By Ron Marr
I’ve never understood people who view their car or truck as a status symbol. I’ve never understood those who name their ride, spend hours polishing it to a mirror-like shine, and obsessively vacuum microscopic crumbs from every crevice. To my mind, a vehicle is simply a device that enables transport from Point A to Point B, hopefully without blowing up, breaking down, or otherwise forcing me to walk long distances.
Maybe this attitude stems from a couple of decades spent so far beyond the sticks that the sticks seemed urban. Vehicles are strictly utilitarian in such locales. The interior and exterior appearance of my internal-combustion chariot never enters my mind. I just want the thing to run.
It should be noted, for reference purposes only, that I drive an elderly Ford Escape. Let’s just say it’s over ten years old and surpassed the one-hundred-thousand-mile mark many moons ago. It was originally a metallic silver. It’s now a nauseous brown. This might have something to do with the fact that I last washed it in 2006.
No one, aside from my dogs and me, ever rides in this buggy. No one wants to. The backseat is folded down, and the cargo area is impeccably furnished with blankets, giant dogpillows, half-gnawed rawhide bones, and a fair amount of fur (“fair amount” being defi ned as a few inches). Lest you scoff, be advised that dog hair is an excellent insulator. This proves I’m environmentally enlightened and totally devoted to saving the planet.
The current state of the Escape’s cargo area is actually an upgrade, as when I lived deep in the Ozarks it was frequently used to haul wood. You’d be amazed at how many chain-sawed logs fit in the back of a small SUV. You’d be further amazed at how a small SUV can traverse the woods without getting stuck and becoming a permanent home for furry woodland creatures.
This aesthetic of my mobile doghouse/log hauler is complemented by the passenger seat’s well-appointed décor. Car commercials rave about spacious legroom, and being the curious sort, I measured mine. The distance from the top edge of the seat to the stack of papers, tools, old blankets, fishing junk, petrified chicken bones (I’m not sure how those got there), Coke cans, and potato-chip bags was 4.4 inches.
That was measuring in an upward direction, by the way.
This is all well and good. As mentioned earlier, I consider motorized transport a tool that prevents me from walking or pushing a wheelbarrow. I give great credit to the manufacturers, as my Escape has endured punishment that never entered the minds of the most sadistic of test-track experts and Consumer Reports analysts.
The problem is that, after exceeding its useful lifespan by leaps and bounds, my buggy is on its last legs. I suppose I could have it repaired, but a bit of research revealed that fixing the thing costs roughly twice what it’s worth. This forced me to begin the search for the Escape’s hapless and unfortunate successor. This, in turn, led to a state of sticker-shock and awe.
Are you kidding me? Do people actually pay over $50,000 for a new vehicle? My house and five acres didn’t cost that much. Used cars, with more miles than mine, were upward of $10,000 or more. I suppose I’m out of the loop, but even if I could afford such a jalopy (which I can’t), I’d refuse on principle alone.
Thus, I suppose I’ll endeavor to keep the Escape going for a few more years. So what if it dies when I take my foot off the accelerator? I’ve excellent technique: popping the stick-shift into neutral while riding the brake and pressing the gas pedal. I’m accomplished at quickly shutting off the air when I encounter a hill with more than a three-percent grade. I’m an automotive genius in terms of quickly restarting my beater when it shudders to a halt at stoplights.
I may even excavate the passenger-side trash-midden and clean the gunk off the seats.
That’s not for appearances. I’m thinking I might need someone to help push.