Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Green Light (Part 1)

This has to be one of the more fascinating stories of Mom's. It's the story of Mom getting her first car and learning to drive. It's also about just how great it was for her to finally be able to go where she wanted.

Mom wrote the story shortly after the events occurred. It's undated, but she put her Iowa address on it, and used her maiden name. That places the story up until 1975, when she married Dad.

The photo is of Mom in the driver's seat in 1973, shortly after she got her license. On the back, Mom wrote the photo was taken in Belle Fourche, SD that May, upon departure for Montana.

The Green Light

Remember the pride you had
when you bought your first car? You read and re-read the purchase agreement. You check it often, just to make sure it's still there. It's all you talk about with friends.

I bought my first car when I was 28 years old. I didn't know how to drive. As I'm handicapped, I needed the car in order to learn to drive. I wear full-length leg braces and walk with the aid of crutches. I didn't consider myself limited, however, because it hasn't stopped me from doing nearly anything. The thing that stops me is the lack of funds. Special equipment for the handicapped is expensive. There's little financial aid without pleading complete poverty. It's possible to get aid for education; but when it comes to something material, and just as important, there isn't much help.

After saving and scrimping for the down payment, my big day came. This was a goal for years, and I wasn't waiting any longer than absolutely necessary. What a feeling of independence! To know I can go to the store whenever I want.

The first step was to find a car I could afford. For me, it was a year-old Chevrolet. I fell in love with it on sight. It was "me!" The price sounded high for my budget, but you know the old adage, "If you want something bad enough..." I really wanted that car.

Next, was to get the financing. I walked into the bank "scared to death." It was up to them now. The man to talk to was on the telephone. After what seemed like hours (it was 15 minutes) he asked me to sit down. I stated my request for the three-year loan on this car. He looked at the sheet of paper with the car description I'd given him and looked at me.

"You know we don't usually lend money for three years on a used car?" he said.

I felt my dream slip a little. I regained my courage and looked him straight in the eyes and said, "Yes, but you will, won't you?"

He shuffled a few papers, glanced at my banking record, asked a few more questions, then he said, "Well, I think we can help you out with this."

Right then I had the money. When people do business with someone like me, I think, sometimes they feel guilty. They're thankful that it's not them, so they are a little more lenient. I like to think of it as my "female charm." In reality, the handicapped in general need to try harder because life is more difficult to them.

When I told someone that I planned to buy a car, they looked at me in disbelief. They never said I was crazy, but I could tell that is what they thought.

Getting someone to give me driving lessons required many telephone calls. I finally found a driver's education teacher who was "willing to try." Since I have little use of my legs, I had to purchase some hand controls. A girl friend in a wheelchair gave me the address of a company called Handicaps, Incorporated in Inglewood, Colorado. They have a large line of hand controls, including controls for a quadriplegic (limited use of all four limbs). I only need to replace the foot controls. Along with the catalog was the address of a dealer in my home state. I telephoned them and within a week I had the controls. This was an added expense. There is much ignorance on the subject of the handicapped and what is involved. Even the local rehabilitation office couldn't be much help.

Go to Part 2 of The Green Light

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