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Steve Smith in his 2014 Mustang convertible/Contributed

Saying Goodbye to “Youth”

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Saying Goodbye to “Youth”

By Steven A. Smith

I love my children and grandchildren.

I love my brothers.

I absolutely adore my wife.

But it is also fair to say I “love” my car. It is a 2014 Mustang convertible, black with a tan top. It is not the GT model with the rocket-ship engine – Carla would not countenance that. But with its six-speed manual it is still faster than a bat out of hell, and plenty fast enough to get me in trouble with the Washington State Patrol from time to time.

I can’t run anymore. Even walking can be a bit of a struggle. But on a warm, sunny, summer day, with the top down and an open road in front of me, it makes for an exhilarating drive. I feel young again, sort of.

Nevertheless, it is time to say goodbye.

I have always enjoyed fast cars. Between my first and second marriages, I had a silver-and-blue supercharged Fiat Spider convertible. Single when I bought it, the Spider attracted all the wrong kind of women, which was the point. But after re-marrying and on the birth of our first child, I let it go. Still, cars suitable for respectable, married men did not sit well.

Smith in his 1981 Fiat/Contributed

I had a turbo-charged Toyota Celica for a time. And then a black, with gray-leather interior, Oldsmobile Rocket 88. I never had or ever will have a faster car.

But I always wanted a Mustang.

In high school, my best friend managed to buy a new 1966 Mustang, a red hardtop that was the hottest car in the student lot. At the time, I was driving my first car, a 1956 Pontiac station wagon, sickly orange with purple splotches marking bad body work. It had cost me $100.

Needless to say, cruising Eugene’s “gut” in my friend’s Mustang played better with the girls than my old “cherry bomb.”

I promised myself I would get my own Mustang when finances and family responsibilities allowed.

My first Mustang convertible was a 2004 model, black on black. The current iteration is a 2014.

In those first Mustang years, I drove with a radar detector powerful enough to evade Baghdad air defenses. But then the Washington patrol moved to laser, and I was not prepared to mortgage the house for a detector capable of evading the cops.

Now I know what some of you are thinking. In this column I advocate for certain moral values, including honesty and respect for the rule of law. I can offer no excuses for my driving behavior. None. Except I enjoyed the challenge that came with the speed.

My most recent citation came in mid-October 2019. I was driving back to Spokane from Moscow, Idaho, on Highway 195. It was what promised to be the last top-down day of the season and I was enjoying the drive.

Just past the Rosalia exit, about 30 miles south of Spokane, I passed a slow-moving minivan. I hit 70 as I passed and just kept moving. The minivan driver must have noticed the “look-how-cool-you’re-not” sneer on my face as I sped by.

I was doing 85 in a 60 when the trooper pulled me over. As he walked up to the car and saw me, he started laughing. “What’s an old guy like you driving so fast,” he said between guffaws. He sounded like my wife, only huskier. And armed.

I know better than to make excuses in such situations. I owned up to my crime hoping for a warning, maybe. After all, I am an old man. But there was no leniency. After he stopped laughing, he wrote the citation – $345.

That was the beginning of the end.

I have driven all over the Northwest since that day, but generally staying within the law, or close to it. I will be 72 next driving season and Carla can’t drive a stick. If something were to happen to me while driving together, she would be stuck. (Why she won’t learn is another matter, altogether.)

This fall, with the cold weather approaching, I decided it was time to let go. The other morning, I told Carla I would be saying goodbye to this last vestige of my youth. She nearly spit out her coffee.

“My God, you’re 71,” she finally sputtered.

She’s right. It’s time to own up to my age, to be responsible.

I am selling my Mustang online, to one of those digital sites that endlessly advertises on TV. The process is relatively easy, and the offered price was far more than I expected. With a national used-car shortage, it is good timing.

I will buy something new in the spring. Carla would like a new Toyota RAV to replace her 2014 model, leaving that SUV for me. But you never know.

There is something to be said about a new Mustang convertible. An automatic, of course. And maybe that hot new GT model that has a switch to dampen the rumble when driving through residential neighborhoods. I probably won’t use it.

I will be negotiating with Carla over the winter. The talks will require great diplomacy on both our parts.

She can be stubborn. But I don’t feel quite ready to hang it up. Stay tuned.

About Steven A Smith

Steven A. Smith is clinical associate professor emeritus in the School of Journalism and Mass Media at the University of Idaho having retired from full time teaching at the end of May 2020.

Smith is former editor of The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington. As editor, Smith supervised all news and editorial operations on all platforms with a staff ranging from more than 140 in 2002 to 104 at the time of his resignation in October 2008. Prior to joining The Spokesman-Review, Smith was editor for two years at The Statesman Journal, a Gannett newspaper in Salem, Oregon, and was for five years editor and vice president of The Gazette, a Freedom Communications newspaper in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Newspaper Management Center Advanced Executive Program and a mid-career development program at Duke University. He holds an MA in communication from The Ohio State University where he was a Kiplinger Fellow, and a BS in journalism from the University of Oregon.

Smith serves on the SpokaneFāVS Board.

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