Whatever gets us from A to B, right?
That first car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Specifically, the hard-earned lesson of expectations versus reality. Though some of us are blessed with Teslas at 17, most teenagers receive a car that’s been … let’s say previously loved. And that’s probably a good thing, considering nearly half of first-year drivers end up in wrecks. Might as well get the dings on the lemon, right?
Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.
My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?
Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.
Here are 22 responses with the most horsepower:
"1985 champagne Ford Taurus. Front and back license plates said 'Bernie'. Everyone who rode signed the roof lining. Brittany Spears sticker on the hood. Orange scuff marks lining the side from taking out rows of plastic construction barrels, on purpose." – @StaufferJacob85
Not sure I see the problem here. Clearly that car was work of art.
"My car in high school had a hole in the gas tank, but it was near the top, so you only had to worry about it if you put in more than $7 worth of gas." – @jimmyfallon
"Our son’s first car has electric doors. They often malfunction and open / close at random when he’s parked. He has to time it just right as he dives in and out or he gets stuck!" – @Sohnzie
"The sunroof blew off of #myworstcar the first time I drove it on the highway. I duct taped a piece of plexiglass over the hole & that was the roof for the next 2 years. The electrical system shorted out from water getting in and the alarm would go off randomly and the radio froze." – @hopesstillmedia
"2 months after my Uncle 'got it checked by a mechanic,' the transmission went out. Over the years, the alternator broke down twice, the air conditioner, the serpentine belt, the brakes... I could go on. I think I should get a refund for the $1 gave my uncle." – @rednicknack
"The 1st car I drove in the 80s was a Chevy Chevette in high school. It didn’t have 2nd gear so you had to go from 1st to 3rd. The driver’s seat was broken so we had a short 2x4 wedged between the back of the seat and the floor in the back." – @englishteacher8
"I drove a 98 ford ranger in high school that could only go 45 mph before it started back firing. When you got up to 46, people thought you were performing a drive by shooting. Got stopped by the cops a few times for it." – @amylynnfish
"My mom owned a 1992 Chrysler LeBaron, and its car radio all of a sudden stopped working. So whenever my mom wanted to listen to the 'radio', I had to do all the radio sound effects and static noise, sing random songs and commercial jingles, and recite ad voiceovers." – @DulceFloCruz99
"2004 Honda Civic Coup. where to begin? the muffler that would fall off every couple miles, the ac that never worked, break pad that fell into my hand or the fact only one of the vehicle's TWO doors would open?!" – @moshimotions
"I learned to drive a stick car in '86 on a '76 VW Rabbit. There was a hole in the floor near the shift. I always felt like Fred Flintstone and if I had a problem I could just use my feet!" – @AnnMcD87
Yabba Dabba driveGiphy
"I had a 91 Acura and it had some alternator problem where it would not start if it was hot (I lived in Pasadena at the time) so it was hot a lot. In my 21 year old mind, I decided to not fix the problem, just park the car on a slope wherever I went so I could start it." – @astovesand
"My first car, a maroon Mitsubishi Colt Vista, had a nest of bees living in both the driver and passenger side doors." – @BrnSkr
"My car in college always overheated and broke down in the same place going up a mountain. I often had to drive in front of a sign that said 'Kentucky prison ahead, please do not pick up hitchhikers.'” – @HancockTraci
"My first car when I was 17 had a hole in the pipe that takes the petrol to the tank, I’d put 30 in but average around 15 that made it to the tank if I was lucky. When I drop into the forecourt I would get the “get the f#c@n sand bucket ready” eye roll of the cashier." – @asalllas
"My first car was a 1981 gold Honda civic station wagon called the Jesus-mobile because it had one of those fish stickers on the back and would leak water and make a whine noise." – @KyleKerouac
Need they say more?
"My first car was a Corvair. It had many issues, but the worst was when the motor mounts broke without warning and the engine literally fell out into the street while I was driving." – @styllpoint
"I stapled a tie die tapestry to the roof of the interior and it fell down while my mom was backing out of the driveway and she hit the mailbox." – @JDylanNYC
"I had a Toyota that was 4 different colors. Had replacement parts on it but couldn't afford to get it painted. It had a cracked distributor cap so every time it rained, I had to take it apart to dry it out so the car would start." – @kmacassar
"#Myworstcar was an Acura that my dad bought at the police auction. He made me deep clean it and something suspiciously blood-colored came up from the back carpet." – @KatieKlauss
"In HS I had a 1970 Ford Maverick. Every time I turned left in the summertime, the AC drain drained into the passenger floorboard. Well-placed coffee cans caught most of the water." – @saxmelody
"My Brother and I had to get out and walk to the top of steep hills on family trips because our car was so underpowered." – @Sohnzie
Christian Cooper is back in the public eye on his own terms.
