The Blue Van
Even freshly off the factory I don’t think the Blue Van was a chick magnet. And by the time my Dad got it, about twenty years after it had rolled out of the factory, it still wasn’t a chick magnet.
Its appearance is not too important. It had spent a few years hauling around paints for Paramount Painting. Its dark brown rust was interrupted only by the dark blue paint that once covered the entire thing. It leaned to the right because shocks had gone bad on that side from years of carrying supplies. Except for the front two seats, there was nothing inside until Dad built wooden benches to line the walls and hung curtains to hide prying eyes.
No, the Blue Van was not the prettiest machination built or used by man. In fact, it more or less stuck out from its surroundings unless parked in the middle of a junkyard while Dad and I foraged for important parts. But don’t let the image fool you. I had plenty of good times and great oldies in that van.
Like the time I drove it out to a friend’s and had to slam on the breaks for a stopped car. The Blue Van was designed for excitement, and as soon as I hit the breaks the Van swerved harshly to the right, nearly sending me over a ledge and into Darby Creek. The designers had wisely made the vehicle do this every time you hit the breaks… and it always made for a good rush, just like a roller coaster.
There were other similar features. The wheels were almost always bald. This was to compliment my Father and to encourage fascinating feats of dramatic stops. On a particularly wet day I slid a good fifty feet (with the steering wheel turned completely left so the Van would stay straight) and was not about to stop before slamming into the oncoming traffic—all I had to do to divert disaster was use the automatic Break-and-it-Turns feature by letting go of the steering wheel and flying off the right side of the road and into safety.
On one of my more favorite adventures I was helping my buddy Chris move to his home on the Hilltop. We were taking a load of cargo to his new home. It was dark. Chris and I watched a Columbus police cruiser as it zoomed up to the rear of a car that had been speeding. The car sped up to Broad Street and turned sharply, the cruiser in hot pursuit.
Hooting like chimpanzees or teenagers, Chris and I predicted that the car was about to be apprehended, and we both made sure to keep our eyes open to see how far the car had gotten. Which also meant that I more or less forgot to notice that the light in front of me had turned red. I only noticed halfway through the intersection—where I also noticed the cop was only a block down the road.
Immediately I slammed on the breaks and turned the steering wheel sharply left so I would be able to keep the van from flipping. The ensuing screech of bald tires on asphalt and grinding break pads on corroded rotors was historic. People who hadn’t opened their front doors at night in years stepped out to see what type of asteroid was tearing into the sky.
As for Chris and I, we looked at each other in panic, as the cruiser’s break lights immediately lit up. Without a moment’s pause, I thrust the Blue Van into first gear and slammed onto the gas. The wheels spun with awesome ferocity during the next three seconds as the vehicle gained enough momentum to overcome the grip of the asphalt’s friction. Then we were off, zooming down Hague Avenue like an elephant late for the circus. We never saw the cop, but I’m sure he was looking for us. We adeptly plowed the Blue Van through narrow roads and hid amongst the shadows and other unsung vehicles of the Hilltop area.
The Blue Van. It was a wonderful creature. Too bad we had to put it to sleep several years back. But I’ll never forget all the wonderful times I spent gripping its hull for life. Blue Van, this drink is for you!