Gas Lines, Rabbits and Carter: Remembering 1979
Anyone who admires Jimmy Carter’s presidency wasn’t yet born when he was in the White House. Or wasn’t paying attention.
There’s simply no other explanation.
And, no, I don’t care how many Habitat for Humanity houses Carter has hammered. Nothing he’s done in the past 38 years can make up for the screwiness that engulfed the US while he was president from 1976 to 1980.
On the other hand, Carter’s in his 90s now and diagnosed with cancer. I wish him good health and more years.
This isn’t personal.
It’s about his feckless policies that drove the country into what Carter himself described as a deep “malaise.” And me into a VW Rabbit. (More about that in a moment.)
Does anyone else remember 18 percent mortgage rates? How about 7.8 percent unemployment? Hostages in Teheran? Attack rabbits?
And there was our goober-growing president, helplessly shivering on TV as he urged us to set our winter thermostats at 65 to save energy. Shoot, there were reports that during the fuel crisis Carter installed wood-burning stoves in the White House and Camp David, just like the ones Abe Lincoln used.
Oh, and let’s not forget the nationwide panic at the gas pumps in 1979, which is why I blame President Carter for one of my biggest mistakes: My 1979 Rabbit. A diesel.
Noisiest car I ever owned.
I bought that compact because it got something like 65 mpg. And also because in a pinch you could stick a hose in your home heating oil tank, suck on it and siphon gas into your car. That was highly illegal, of course, and I never did such a thing.
But those were desperate times and American motorists were desperate.
Driving that clanking tin can made me dread cold weather. Volkswagen hadn’t yet mastered the art of pre-heating diesel fuel, which meant several ski trips were ruined because the engine refused to run on gas that was the consistency of peanut butter.
It’s been at least 35 years since I last drove that car. But the bad memories came flooding back this week when I spied a Rabbit parked at Hilltop.
It was the exact color of my old car. Not sure what Volkswagen called that hue. “Baked Potato,” perhaps.
This Rabbit was in mint condition, which meant its boxy body was shiny and the bare-bones interior was immaculate.
I wandered over to have a look.
”Jimmy Carter,” I muttered as I circled the car.
Then I spotted it, on the back bumper: An antique license plate.
Seeing that relic made me realize I’m getting old. But not old enough to forget those Carter years.