Saturday, July 13, 2013

Keep It Cool

He wore dirty short-sleeved shirts dyed an indefinable drab. On his forearm, he had a large tattoo very little of which I could make out under the layers of dirt and motor oil. But bulging beneath the black sheen of grease were two large breasts attached to a skinny woman who looked something like Betty Boop, if Betty hung out at biker bars. The grease smeared up his arm formed something like a little black dress that she was dropping off her shoulders. I have to say, for a tattoo, she was pretty hot. Standing with us beside my habitually broken truck was his wife, who looked nothing like the tattoo.

They were very nice people, Jeremy and Amanda, somewhere in their mid-thirties, one of those couples where the man is a skinny dude--looking like some mixture of Eminem and Goober--and the woman is slightly thicker than he--due most likely to kids and simple carbohydrates. Jeremy wore a little wool hat that made me think of Jughead, though the hat was nothing like Jughead's. Amanda wore black leggings and short skirt with a little cleavage--but not enough to make me look away from the tattoo.

He was explaining one more time what the hell was wrong with the air conditioner of the truck we had recently purchased, the truck in which we were planning on spending our year driving around the country. Colleen had driven out here several times more than I, and I was certainly sick of the trip, so I know Colleen was even more exasperated than I. 

In March and April, we had begun to feel a little desperate about ever finding both a trailer and truck that met our three criteria: 

1.         Appropriate interior size for Colleen, me and our two sons, which includes Jacob,  who is six foot, four inches, and growing;   The trailer needed to include a separate room, however small, with two or more bunk beds.  The truck needed to be large enough to pull the trailer and have a crew cab comfortable enough for Jacob to scrunch for several hours as we tootle down the road.

2.         Affordability, meaning we are basically a one-income family, and that income is an educator’s salary.  We do not have a large savings account, and with my being sixty and two boys lined up for college, we are not blowing what little nest egg we have on a brand new rig that each cost three quarters of my annual salary.  I am adventurous, but not exceedingly careless. So we looked for vehicles several years old, but vehicles the owners had respected.

3.         Dependability, meaning neither vehicle could be so old or so worn that we would be spending on repairs what money we saved on the original purchase.

            So now it’s June.  Standing around our new-to-us Dodge Ram ¾ ton, Quad Cab, 6.7 Cummins Turbo Diesel, long bed, with 104,150 miles, in Cedar Park, Texas, one hour in traffic from our home, for the fifth time in two weeks, we were starting to feel either stupid, unlucky, or cursed.  We eventually learned enough to discover that we were unlucky.  But to arrive at that blessed realization, we had to share our truck for most of a month with Jeremy who replaced the compressor once and the condenser three times.  We finally escaped for a little over $300 because most of the repairs fell into the warranty we purchased from Philip, the ex-hippie transplant from Brooklyn, who sold us the truck.  I’ll skip that story, but mention only that Philip has a love for refurbished parts.  I think Philip gave us a fair price on the truck, but eventually both of us paid in time, effort, and money for every cent he saved substituting after-market parts.   

            Eventually, the summer solstice approached.  Jeremy loaded us up with Freon yet one more time.  The Freon decided to remain compressed or condensed or whatever state is required to keep us chilly in a Quad Cab in a Texas summer.  My checkbook returned to my back pocket, and Jeremy, Amanda, Colleen and I all agreed that we had the beginnings of beautiful friendship. In the meantime, Jeremy also had replaced a broken passenger side mirror, checked out the engine and the tow haul, and installed our electric braking system that coordinates braking duties between the truck and the trailer.  As Jeremy explained it with a gleeful smile, “This is your ‘O shit lever.’ I have it here near your right leg in easy reach.  If you look back and see your trailer jackknifing or pulling out beside you, yank this and it will stop it dead.”  I am not looking forward to that moment, but I think our youngest, Theodore, has some hopes.  Finally, Jeremy and I shook hands; he wiped his off, first.  Like I said, Jeremy is a thin, strong man, so Betty’s boobs remained tight and firm as his arm flexed.  Colleen and Amanda hugged.  We set a tentative date to meet after payday.  I needed a Edge Insight CTS - OBDII Reader that will help me keep track of the temperature of my transmission fluid, which everyone tells me is imperative in the mountains.  Who knew?   

Soundtrack:  Ann Miller.  Too Darn Hot

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