The things are in the saddle and they ride the people.
I have a more than passing devotion to my vehicle. It is a GMC Safari, born just before the turn of the century, 1998. I bought it from my mother, whom I never call “Mother” when she upgraded to a 2005 version of the same. My van has circumnavigated the Gulf of Mexico, piloted by her, once or twice. It easily carries four large mountain bikes and 4 passengers, although there are no working seat belts in the back seat. It is not a mini-van, it is a maxi-van. I am way past the point of reasonable accommodation for repairs. Although the engine has rarely faltered, arthritis has set into the electronics system. The transmission has an ominous kick when it shifts from 2nd to 3rd. It ran hot to the point of melting once. The mechanic found no damage, but I suspect that episode left a mark somewhere deep in the block.
Last month, on the road home from Gulf Shores, AL, the smell of burning aluminum foil filled the cab. That terrible sweet smell of a tweaker on meth sweating their way deep into Ketosis. The rain fell so fast and hard that the tire tracks on I-10 were filled with water and I surfed along the edges, confident in the Safari’s roadworthy heft to keep us safe. Then my wife, with fear in her voice, said “Juancho! There’s smoke!” and I tacked across the hydroplane lanes and beached us as far on the shoulder as I dared. She grabbed the poodle, Summer Chanel, and we bailed into the muddy bank, tractor-trailers blasting by 3 feet from the driver’s side door. It was a low moment. Certain that the van and all our cargo was about to burn up, I held fast to the relief that we were safe, and could find our way to shelter. Then nothing else happened.
I popped the hood, no smoke. My wife inspected the door, and tried to roll down the window, which produced one last dramatic puff and a serious stench. It was the window motor. Just the window motor! All was well. We loaded back in, wet but relieved and I punched the accelerator, sling-shotting us back to highway speed. I apologized and soothed, and promised to get a new vehicle as soon as I could.
I have a good job, and thanks to the influence of my wife, a decent credit score. My bank happily offered to place me in debt to about any amount I liked. My heart isn’t in it though. Everything is a step down from my van. I am reminded of a couple of useful homilies which I will now share with you.
Pa Ingalls, whom you may remember from this blog, had a little mutt named Suey Dog. Suey Dog was part Boxer maybe, part something else and she followed Pa around like his familiar. They were such a pair. Trustworthy and loyal to one another beyond compare. Pa never had to worry about Suey Dog. She would jump in the truck, ready to go anywhere. These two grew up together, as she followed Pa from a teenage skate brat to wilderness guide, to married rancher. Suey-girl, as Pa affectionately called her, had three legs. The story goes that she was hit by a car shortly after Pa adopted her, and in his grief and panic, he asked his mom if they were going to have to put Suey Dog down. His mother replied, “When you broke your arm we didn’t put you down did we?” That was that, and Suey Dog survived long into Pa’s adulthood, may she rest in peace.
Our next story comes secondhand from that Mother of mine, by way of the History Channel perhaps. So I mentioned that I have a job, and could therefore finance a new or lightly used automobile. Although by examining my track record I am quite the Steady Eddie when it comes to employment, it is essential that I feel like I can walk away into the sunset. The shackles of debt have ground down better men than I. I want to do this work with a joyful heart, and beholden to none but my wife, my creatures, and those whom I serve. When Harry and Bess Truman left office, they returned to their humble home in Independence, Missouri with no more than an Army pension. He said he just couldn’t stomach the thought of exploiting the office of the President for financial gain. Ha! What an utter buffoon! A moron! A man of integrity!
So, thanks for listening. I still may replace the Safari, or I may resurrect it yet again.