January 13, 2020

Article at respectnews.ca

Memories of a Datsun B-210

I was slipping a little bit on icy roads this weekend, and it made me appreciate my winter tires.

My Dad never changed to snow tires. He insisted that if you drive properly and don’t spin your wheels, you’ll be fine. I adopted that attitude when I started driving, and it made me a more conscientious driver.

But I have seen the light, and I recommend snow tires. The right tool for the job, as they say.

Anyway, recalling some of my (thankfully) harmless winter-driving mishaps got me reminiscing about our old car…

Sherry and I met during a posting to Esquimalt, BC early in our military careers. She had a Datsun B-210 she had bought from her sister—it was her first car. I didn’t own a car.

We took that car on a holiday to California one year. Sherry did most of the driving, fearlessly navigating us through rain and fog into Grant’s Pass, Oregon; easily managing rush hour and torrential rains through Portland; and effortlessly dealing with Interstate traffic and Los Angeles freeways.

She’ll admit she’s lost some of that bravado.

After we were married, our first posting took us to Montreal. We lived on a country road well out of town. The old car by that time was starting to show its age.

I well remember Claude, our friendly local garage man. He helped keep the old girl running for us. On one occasion he welded the rusty old exhaust pipe, but he warned us it would need replacing soon. “It was like trying to weld two pieces of cigarette paper together!” he said.

The old Datsun began burning oil, but we were poor and motor oil is cheaper than a new car. It reached the point where I had to replace two litres of oil every week. When I pulled up at the pump, Claude would say “fill the oil and check the gas?”

Our first daughter was born in downtown Montreal via an emergency Caesarean section. When Sherry and I arrived at the hospital, the staff told me when the surgery would take place and showed me to the waiting room. It was night time, and the car needed oil before I would be able to drive it home, so I walked to a nearby gas station and bought a couple of litres.

When I got back to the hospital, it turns out the staff had been trying to find me—the surgery was already complete, and I had a beautiful baby girl. “And you were thinking about motor oil?!” one nurse asked.

(When they finally found me I was back in the waiting room, where Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final was on the TV. They must have pegged me as a typical guy, obsessed with cars and sports. By the way, the Oilers beat the Flyers that night to win the Cup.)

After we got the baby home, we started thinking about getting a newer, safer car. Claude was disappointed. “I was planning on buying a new boat this summer with the money I made selling you oil,” he said.

Anyway, to bring this story back to snow tires: I had a couple of misadventures with the new car on our rural Quebec roads. On one occasion, the road was slushy and I failed to negotiate a curve to the right, sliding across the oncoming lane into a ditch. This was about a mile from Claude’s garage, so he came and pulled me out.

Two days later, I had been at a farmhouse buying maple syrup. Just as I left their driveway, I had to pull onto the shoulder of the road for some reason. But there was no shoulder! The snow plow had left a nice level “shoulder” of deep soft snow next to the sharp edge of the pavement, and in I went. Claude was laughing the whole time as he hooked the vehicle up and pulled it out.

I don’t know if this little ramble has convinced anybody to buy snow tires, but it was fun to reminisce! If you have stories of your own to share, please send them in, I’d love to read them.