The Evolution of Priorities


My first car was a low-riding, muffler-dragging behemoth tailormade for my grandfather.  The 1972 Chevy Caprice—the largest sedan Chevy had ever manufactured—was just what he ordered.  When he decided to hang up his keys, it became mine for the taking.  I painted it primer grey and named it the Land Shark.
Having developed my highway skills inside a snug Volkswagen Beetle, the Land Shark was a different beast.  It seemed to sprawl across a lane and a half; the hood was long enough to seat a congressional hearing; the trunk so cavernous that reaching for the tire iron was nothing short of falling down basement steps.
Mechanically, pulling into traffic was gulp-worthy.  The accelerator stuck, hesitated to send fuel to the motor and getting up to speed required multiple hiccups from under the hood.  Checking the Shark’s gas mileage was impossible.  A hole had rusted through the top of the fuel tank and filling it was futile.  But what I didn’t know didn’t hurt me.  The gas gauge needle moved faster than the speedometer needle anyway.  I didn’t care.  It was my first set of wheels and I no longer had to ask to borrow the keys.
Inheriting the car also precluded learning to haggle with the seller.  But for better or worse, I’ve found that inconsequential.  I bond with vehicles and keep them for as long as they run safely.  For me, purchases occur only once every couple of decades.  So, from cost to gizmos, I don’t always know what to expect.
The lists of so-called “improvements” on factory-fresh vehicles seem endless and useless.  I don’t see how power cup holders, reclining clocks and hi-def, surround-sound, GPS screens will make me feel safer or more luxurious.  But they are enough to ignite the sticker like a Phoenix right there in the showroom.
After 21 years, our Chevy Blazer called it a career.  The new pony in our driveway is a 2014, pre-driven, Chevy Silverado, shiny black and really sweet.  My wife and I aren’t whistles and bells kind of people.  But even the basic work-truck version of this Silverado came with a few extras and I’ve had to adjust.
I don’t see the point in keyless remote entries.  I’m good with walking up to the door; it’s a requirement for getting in.  But now days, there’s also only one keyhole for all four doors and those key fobs are so bulky I might as well carry a shot put in my pocket.
I’m not big on heated seats.  They make me feel like I’m sitting in a puddle of warm-something.  This is northern Minnesota and long johns protect me just fine from the coldest interior cab upholstery.
Ironically, I figured a CD player was an automatic extra.  Silly assumption.  Turns out technology has evolved and CDs are going the way of the 8-track.  I still have towers upon towers of those essential road buddies.  So, I bought a CD boombox to ride shotgun.
The Silverado is bigger than the Blazer, too.  For me, it’s not a macho thing and getting use to its size is proof.  I tried parallel parking it near a downtown curb.  “Near” is the operative phrase here, but “vicinity” might be more accurate.  The truck was closer to the fenders of oncoming traffic than it was the sidewalk.
Determined to rectify such ineptitude, I drove around the block and the same parking spot was still open.  As I backed in, I knew I was close to the curb when I felt some resistance against the rear tire.  After a quick straighten-out and feeling satisfied, I got out and looked.  The tire had jumped the gutter and onto sidewalk.  I left it there… went into the store like that was my intent all along.
As for backing up a boat trailer, I could thread a needle with that Blazer.  But the Silverado hides our small trailer completely from sight either in the side mirrors or by looking out the back window.  By the time the trailer comes into view, swerving has begun and we serpentine down the landing, a little something for onlooker entertainment.
With some practice, I figure the Silverado and I will come to terms.  Two decades from now, when maybe it’s time to get another, we’ll have lived a lot of life together.  Its sentimental value will have risen to family-member status—just like the Blazer.


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