Saturday, August 11, 2012

I drive a really old truck....

So old, in fact, my nephews needed instruction on how to put the windows down. “whadayamean crank?”


There are a lot of reasons for this. Most assume it’s an extreme manifestation of parsimonious behavior. I’ve found that when people start assuming everything you do is financially driven, it’s best to let them and then simply downgrade the credit rating of their opinion into the negative range.

Actually, an old truck is an interesting thing. For one, it has no computer telling it what to do. So, for example, when I take my foot off the gas, there is no artificial intelligence to debate whether the stupid human behind the wheel actually wants to slow down. I like that. I get annoyed when Windows asks me 3 times if I’m sure I want to do something.

No computer means I can fix my truck the way I learned to fix things. Take them apart and look for the piece that does not look quite like the others. Replace said piece and reverse the process to put back together. This is just how my brain works. Now I know some prefer the modern method of plugging a computer into the car’s brain and asking it what’s wrong. But given my normal interaction with computers, I’d fully expect a snide answer or for the computer to lock up. Yes, I’m pretty sure I’d spend more time trying to make the software work than the hardware.

I’m old fashioned. I open doors for ladies and the elderly. I used to run and let people know if they forgot to turn off their lights. I’ve had to drop the last from my repertoire after several times when I thought I might be committed for not knowing that all new cars turn on and off their own lights after the computer has completed the internal debate over whether you are actually done with them or not. At least I no longer have to search my brain to remember my plate number when they announce a vehicle left its lights on at the store. They don’t do that anymore. It’s just assumed the computer knows best, or someone has hit the auto-start button from 6 positions back in the check out line.

I hate cars that cluck, beep, or flash as their owners walk away. I won’t have one. I’d rather own something no one in their right mind would ever steal. My truck, being a relic of the last fuel crisis is so marginally powered that it offers the additional advantage of being able to be overtaken in a chase scenario by a bike cop. And those little key fobs that make modern cars cluck and beep are tentative at best. When your commute starts with a dinghy ride, the chances of that little beeper thing taking a swim are actually pretty good over time. And clickers are pretty useless after a swim. Besides, I like my keyfobs to look like nautical ropework, not mini TV remotes.

A friend of similar driving philosophy had to put down his old truck last year. Terminal frame rot. It was sad. He got a newer used truck.. Last week he was helping me return to water depths exceeding my draft in his dinghy when he successfully proved the adage “no good deed goes unpunished.” In this case with an inverted dinghy dunking. Thankfully, I was in Thalia, and 3 feet of water, so he was able to stand up while laughing it off. Then I got pretty concerned about his car keys, what with a shiny newer truck waiting on the beach. No problem though – he had searched long and hard and found one of the last of the pre-click-storic trucks. No clicker. No problem driving home, except for the wet butt.

I know, we are all supposed to want auto start and electric locks and back-scratchers and A/C and monster V8 engines… Oh wait. That was in 1960. No matter. Easiest thing to do is just keep jamming the crap down our throats. Saves money since actual progress is expensive. In fact, if I were to replace my old truck with the nearest new model, I would loose 5 miles per gallon. Made it so I couldn’t even consider the “cash for clunkers” program with a straight face. But I’d get power everything and more horsepower to go with it.

 A friend bought a Prius when they first came out. Cool car. It's got a clicker, so I won't own one, but it is at least looking in the right direction. This friend was very excited when he showed me the Prius. "Gets 60 miles per gallon." he said. "Your 1976 VW Rabbit diesel got 60 miles per gallon." I responded, clearly less impressed than hoped. "But this one's got air conditioning!" came the hopeful reply. "Great. 30 years of automotive engineering to get air conditioning worked into the deal." This ended the conversation. Now I know that there's more to it than that. Safety, emissions, comfort, performance....All I'm saying is why can't someone work toward the same goals with simplicity as a feature? Probably because the profit margin would suffer.

The real trouble is I don’t like driving. So I’d rather keep on not wanting that stuff and go sailing instead of driving. I used to like driving. Then I came back to the US one trip and people were all twiddling their thumbs (texting as it turns out) or holding cell phones in one hand and gesticulating madly with the other behind the wheel of car brands I’d never heard of. Add to that the fact that after several thousand miles at 5 knots, 50 miles per hour is like being in Space Mountain. I hate roller coasters. I am that guy up ahead you assumed was 80 years old. I’m not that old. But I’ll be off the road and back on the water just as soon as I can. So please don’t beep. Or at least put down the cell phone if you do so you still have one hand for the ship (car.)


  1. Great article. I too, have faith in older vehicles that I can comfortably work on. I feel the impact of making a new car is so much worse than making an old one last as long as possible, it just seems the right way to go.

    Plus, the ol' truck has a million times more character than a computerized modern car.

  2. Loving your blog so far!
    I miss my first car terribly. I had a 1980 Datsun 210. No locks and a pieced together stereo that had a naked speaker I would put in my lap as I cruised. I fixed everything myself on that car, but it died anyway. I can't even find the spark plugs on my new suzuki.

    Hoping you'll post again soon :]