Everyone used to drive pickup trucks. Now not so much. On the one hand you were never in charge of driving everyone anywhere as part of the car pool. On the other hand, you always spent your Saturday mornings ‘Helping Friends Move Things.’ You also spent a disproportionate amount of time listening to the girlfriend ‘explain to you’ – some might say berate – why my choice of vehicle served to undercut her image with… I never really understood with whom the actual undercutting was taking place, but there you are. Automotive undercutting was underway with someone, somewhere, at all times.

Driving on the freeway a few weeks after the break up with the afore mentioned girlfriend (the story sounds better if it’s on the drive back from her place immediately after the break up, but it actually was a couple of weeks later.) I was stuck in LA bumper to bumper, going no place fast, traffic. The three gardeners in the beat up pick up to my right made the internationally recognized gesture for ‘roll down your window’ and began negotiating with me to buy my truck. They seemed pretty eager, and offered me cash, but then they asked what year it was. Blissfully ignorant I said, “It’s a 1993.”

Horrified, they exchanged meaningful glances and their leader replied, “It’s a 1993? Man, chore truck is in bad shape. We all thought it was an 86. No thanks.” Then the traffic picked up and they drove away.

This gave me pause to think. I mean if my truck was too beat up for consideration by three, possibly undocumented, gardeners in an equally derelict vehicle then perhaps I should consider purchase of newer transportation. The idea was accepted in a positive, indeed one might say enthusiastic, fashion by most of my friends who advised that any new vehicle would need to enhance my marketability to clients. The new car would need to say; dependable, not flashy, responsible, and successful but not so much that a client might think I was over billing. So I went with a Volvo S-40 coupe.

The week after purchasing the car I was down at my client CPM-IX. Actually they didn’t manufacture anything. They printed tickets, but they were still crazy. So maybe they should have been CPT-1. The president of CPT-1 saw me arrive that morning. Walked over to me and said, “Is this your new car? Didn’t you used to drive that green pickup?” When I said yes he replied, “Good for you. When you finish here today stop by Phil’s office, he wants to talk to you.” Phil was the vice president who had brought me on as a consultant.

So I finished up my traditionally wacky day at CPT-1, listened dumbstruck as they explained their business procedures, made no real forward progress on their project, took note of the time I would bill them for the visit, and dropped by Phil’s office. Phil shook my hand, told me what a pleasure it had been to work with me, said that the ‘Old Man’ had seen my new car, and had decided that they were paying me too much, and now I was fired. They would later bring me back, and fire me again 3 times the following week, but that’s not part of the car story.

Apparently the ‘Old Man’ reasoned that if I could afford a new car they must be paying me way too much money. As Phil put a fatherly hand on my shoulder and eased me out the front door I remember saying something to the effect that CPT-1 wasn’t paying me too much. There were these lunatics in San Diego who were throwing wheelbarrow loads of money at me for practically nothing, and they were paying for the new car. This argument had little affect on Phil, and he waved at me pleasantly as he closed the high security, bullet proof glass door in my face.

So time passed and I helped friends move less, but helped them car pool more, for several years. Then it came time to plant a maple tree in my front garden. I swear that as I was placing the order with the nursery/tree farm over the phone I actually thought that I could just put the tree in the back of the truck and, as long as it was covered with some sort of a tarp, everything would be fine. Then I remembered that I didn’t own the truck any more, and hadn’t for at least 5 years. But since I’d ordered the ‘small,’ 6 foot tree, instead of the medium, 12 foot tree, I thought that I might be able to fit it into my car. After all I had the big Volvo trunk with the fold-down rear seats, and the fold-forward front seat on the passenger side. It would probably work.

It took a while for the special order maple tree to arrive from Central California. The salesman had told me it would be a week, but when I later phoned to inquire about delivery times I was later told that “Trees from Lodi always take a full month to deliver.”

So, a month passed, and I got the phone call to come down to Treeland and pick up my maple. When I arrived at the front desk the boss’s wife processed my paperwork. I made a hopeful inquiry as to whether the tree would be small enough to fit into my car, because I didn’t have a pickup any more. She made a joke about how I was going to transport the tree in a Smart Car, and I missed the joke entirely. Instead of realizing that she meant one of those new, tiny, high mileage cars I thought she meant that my car was smart, because of it’s high safety rating. So I said, “Yes, my car does have front and side air bags.”

She looked at me quizzically and said, “What good are air bags going to do with a tree in the car?”

I replied, “Perhaps they will protect the foliage in case of a head on collision?” And she laughed so hard at me that she had to sit down. Then she called Rudolpho on the radio and told him to bring the tree to my car in the parking lot. I guess she talked to Rudolpho some more after I left, because when he showed up with the tree on a dolly he said, “Oh, thank God this car has the full front and side air bags to protect the delicate foliage.”

Some of the leaves fell off inside my car, but the tree seems OK, and I planted it last week.

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