After the questionable end to Tuesday’s commute, the boys were concerned that I might not be able to get them to camp yesterday morning. Not wanting to worry them, I snuck out while they were watching TV and tried to start the car again — nothing doing.
With Kim out of town, I had no idea how to handle yesterday morning. I could call AAA again, but there’d be no guarantee as to what time they’d show up, and I knew from experience that we’d have to get in the car and go as soon as the battery was charged, since we were essentially dealing with a timebomb. Plus, we’d probably have to do it without air-conditioning, and I didn’t have the heart to put them through that again.
Fortunately, a friend agreed to pick them up and take them to camp — the same friend, in fact, whose family we were supposed to meet for dinner Tuesday night. Perfect; at least the boys would be able to spend some time with our friends’ kids, after all. And I could stay behind to deal with the nagging questions.
I worked from home yesterday morning, after having called a GM dealer to see when I should bring the car to them. They assured me they wouldn’t be able to look at it today, so I had no deadline for bringing it to them. That’s good, because it took a while to get the thing mobile again. And by “mobile” I mean, atop a flatbed truck. It took two AAA visits to get it there.
The first guy came with a battery charger and cables. I should have known things weren’t going to end well when he opened my hood, looked at the engine, and asked where my battery is. I reached over and popped off the plastic cover, and he got to work sorting his reds from his blacks.
He connected the charger, I cranked the engine, he disconnected the charger, we shook hands, and he started walking back to his truck — and the car stalled. He did it all over again and was almost out of my driveway when it stalled a second time.
“You know, I don’t think it’s going to hold a charge long enough for you to drive it to the dealer,” he surmised.
“I’ll put a call in for a tow truck. Are you gonna need a ride to the dealer?”
As the temperature was already in the high 90s and I didn’t feel like riding my bike, I nodded.
The second guy managed to coax enough power out of the Vue to drive it onto the back of his flatbed. I climbed to the second story of his truck and belted myself into the passenger seat, and ten minutes of painful small talk later, we were at the dealership.
The cashier there watched me get out of a tow truck, which then drove off. She told me it might be a day or two before the service techs would be able to look at my car. But she was shocked when I asked for a loaner.
She offered to call Enterprise to have a rental delivered, but told me I would have to pay for it. I regretted not having ridden my bike, but remembered I’d never be able to fit the boys on the back of it when I picked them up in the afternoon.
Soon a huge, authoritarian, white pick-up truck — the kind you associate with utility work, foremen, and Marlboros — pulled in and the driver asked me if I needed a ride to Enterprise. For the second time yesterday, I pulled myself up into a car seat taller than myself, and we were off.
At Enterprise, the agent took my information and asked me to wait for a moment while they cleaned my vehicle.
“Was the truck you rode over here in okay?” she asked, and I assumed she was making small talk.
“Oh, sure, it was comfortable.”
“Good, good. Sorry we don’t have anything else available.”
“Wait, what? You mean that’s my rental?”
I wasn’t sure how to feel about this. I’m not a fan of pick-up trucks. They remind me too much of high school.
There was a certain clique back then — we called them “farmboys” but I believe “rednecks” would have been more accurate — who terrified me. They wore green Northrup King hats, kept a steady supply of chew in their back pockets, and had no appreciation for the value of a good education. They called me “Brainiac” and treated me…badly.
I generally eschew large pick-up trucks — the farmboys’ chosen mode of transportation and badge of honor — because I associate them with numerous unpleasant memories of that particular clique.
Sure, I bought a used B2000 when I got out of college, but really, it wasn’t so much a pick-up truck as it was a Mazda. I owned it for a year, bought a new Ford Escort, and vowed to never own even a small truck again. There was another reason for this, apart from the farmboy connection — when you own a truck, anyone who needs to move something big has a tendency to suddenly become your best friend.
So it was with some hesitation that I accepted the keys to the white behemoth idling outside. During the walk-around inspection, I half-expected to find Gregory Peck’s waterlogged corpse lashed to a harpoon in the tailgate.
Nevertheless, I was stuck with it. I thought about walking home, but it was 100 degrees out. Plus, I’m really lazy. So we finished the walk-around, I signed on the dotted line, and the agent cheerfully said, “Enjoy your ride, Mr. Bain!”
“Call me Ishmael,” I muttered under my breath as I braced for my ascent to the driver’s seat.
Can I just say how ridiculous I must have looked driving that thing? It was a Chevy Silverado, and it’s probably larger than the eponymous resort. This thing was massive! You could probably fit a couple of smart cars in its bed. (But that’s about the only thing it would have in common with them — I think it got about three miles to the gallon.)
I pulled into traffic and was immediately stricken with fear. What was I doing behind the wheel of this monstrosity? It wasn’t, as Chevrolet says, like a rock — it was more like the Rockies. Two and a half tons of pure terror, powered by all the cylinders, torque, horses or whatever necessary to make driving it seem effortless.
I still can’t understand how something that huge could feel like it was simply gliding along. Its acceleration was phenomenal — instant reaction to the slightest tap on the pedal. Power steering meant I could turn it with my pinky if I wanted to. (I didn’t.)
Something that big shouldn’t be easy to drive; it should take Herculean effort to wrestle it into submission, so the driver never forgets just how much damage potential is at their command. Big trucks should be sluggish, so people have time to get out of their way. This thing was dangerously easy to put wherever I wanted it to go — and, a couple of times, where I didn’t want it to go.
But I made it home with no physical — and minimal emotional — damage. It barely fit in my driveway, where I snapped a pic with my phone and sent it to Kim, so as not to scare her when she pulled in late last night.
When I took it downtown to pick up the boys, I realized the lanes are narrower there, and I couldn’t see my boundaries. Normally, I keep my car where I can see the yellow line beyond the left corner of the hood, and the white line beyond the right. Looking out my windshield, all I could see was a big, white horizon. But that’s okay, because oncoming drivers seemed more than willing to get out of my way.
I was tempted to pull into one of the many construction sites downtown — all it would have taken was a pair of work boots and a walkie talkie, and no one would have dared to question me. I could have jumped down and started barking out orders to the first adult farmboy I saw, delighting in the confusion I caused by using words like “eschew” and “eponymous.”
I shook the temptation away, pulled up to the museum, and straddled a parking space. As I got out, I couldn’t help smirking at some of the smaller vehicles around me. I think one of them exhausted itself in fear. For a split second, I understood why the farmboys had always acted so cocky. Yep, I was gonna have to get rid of this thing before it consumed me.
But first, I wanted to see Christopher’s and Matthew’s reactions. I think they were along the lines of, “Whoa!” and “Sweet!” There might have been an “Oh, snap!” somewhere in there, as well.
I was a little ashamed, because my sons weren’t the least bit intimidated by this thing that scared me to death. The handles were higher than Matthew’s head, but he insisted on trying to open his door and climb up without a boost. (I stood close by, ready to catch him.)
They enjoyed the cruise home, especially because, unlike the previous night, we had air-conditioning. I felt a little bad about using it, considering this truck probably consumes ozone by the square mile. But I got over my guilt, and again wondered if this thing was capable of possessing my soul.
No worries, though — I was able to return it this afternoon without remorse. Not that I have my car back, but Kim is home now and I work from home tomorrow, so there’s no need to rent that beast for another night.
I’m seriously relieved to be shed of it, too. God knows how it might have called to me if I’d kept it in the driveway for another night.
After all, power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts…like a rock.