April 24, 2014

WILLIAMS: Get out on the highway


---- — My son’s truck is in the shop and my friend, Jan, was in the hospital so I had her truck in order to be able to go feed her cats while John used my car to go to work.

Jan and I both purchased vehicles before we retired that we hoped would be the last ones we’d ever have to buy. She got herself a big red King Cab pick up. I got a sweet little Chevy Cruze.

Driving her vehicle makes me love my Cruze. When I get into the truck, I feel as if I’m scaling Mount Everest. I’m short and the truck is tall. There is a high step and then you have to take another step to get into the cab. What I actually do is fall into the seat face first, scrabbling and clawing to get myself in an upright position.

Once I’m in, I’m so high, I imagine myself in a howdah on an elephant. Like an elephant, it seems to me the truck lumbers down the road with none of the responsiveness of my Cruze. You do not turn an elephant on a dime.

When I get out of the truck. I always seem to miss the step down so that I find myself plunging to the ground like a snowboarder on a steep slope. My feet hit the ground with a thud and all my joints moan in protest.

My car can be parked in virtually any parking space and even in some places that aren’t parking spaces. I can park in airport slots labeled “compact cars only.” I can parallel park the Cruze into a hole only a few inches longer than the car itself. By contrast, I wouldn’t dream of trying to parallel park the truck without, oh, say, nine empty spaces to the front and back. Even at the shopping center, I search for two empty spots together to ensure I can man-handle Big Red into place.

When I drive the Cruze, the defining word I would use is zip. It zips down the highway and down narrow city streets. You can make a last minute stop if the light turns red. You can whip it around an unexpected turn.

In Jan’s truck. I must plan each stop in advance because even after you jam on the brakes, the vehicle just keep going due to the weight in the back propelling it forward.

The truck has such a wide wheel base that you take up the entire street to make a turn into it. If there are cars parked on both sides of a residential street, you probably just need to go around the block and come at it from a different direction.

And I hate the truck’s seatbelt notification. The Cruze is non-confrontational. It gives you a soft melodious ding as a reminder “hey, don’t forget your seatbelts.” If you choose to ignore it, as I usually always do when I’m driving in town, it will tell you one more time but you can almost hear the little “I’ve-warned-you-twice-whatever-happens-now-is-on-you” shrug in its voice.

But, the red truck is a bully and a dictator. It doesn’t ding so much as loudly blare “get those blankety-blank seat belts on NOW!” It’s not a reminder but a threat. And it keeps it up. So I go down the street having a power struggle with the truck “the heck with you,” I say, “I’m the boss here!”

Jan is home now and I gave her vehicle back. Now I have nothing to drive — but even nothing is better than the red truck.