Sunday, September 9, 2007

A tale of two taillights.

Now I know I've blogged about my truck before, but I'm going to do it some more. Hey - it's an awesome truck, and deserves this kind of attention. When I first purchased this beauty, on that fateful day in July of 2006, Andy Fisher, the previous owner was trying to convince me to buy. We took it for a test drive, and Andy listed some of this truck's many many featured. "The windows go both up and down," he said, as we chattered down his washboard driveway, "and even though the display on the radio is broken, the speakers can still make sound - just press 'seek' until you find a station you like. It's got keyless entry --" "Really? I didn't know they put that feature in cars this old," I said, interrupting Andy's sales pitch.
"Yeah - it's got keyless ignition too. You don't need a key at all; you can start it up with just about any skinny metal object. Actually, it doesn't have to be metal I guess....I started it with my thumbnail once."
I took a sharp left turn at the bottom of the Fisher's driveway, and the keys, as though they were trying to prove Andy's point, flew right out of the ignition onto the floor.
"As I was sayin', it's got a nice topper on there, and that does lock," Andy continued, "oh, and I just had the taillights replaced too. Brand new taillights. Did I mention the widows can go both up and down?" New taillights huh? I was sold.

Fast forward one year.

I was staying with Heidi and Rutger, a wonderful Dutch couple who live in Hood River, Oregon. I was there for the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic stage race. Heidi and Rutger are charming, friendly, and borderline hyperactive. The entire time I was at their house they wore exercise clothing, and between the two of them, they worked out at least 5 times per day. Rutger is a model maker for a living. His job was to "transfer the napkin drawing someone hands [him], and turn it into a three-dimensional object". Before that he carved surfboards for windsurfers. Rutger drove an awesome old camper van -- like a VW Westfalia on steroids -- with room for eight passengers, a full kitchen, and an overhead storage compartment for surfboards and sails. It was a huge van, it had a bad turning radius, and the visibility was awful when backing up (thanks to the floral curtains in the windows). The first morning I was there, Rutger, being the high strung guy that he is, packed two Senseo coffee pods in his strange Dutch coffee maker, made himself a latte, hopped in his massive orange camper-van, and backed straight into my truck. Naturally, the monstrosity of a bumper on the back of Rutger's van was undamaged. Naturally, my taillight was completely shattered.

Fast forward three months.

Shit. I was running late. I had to drive from Boise to Sun Valley, a three hour trip, and it was already eight o'clock. I'd packed my bag, but still had to disassemble my bike so it could fit on the plane. "Screw it," I thought, and just tossed my bike in the back of my truck, "I need to get there". I, being the high strung guy that I am, sucked down the last sip of my silty cup of french press coffee, threw my massive bike bag in the back of the car such that the rear window was completely obscured, hopped in the cockpit of my fine automobile, and backed straight in to the shiny Ford F-350 parked in the alley. To complement the crunching sound of breaking plastic, I shouted "FUCK!" as loud as I could. Luckily for me, the owner of said shiny Ford F-350 (a clean-cut, muscular, Boise State fan) was within earshot, and arrived on the scene within moments. He wore a concerned yet menacing expression. Fearing for both my life and my insurance rate, I got out of the car and braced for the news. To our utter disbelief, and to my life-saving, pulse-calming, faith-restoring relief, the shiny F-350 was completely unscathed. Somehow my taillight, and only my taillight hit the plastic guard on the outside of the chrome bumper. There were a few, almost unnoticeable scratches in the plastic guard, and that was the extent of the damage to the shiny Ford. I never could have imagined feeling so lucky to have just smashed my taillight.

Fast forward three hours.

The massive fires that burned much of the forest outside Sun Valley were almost out. Nevertheless, there were still nearly two thousand firefighters in the valley mopping up the remaining spot fires. As the nation's top priority fire for over a week, the Castle Rock complex fire was spared no expense, including dozens of helicopters, hundreds of fire-engines, and (here's the kicker) lots of additional law enforcement to maintain order while the firefighters did their jobs. Now picture me in my rust colored, $900, two-door pickup truck with smashed taillights, driving through one of the wealthiest resort towns in America, past numerous bored policemen. I was more conspicuous than a republican senator at a boyscout jamboree. I got pulled over no less than three times (and tailed by a fourth cop for several blocks), in about ten miles. Each time, I offered up my shards of smashed taillight that were still on the floor of my car as evidence that this accident had just occurred, and each time, I was let off after some stern words and some very pointed questions ("where are you headed?", "you don't live here, do you?", and my favorite "are you lost?"). I guess I won't be driving around at night for a while....'cus getting new taillights might cost me more than my car is worth.

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