A couple of years later, in 1965, I came to the States and joined the US Marine Corps. When we graduated from Boot Camp in Parris Island, SC, we got 10 days leave. It happened to coincide with the Christmas/New Year weekends. One of my squad mates who heard that I was going to be spending Christmas alone in the barracks, invited me to his house in Deland, Florida for Christmas with his family. During the week, his sister invited us to Tallahassee to meet some of her college girlfriends. When we got to her roommate’s house, and after her father verified that the two Marines who were standing there were to be trusted, he gave me the keys to his car, a brand new Oldsmobile Delta 88.
The car looked huge. Being a new invincible Marine and a future fighter pilot, I was not going to be intimidated by a hunk of metal and chrome, so I jumped in and drove. My friend wanted to be in the back seat, getting to know his date a little better, so I drove and didn’t complain.
The first problem arrived immediately, when I tried to stop at the bottom of the driveway and I discovered the meaning of “power brakes”. Not being familiar with the concept, and concerned that this beast was going to be hard to stop, I applied the brakes quite sternly. BANG – my date hit her head on the windshield. The two in the back seat, who were already locking lips, virtually landed on our laps. After apologising, and blaming it on my unfamiliarity with American cars, we continued on our tour of the campus. The other issue was power steering. The slightest touch of the wheel would make the car sway from side to side of the road. If you were not aiming the car and keeping it aimed, it would find its way to the curb or nearby ditch.
By the end of the day I loved the “bedroom slipper” feel of the beast. It was completely different to anything I had previously encountered.
My date didn’t go as I’d hoped, and I blamed it on the power brakes. Frankly my bullshit worked well on European chicks, but apparently not so with American girls. I needed a crash course on what worked on this side of the pond.