My baby, 1978.
I began my short career as a smuggler in college. While a few friends and at least one family member were smuggling more lucrative contraband from across the Gulf Of Florida, I went off to school in my Gremlin.
(All right, you can stop the snickering right now! The abuse that Gremlins get in the current media will be the subject of some future post. It was a fun zippy car.)
I lived in a dorm on the UWF campus in Pensacola during my college days. The dorm rules did not allow pets ... maybe fish, but no fellow mammals. I found this rule to be ... uncomfortable, and it wasn't too long before I was looking for a way around it.
After some thought, the solution practically fell into my lap. The local pet store had a special on young pet rats and a cute little black and white one caught my eye. I was on a student's budget, so I bought a tiny 5 gallon aquarium (no top ... important point) instead of a proper rat cage to house "Ratty".
This small abode was also easily concealed if Joan, the dorm R.A. dropped in for a visit.
I did not know at the time that male rats stink and are therefore hard to conceal.
Ratty lived in my room, incommunicado, for a few months before becoming harder to keep secret and Joan was giving me the impression that she knew about his presence, so I decided to take him home when Thanksgiving break came around.
Eventually, it did.
The night before break, I loaded the Gremlin with all my dirty laundry, etc. I had one morning class the next day and then I was free to drive hundreds of miles back to St. Augustine. The Gremlin was in a shady spot, so that night I also snuck Ratty's aquarium with Ratty out to the car and loaded it into the back seat. The aquarium was leaning a little in the sloping seat, so I laid a Marine Invertebrate Zoology textbook over the top with a little gap for air.
The next morning, after class, I flew out to the Gremlin and hopped in for the long ride home. I glanced in the back to check on Ratty ... the aquarium was empty.
I hopped back out and did a thorough search of the car, shoving clothes around, moving shoes, books, etc.
"Well, he has to be in here somewhere ... he'll probably pop out somewhere while I'm driving and I'll catch him"
After all, it was a seven hour drive ... he was bound to turn up at some point.
I fired up the mighty Gremlin and pulled out of the dorm parking lot.
During the ride from Pensacola to St. Augustine I kept one eye on the road and one roving around the Gremlin, seeking Ratty. Alas, the hours of asphalt crept by and there was no sign of the rat. Eventually, I pulled into the front yard of my boyhood home and was greeted with joyous hugs from my folks and then I unloaded my stuff, carefully searching for the rat as I did.
When the Gremlin was empty, I decided to leave one door ajar. At least the poor thing could get out. I left the door open all night. Not a good solution for a domestic rat, but at least he'd have a chance outside, vs. roasting in a closed up car the next morning.
Thanksgiving vacation went great, lots of high school friends were home for the holidays and all too soon it was over. The rat had never shown up, I figured Ratty had escaped out the open door during the night.
With the holiday over, I drove the long Interstate 10 corridor back to Pensacola ... ratless ... I thought.
Living on campus, in good ol' dorm 68, I didn't use my car for days at a time. Sometimes a whole week would go by before I needed to go into town for anything.
Ya gotta eat tho, so I headed out to the parking lot after having been home for a week. When I got to the gremlin, large blue bottle type flies were crawling all over the window glass. That was odd, but what was odder was the fact that they were inside my car.
I opened the door, shewed them out, and drove into town to the Delchamps grocery store. I picked up my $40 worth of weekly groceries and headed back to the dorm. The flies had already been tucked away in the back of my brain as just another oddity of life.
Fast forward about three days. I was going off campus again so I headed out to the gremlin. Imagine my surprise to find more of the big flies inside the car. I opened the door and a musty stench rose to greet me.
Now, it dawned on me that maybe the rat had not made it out of the car back in St. Augustine.
It was pretty stuffy in the car so I started it up and turned on the air conditioning. To get the stink out as fast as possible, I turned the fan control to maximum. As cool air began flowing out of the two dash vents so did hordes of maggots.
Now I knew where Ratty was.
For the next week, I made daily trips out to the Gremlin to air it out and toss maggots out onto the asphalt. After a while, a long while with no dates, the stench level dropped to bearable.
It actually got to the point (about a year later) that I didn't notice it anymore unless I turned on the heater. When the heater was on, a faint musty odor would flow from the vents, giving me cause to remember poor Ratty and my first fairly unsuccessful attempt at smuggling.
Lucky me, in Florida we don't use the car heater much. If we did maybe I would have thought twice about my second, more challenging attempt at smuggling in the dorm.
But, that's another story.
Emma darling, if you are reading this from your dorm at USF, remember to do as I say, not as I do ... er, did.