When my father first moved to U.S.A from India in 1976., he bought an used 1975 brown station wagon, AMC Hornet. The reason he chose the station wagon instead of a compact car or a sedan was so my mother could accommodate her sitar (Indian type of guitar) case in the back. My mother was and still is a sitar player. Over the years, she had performed in front of audiences.
The station wagon stayed with us over the years until I turned 16. By the time, the 11-year old car was starting to develop few problems but nothing that could not be fixed though.
My father tried selling it but he was not satisfied with the recommended selling price. My mother then suggested giving the car to me since I was of driving age. He eventually agreed and bought a new station wagon.
Hence, I had my first car at 16. However, I was not allowed to drive whenever I wanted; I had to ask my father permission. Few times, he would let me drive to school only if I had to stay after school to attend club meetings. Other times, I was asked to go on errands for my parents or drop off my sister somewhere.
During summertime after my high school graduation, my father got a telegram from his brother saying that his father was gravely ill, possibly due to die anytime soon.
My parents flew to India immediately, leaving me and my sister alone at home. However, even though we were allowed to do whatever we wanted during daytimes, they would not let us sleep in a big house overnights by ourselves, in spite of my being 18 and my sister, 14.
We had an Indian neighbors who lived three houses away. They agreed to have us sleep there and do our business during daytime.
My sister, although 14, had a volunteer work program at a State University which was 15 minutes away, to work in a lab. Since she could not drive, it was my duty to drop and pick her up at certain times. During my free time, I worked part-time at a grocery store, as a deli clerk.
My parents were quite protective of their new station wagon but on the day they left, my father said he would leave the keys to the new car in case of emergency only.
They went to New York with the other car to fly to India from there. On their way, they stopped overnight at another friends' home in NJ.
One and half days later, as usual, I dropped off my sister in late morning. On the way back, I was about several feet away from turning onto my street from the main road when I noticed some smoke coming from the pedal area.
Not too concerned since I was too close to home, I proceeded to turn when my car suddenly stalled.
More smoke came from the back and my driver's window.
There were some construction workers at the corner of the street. At first glance at my car, they quickly motioned me to get out of the car... fast.
Grabbing my bag, I got out immediately. I saw at the bottom of the car, some sparks were flying.
No less than few seconds later, the car hood was on fire!
Shocked and speechless, I stared and gaped at the car for seemed an eternity.
Fortunately, an Indian neighbor who lived at the corner house saw the whole thing and helped me go inside their house to sit and calm down.
Police and firemen came. They managed to hose down the fire before it entirely engulfed the car. Only the whole front of the car was all burned down.
I did not know what to do. My parents had already left.
When it was close to time to pick up my sister, I took the new station wagon. Good thing my father left the keys as a last minute decision!
When my sister saw me nearing to pick her up, she looked surprised. "Of course, I KNEW you could NOT wait till the minute they left to use this NEW car!!! You're gonna be in big trouble!!!"
I replied, calmly and casually, "That's not true. My car got on fire. That's why".
My sister scoffed and laughed. "Yea, right!"
Upon getting home, my sister asked, puzzled, "Where's your car??"
"I TOLD YOU the car got on fire!!!! ASK that neighbor!"
Stunned, my sister gaped at me.
As if on cue, my parents called from NY airport, prior to their departure, to check how things were going.
I ran to the basement and sat down on the stairs, nervously wringing my hands. I wasn't sure what they would say.
My sister calmly came down. "What did they SAY???", I asked anxiously.
She replied that they only asked if I was okay. They said the car was too old and it was no big deal and that my mother's brother will give me one of his cars which was already older but had a new engine. (He had about four cars).
The reason my car got on fire was due to fuel pipes leak.