My proud grandfather would have been glad to buy me a Caddy, like the new model he drove off the lot every year, but it was my choice. It was my reward for being high school valedictorian and getting into Harvard. Born and raised in Detroit, you’d think I’d have had strong opinions about what model I wanted, but I had spent too much time studying and not enough being a teenager. My friends, however, did not hesitate to give advice. So when Grandpa and I emerged from the Pontiac dealership, I clutched the keys to a flame red, 400 horsepower, GTO convertible sports car.
Turn it on, wind it up, blow it out, GTO. Yeah, that was me.
The GTO was the car for the man I wanted to be, but never became. I was too serious, too responsible. I drove it like my grandfather would have, hands locked at 10 and 2 on the wheel. My license was barely a year old and already I had gotten a speeding ticket in my mom’s station wagon. So whenever I pushed it over 70, I felt like every cop in the metropolitan area was watching. When I let my friends drive, they pushed it north of a hundred until I demanded they slow down.
The car should have been a chick magnet, but picking up girls wasn’t my style either. I even missed the bench seats of the station wagon, when my date could slide over next to me. Instead, the GTO attracted more thieves than girls. My girlfriend and I were at a movie the first time someone broke in, ripped out the 8-track player, and swiped all my tapes. When I took it to college, they slashed through the convertible top to grab whatever they could find. It was actually a relief, a few years later, to trade in my GTO on a safe, sober Olds Cutlass. With bench seats.
John Unger Zussman is a creative and corporate storyteller and a co-founder of Retrospect.
John Unger Zussman is a creative and corporate storyteller and a co-founder of Retrospect Media, Inc.