"Looks Like She Burned!"
Meandering Life & Creativity
CO-OP1 Grocery Store, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
Saturday, April 1st, 1989
My first job was at the Prince Albert Co-Op Grocery Store. It was good job. I got paid well. $4.10 per hour. That was 10 cents above minimum so I was laughin’. I had plenty of money for gas, cigarettes (terrible to think I used to smoke), for going on dates, and extra for cruising Second Avenue in my 1973 blue Mazda 808.
But there was no time for cruising on work days. It was a Saturday and there was work to do. Pushing carts, facing shelves, bagging groceries, doing price checks. Goofing off too. We always found time to goof off, even if it was just a little. We were only high school kids, after all.
I remember it clearly. I was in the canned vegetable aisle. My assistant manager walks up. His name was Niblet. That wasn’t his real name and I don’t actually remember his real name, we just called him that because he was short. That wasn’t nice, I know.
He comes up and says…
Michael? Do you have a blue Datsun?
…..Pardon Me? No, I have a blue Mazda.
I returned to ‘facing’ the canned corn.
You sure you don’t have a blue Datsun?
I’m ready to tell him to go take a hike. Instead, I politely ask.
Well, there’s a blue Datsun on fire, just past the parking lot.
…..Whaaat? Really? Crazy.
Maybe we should take a look, just in case.
Then it dawns on me… ‘Wait a second, it’s April Fool’s Day. Niblet’s playing a joke on me. Niblet!!! I didn’t know this guy had a sense of humour.’
I’m thinking, ‘This is ridiculous’, but I go anyway. We walk and make small talk. I really want to see this blue Datsun on fire!
We’re outside, walking across the parking lot. It’s nice to get out for some fresh air and a little break from all that canned corn.
We walk some more just past the parking lot, round a corner and my jaw drops. Literally.
Not a Blue Datsun. Nope.
My 1973 blue Mazda 808 is on FIRE!!!
I run!! I run fast!!
There’s a fire truck and a rescue unit on the street, a police officer and a fireman with his hose out facing my smouldering car.
The fireman says….
This your car?
Looks like she burned!
My car. My first car. Burned!
The hood of the car was ripped clean off the hinges2, every cable under the hood was a stinking smouldering mess of black char. Apparently the oil all over the engine and insulation under the hood somehow ignited. The rest of the car seemed intact.
I called my Dad.
….Dad, my car started on fire!
You’re kidding! Alright.
He drove to town, hooked up a rope and we towed it ten miles home.
Thanks to my Dad having other Mazdas on our acreage, and an obsession with spare parts, we had that car up and running again in no time.
In one afternoon we swapped out all the cables, the distributor and the battery, finishing it off with a bright green car hood! There’s nothing classier than a green hood on a blue car.
But I had wheels.
And my Dad always made sure of that.
People would laugh, but I didn’t care. They didn’t know my story.
A week later, I went into Co-Op for work.
Michael, you don’t work today.
I checked the schedule and sure enough I must’ve written it down incorrectly.
I drove home…
…I was about half way home when I heard THE LOUDEST GRINDING SOUND I’VE EVER HEARD COMING FROM ANY CAR, EVER. I pulled over just in time as the grinding brought my car to a dead stop.
I turned the key. Nothing. It was dead.
Real dead. Like deader than before.
I seized the engine!
I hitchhiked home and never drove that car again.
Looks like she really burned!
With Gratitude for my Dad constantly fixing my cars and for my 1973 Blue Mazda 808,
CO-OP logo borrowed from Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federated_Co-operatives
The Mazda 808 had a hood that lifted near the windshield, opposite of most cars. They ripped it off at the front end instead!