Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


May 8, 2014

That new car smell

CROSSVILLE — My electric blue Pontiac G6 has been my baby now for seven years. But, the memories of how it felt to drive my dear "Stewie" for the first time are still as fresh in my mind as that new car smell. Remembering the day of the “Attendance is the Key to Success” drawing in 2007 is not hard for me to do. Only a few other lucky students had been winners before me so the program was still brand spanking new, just like the cars outside in Blue Lot that shone in the sun like a sultan's jewels. I entered the gym that morning with a blissful ignorance. I was just happy to be out of class, even if it meant I had to sit in the humid upper part of the bleachers. My friends were up there and that is all that mattered. So we cheered and got hyped up as usual; we were happy to be together. Some lucky ducky was going to be given a car today. The skeptical comments started flying. "I'll bet some rich kid who's already got a car gets it this year," one of my friends mused to me. I rolled my eyes in agreement. I really was oblivious to the events that would take place next.

The way that the car drawing works is a lot like a game show. Back in my day, we had a giant drum full of little strips of paper that each had the first and last names of potential car winners on them. The official drum cranker would rev the handle with great fervor and four more finalists are chosen on the day of the drawing. I was the very last finalist. There was a moment of doubt... "Oh, she just called the other Karina Sola in the school." Then, when my friends started knocking me out of my seat, I had this heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach. It gave me the forward momentum I needed to barrel down the steps onto the gym floor and to the stage where the other 16 finalists stood.

At this point I was feeling this odd, numbing sensation take over my body. You know that feeling you get when you are having an out of body experience? Long story short, the other finalists, after having their names called for smaller prizes, were dropping from the stage like flies. Soon, it was just me and Chelsea Tyree in the fetal position on the edge of the stage. We clung to each other tightly, crying and making those excited girly noises. When they called her name, I think I went deaf because I couldn't hear anything. I saw the stampede slide down from the bleachers to me and I saw them screaming, but there was no sound. It was like a happy bomb went off in my head. There was no oxygen anymore. There was just people and little bits of airborne saliva. Students, teachers, old friends, new friends and friends I never even knew I had,  all of them surrounded me with screaming and joy and hugs and love and pride.  It was one of the greatest examples of "Jet Pride" that I can remember ever happening to Cumberland County High School. The community took pride in me and I think that meant more to me than actually winning a car in retrospect. But, of course, winning Stewie was another joy in itself.

Now, dear reader, I am sure that you have come across a person or two in your life that has given a name to a car. You might actually be that person. If that is so, then you understand why I named my car. To me, Stewie has a distinct personally and our bond has no true definition other than we are an inseparable team. We laugh, we cry, we even jam together with the radio. Yes, I talk to Stewie and maybe, if more people talked to their cars, there would be less car troubles in the world. But, I digress. On that fateful May day back in 2007, I did not choose Stewie. He chose me.

There were seven cars for me to choose from outside in Blue Lot. But I vaguely remember them. I saw the shimmering blue coat of a car that I would soon learn was a brand new 2007 Pontiac G6 with only 219 test drive miles on the odometer and it was love at first sight. I do remember there was a candy apple red Pontiac Solstice Convertible there, too. But even at the ripe age of 18, I knew that I had no use for a two door vehicle with limited trunk space.

Winning a car was a huge blessing for my family. At that time, my mom did not have a running vehicle. We truly were desperate and to be given something that we so dearly needed was nothing short of a miracle. When I finally had time to myself, I took the time to reflect on how special this blessing was and vowed never to take it for granted.

When I sat into the driver's seat for the first time, taking in the smell, it was almost like I heard a little voice say, "Hi, my name is Stewie!" So I told everyone, "His name is Stewie.” That night I slept in the backseat of my new car in the driveway outside my house because I was afraid it would not be there when I woke up. But it was. It was all still very real.

I try to keep Stewie as new and clean as possible, but a lot has happened in seven years. My car brought me through college and a university, quite a few road trips, both long and short. I have driven back and forth to Nashville so many times I think I can do that trip blindfolded. My G6 has been driven by everyone in my immediate family and it has been a lifesaver more times that we can count.

If it wasn't for the "Attendance is the Key to Success" program, my life would be very different right now; I cannot even imagine. What's more, Dave Kirk and his staff have become my family. They look after Stewie, as well as myself and my family, to make sure we are safe on the road. Everyone at Dave Kirk Automotive is so kind and caring, sometimes it is hard for me to find words enough to thank them. All I can say is that it has been a great honor to be a part of something that does so much for the community and for the students who will go on to do great things. Whoever is lucky enough to become part of the Dave Kirk Winner’s Club will never want for much in life, that I can say for sure. Congratulations to Whitney Gillihan from Cumberland County High School and welcome to the family! You deserve it!


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