’s not necessarily true — nobody is as cool as they think they are at 17, and I am no exception — I’m still a sucker for reliving the glory days. That car is countless road trips to Nantucket and the Eastern Shore. It’s 2009, appalling top-40 hits, midnight drives to 7-Eleven to buy cigarettes for friends who weren’t yet 18. It’s Trident Tropical Twist, Febreze and Diet Coke. It’s sneaking off campus during fifth period to go to Chipotle. It’s following the bus to lacrosse games in the boondocks of Maryland. And I get to relive all of these moments every time I turn the key.

Two

I’ve been taking my car to school since the beginning of my sophomore year. The drive from D.C. to Ann Arbor takes me about seven and a half hours, and I love every minute of it. First of all, I love being alone. That makes me sound extremely antisocial. I swear I have friends. Really, I do.

Second of all, the speed limit on the Ohio Turnpike is 70. 70! So really that’s 80, and, if you’re feeling really brave, it’s 90. Cops are somewhat of a downer, but I’ve managed to avoid them so far. And I definitely just jinxed myself with that last sentence.

Third, you can’t do anything but drive when you drive. That sounded better in my head, but what I’m trying to say is that you’re completely free from everything. All you’ve got to do is drive. I promise, there’s really nothing better than the Pennsylvania Turnpike at three in the afternoon on a Sunday in August.

Three

And then there are the little things, like the way the steering wheel is in just the right place so I can drive with my knee (although everyone else hates it because they think I’m going to kill them), or the tiny compartment by the dashboard that fits an unfinished pack of gum perfectly, or the slight stick of the gas pedal when you jump above 30 mph.

In the end, it all comes down to familiarity. My friends tell me I’m scared of change, and, in a lot of ways, they’re right. I just had to custom-order a pair of shoes because they stopped making the style I’ve been wearing since high school, and I just couldn’t bring myself to branch out and buy something different. So maybe I’m just overly attached to a piece of crap because I’ve had it for so long. But I’m okay with that.

One of these days, I want to go through all the repair receipts from the last few years and add up the money my parents have spent on keeping my car alive. I probably could have purchased a not-piece-of-shit used car with the money spent on repairs in the past six years. Actually, I probably could have purchased an Audi. Or a Ferrari. Or one of those Justin-Bieber-customized batmobiles. But I’m in love with my car. So, if you need a ride — and you don’t mind squeaking doors, funky windshield wipers and driving 20 mph above the speed limit — call me.


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