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Posted: February 21, 2012 8:52 p.m.

Travis: I know the words, can’t sing

Recently my car reached a milestone; it's 10 years old. Clark Howard would be proud of me. He says everyone should keep a car 10 years. In fact, I read somewhere that people are keeping their cars longer because of the prolonged economic downturn and because cars are now built to last longer. I'm in no hurry to get rid of it. When I bought it, my husband said, as he has said with every car I have gotten, "Now, this car will last you until you die." The sentiment makes me wonder if he is referring to the reputation of the car or to my health.

I am not car proud. As long as it safely gets me where I am going and is relatively reliable, I am happy. My car is still shiny and respectable looking. It has a few replacement parts because of damage from hail and a fender bender and one dent from a grocery cart in the parking lot of Kroger. (It is truly my greatest pet peeve, people who are too lazy or too indifferent to return their carts to the corrals provided for them.) So I hope to drive my car for another five or six years.

Another reason I am in no hurry to get rid of my car is that it is probably one of the last cars built with both a tape deck and a CD player. I like my antique tape deck.

One of my guilty pleasures is to turn up the volume while I am driving and sing along with the music. And the music I like to sing along to is the songs of the 50s, 60s and early 70s. Give me "Blueberry Hill" by Fats Domino, "Soldier Boy" by the Shirelles, "In the Midnight Hour" by Wilson Pickett, anything DoWop, anything by Simon and Garfunkel, anything by Smokey Robinson or anything by The Kingston Trio and I can sing along. My favorite album is "Graceland" by Art Garfunkel. Do you still call them albums?

I have the music on tapes, and as they slowly die, I have discovered you can replace most of them as CDs if you search on-line. But I do use my tape player in my car.

Unfortunately, I cannot carry a tune, as they say, if I had a bucket.

When I was a teenager, my mother and sister and I did the dishes together after dinner. When I say did the dishes, I mean wash and dry them by hand and put them away. My mother and sister would sing all the songs my mother enjoyed as a teenager, but they wouldn't let me sing. I was too awful. Consequently, I know all the lyrics to "The Man on the Flying Trapeze" and "Has Anybody Seen My Gal?" and other esoteric songs like "The Whiffenpoof Song."

It's a curse to know all the words and not be able to carry a tune. When my children were younger, and even now, when I burst out in song to "Runaround Sue," they turn green with that certain look children get when their parents are embarrassing them but they don't know how to prevent it. My grandchildren just laugh at me and ask me to sing "Puff the Magic Dragon." I don't know which I prefer, secret embarrassment or open laughter.

Occasionally my husband drives my car, and invariably he will ask me why the radio is turned up so loudly. I just look at him blankly and don't admit my secret addiction.

So if you see an older woman driving around town alone in her car tapping on the steering wheel rhythmically and talking to herself, you probably have seen me. I'm not crazy. I'm just singing along. It's the only time I can indulge without someone making fun of me.

Paula Travis is a retired teacher from the Newton County School System. She can be reached at ptravis@covnews.com.

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