Monday, October 13, 2008

Transportation or Personality?

Camp Connell, CA -- I've always chuckled at people who buy vehicles to reflect, or pretend to reflect, their self image.
Not any more.
I just bought a pickup truck, and I'm going to name it after George W. Bush.
It reflects where I am currently in my life; irritated with the current administration; wearing out slowly; a few chips and dents showing, but with several hundred thousand good miles remaining in the future-- I hope. (Me and my truck - not GW.)

I'll describe this vehicular avatar later. First, the history indicates I did buy cars that said something about me at the time. (Thank goodness I never bought a Hummer, a sexual substitute for mental inadequacy.)

As soon as I had a real full-time job after graduation from college in 1962 I stood in line at the Atlanta dealership and ordered my new foam green VW, with no options. When it came it had a hundred dollars worth of extras I did not want, and I was told to take it or leave it or wait another six to eight weeks. I took it, for around $1,700.
That was my practical transportation-only purchase, and my cheap years, and it worked fine for a few years.
When I got out of the Army and started reporting for the Miami Herald in Florida I bought a brand new 1965 British Racing Green Triumph Spitfire. It sounded great, cost $2,400, and the engine blew on the way home from the dealer. The engine was never quite right, but I loved that car.
The Triumph was the symbol of my bachelorhood. I courted my wife in it, used it for our honeymoon and drove back and forth to Apollo launches.

Even though it had junky engine, I felt really cool in that car until the day our daughter Ruth was born. You don't drive Florida's causeways in a tiny sports car at 65 mph with a cement truck on your bumper and a baby in your lap. At least, not if you want your wife to go along.
So we entered our practical vehicular years: another VW, two plain Chevy Biscaynes, and then at mid-career(not mid-life crisis), a new 1977 bright orange VW Camper to leave Florida and the East, and work our way West. We gave our last Chevy to the Salvation Army.
The camper took us everywhere until we ruined the engine climbing the western mountains.
Fortunately for me, that was during the era when newspaper companies were generous, not cheap, and company-provided cars solved the transportation problems for the next 20 years or so. We had a series of vehicles that fit the dark suits I wore to work, including one four-door Oldsmobile. I finally felt secure and moved through a series of SUVs -- Jeeps and Ford Explorers suited us quite well.
About the time I joined AARP and started having senior moments, we had a Northern California car (1999 Subaru for winter trips), I retired and then sold our last Explorer in Florida and replaced it with a Toyota van -- for traveling, not soccer games.
That was it until this week.
For more than a year I'd been contemplating buying a new truck, focusing primarily on Ford and Toyota 4X4s, generally around $30,000, using proceeds from stocks.
I had never owned a truck.
Every guy needs a truck at some point in his life. My son has had two or three, and my son-in-law has a very nice Tundra even as we speak.
I needed a truck.
Then the economy went into the toilet, thanks to eight years of fiscal conservatism focused on making the rich much richer. (That's why I named it for the President.)
So I bought a truck this week that fits the community, my personal needs, and my pocketbook(about one-tenth the price of new).
It is a 1986 GMC Sierra full-sized pickup truck. The silver paint is peeling, and the left blinker doesn't work right, but it has a new engine and is in reasonably good condition.
I always swore I'd never buy a Chevy, but I consider GMC a cut above.
It will haul wood or brush, get us out to the highway through two feet of fresh snow, make trips to the dump without concern for the polished finish, and give me an excuse to go offroad.
It seems a good fit. Just don't ask about the mileage.
I probably won't take it to San Francisco, or to the yacht club for dinner. But it will work just fine to get to the Camp Connell store for a beer on a Saturday night.
And that's where I am most of the time.

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