Johnny Diaz and his 1982 Honda Accord
It was my worst-best car: a 1982 Honda Accord, the second generation Accord from Honda.

That Honda hatchback was my first car, a belated 17th-birthday gift from my parents. The first time I saw it, the car was parked, with all its glorious small dents, in our Miami Beach driveway. No one was around when my friend Kelly and I discovered the car. As soon as we peeked through the window, though, I knew this was my car. It spoke to me.

It was sky-blue with a whoosh Accord logo written in italics on each side. The smallish hatchback looked sporty, cool and even contemporary despite being eight years old. Something about the word "Accord" sounded important to me. I couldn't wait to drive it. I just had to figure how to drive a stick-shift. But after a few starts and stops, I nailed down how to switch gears without that annoying grinding noise and I hit the roads.

With its 75-horsepower engine, the car provided me a smooth ride with enough pep to whip and weave on Interstate 95. A navy-blue velour material sheathed the seats. The shag carpeting tickled my feet. The AC was icy-cold blowing my brown curly hair. Whenever I pulled away from a green light, the car sounded an electronic hum, reminding me of a futuristic exhaust of a spaceship.

Although the car was heralded as one of the most reliable in the US, my used vehicle with some 70,000 miles, had some issues. When it rained, it literally poured inside the car. Sealant problems plagued my front-glass windshield. I used napkins to dab the wet spots that pooled on my dashboard. Another time, when my high school lunch-bunch friends piled into the car, a rattling sound followed us as we left the school lot. The car dragged the muffler like the end of a Just-Married chain of cans. We didn't make it to Burger King that afternoon.

The car's temperature spindle would inch into the red zone if I ventured over the Miami causeway or if I idled in traffic too long. When the car did work properly, it sparkled. I beamed just as brightly whenever I pulled into my driveway, the highschool parking lot or at The Miami Herald building where I was an intern.

This was my Accord and I could deal with all the minor auto warts I had inherited from the previous owners. The car liberated me. I felt like I was growing up, becoming a man. Too bad the Accord didn't last through high school. It succumbed after a car accident, which was my fault.--a total loss. But I like to think that my old car may have been restored by someone, and that it's out there somewhere in South Florida giving another owner the pleasure it gave me for those two sweet months.

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