You may remember the name Christian Cooper, but if you don't, this will jog your memory. In summer 2020, Cooper made the national news when a white woman, Amy Cooper (no relation), called the police, falsely accusing him of threatening her. Christian Cooper was out in the early morning at Central Park doing what he does often: bird-watching. It's a longtime hobby that, thanks to that unfortunate exposure, he's now taking to the next level and sharing with the world. Cooper recently finished filming six episodes of "Extraordinary Birder" for National Geographic.
"Whether braving stormy seas in Alaska for puffins, trekking into rainforests in Puerto Rico for parrots, or scaling a bridge in Manhattan for a peregrine falcon, he does whatever it takes to learn about these extraordinary feathered creatures and show us the remarkable world in the sky above," National Geographic wrote in a press release announcing its new slate of personality-driven exploration and adventure themed storytelling.
Lifelong birder Christian Cooper (@blackburniannyc) will take us into the wild, wonderful and unpredictable world of birds in his new show, The Extraordinary Birder.pic.twitter.com/2ZwTlZ3JmN— National Geographic TV (@National Geographic TV) 1652734815
Cooper is an avid bird watcher and has observed birds all over the world, but he's most at home watching the more than 200 species of birds in New York City's Central Park. Thankfully he hasn't let his encounter with Amy Cooper and her dog taint his feelings about his favorite spot. The show will allow him to create a new association with his name and bird watching, and presumably he'll be spending some time in the park, showing viewers just how magical the wildlife there is.
He explained to the New York Times that he first heard from National Geographic about collaborating on the show about a year and a half ago. “I was all in,” he said. “I love spreading the gospel of birding.”
Additionally, he shared excitement about getting more people “to stop and watch and listen and really start appreciating the absolutely spectacular creatures that we have among us.”
Cooper's reverence for birds was formed in childhood. He explained to the Times that he has been in love with birds since the age of 10. Growing up on Long Island, he was fascinated with red-winged blackbirds. No matter where in the world he is, he'll take the time to listen for birdsong.
“It adds another dimension to just being on the street,” he explained. “It adds another dimension to how you exist in the world.”
Filming the show allowed Cooper to expand his birding experiences, following his passion to see new (to him) species. He got to see some burrowing owls, which he found "actually quite adorable."
As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.
How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.
One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.
And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?
In some ways, that era was simpler. We weren't bombarded with information and opinions about every issue in the world 24/7 and had the freedom to just be kids. At the same time, I personally have no desire to go back. (My straight, fine hair was not made for the '80s.)
However, one dad is bringing full-on nostalgia to millions of Gen Xers with a viral TikTok he made about sharing his '80s childhood with his 8-year-old son. Justin H (who goes by @shadyraro on TikTok) included photos and descriptions of things all '80s kids will recognize and it's like hopping into a time machine.
Like, the unwound cassette tape struggle was genuinely real. Grab a pencil, start winding and pray. "The A-Team"? Totally. Streetlight curfew? Yep.
The 80’s was the best decade #80s #80skid #oldschool #genx #parents #funny #family #foryou #fyp
The video has been viewed more than 10 million times this week, with commenters neck-deep in their feelings about their childhood flashbacks.
"I miss them days, technology has taken away so much," wrote one commenter.
"Miss the 80s era but unfortunately us kids were the remote control," wrote another. (So true. Changing the channel was exercise.)
"The 80's cannot be explained...it was an experience...a complete vibe all its own...and if you missed it I'm so sorry for you!" wrote another.
And if you feel like there were some things missing, no worries. There's a Part Two:
The 80’s was the best decade Part 2 #80s #80skid #oldschool #genx #parents #funny #family #foryou #fyp
The ashtray in the back of the car seat! The phone booth! The Walkman! The overhead projector. So my childhood. I can practically taste the Tang and Twinkies.
Kids today will never know the ugly beauty of growing up in the '80s, but someday they'll have their own tales to tell their kids that they'll look on with fondness and nostalgia. "We used to spend hours building things with little digital blocks in Minecraft…"
There's never been anything like the '80s and there never will be again. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Justin H.