A Man and His Car: A Love Story
Editorial written by on Wednesday, May 17, 2000
Does your vehicle cost more than your home? If you reside in southeast Missouri, it's quite possible. In fact, it's expected.
Men and women of all races here are in love, infatuated, and all-around smitten with their cars and trucks. We pamper them with washes and waxes, obsess over their stereos, lose sleep over their chrome wheels, and fret over horsepower. It's like a hot steamy romance, with everything but the lovemaking itself. (Unless you view tailpipes as an erogenous zone, in which case you need to seek counseling. And the burn unit at your local hospital. Immediately.)
In my line of work, I meet all kinds of people. I see their homes and their cars. And many times, the car is worth quite a bit more than their house. Or apartment, condo, Section 8 unit, or hovel. It's inexplicable, but common. People in general see no moral dilemma in paying twice as much for their car as they do for their living quarters.
This phenomenon is most common with pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles. People do some really weird stuff to their "rigs". Including:
- Wacky two-tone paint jobs.
- Hideously expensive chrome wheels.
- Equally hideously expensive and large tires.
- Lift kits.
- Four wheel drive, even if you never go "out in the sticks". You never know when you might need to climb a mountain in the middle of Cape Girardeau.
- Lowering kits.
- Roll bars.
- Running boards.
- Ground effects.
- Chrome bed rails.
- Bed liners.
- Dual rear wheels (the ultimate in Southern style, the Jeff Foxworthy equivalent of the Holy Grail. Only for the hardcore).
- Fog lamps.
- Gun racks.
- Longhorns attached to the grille (primarily a phenomenon in Texas and Oklahoma, but spreading.)
- Decals of Ford or Chevy emblems.
- Decals of erstwhile cartoon character Calvin gleefully urinating on Ford or Chevy emblems. (Does the cartoonist make any money off all those?)
- Decals of the number of your favorite NASCAR driver.
- Decals of Calvin urinating on the number of your least favorite NASCAR driver (usually Jeff Gordon but there are a few deviations.)
- Extended cabs.
- Four doors.
- Gas-guzzling monster turbo diesel engines.
- Bug shields.
- Dual exhaust pipes.
- Flare-sided bed panels.
- Window shades.
- Towing packages.
- Confederate battle flag bumper stickers/license plate frames/decals (i.e., anything with a rebel flag on it will suffice).
- For the really shameless, the original sticker from the dealer that stays on your passenger window for at least a year so everyone can tell how much you paid for it.
- A stereo system that may well cost more than the truck and the house combined.
- Typically, no liability insurance despite all of the above options.
It used to be fashionable to soup up a big conversion van, sticking TV's, VCR's, captain's chairs, beds, stoves and wet bars in the back. This still happens, but conversion vans are now primarily used only by aged hippies and serial killers.
Truck customization, not too long ago, was a realm reserved only for the dedicated, card-carrying redneck. Not anymore. With the economy booming and SUV's all the rage, wanton and reckless customization of trucks is commonplace. Everyone's in competition to have the "baddest-ass" truck, and this stuff adds up fast.
In no time flat, you have a $35,000 vehicle sitting in the driveway of your $30,000 home. In fact, the paint on the house may be peeling, the roof rotting, the yard overgrown with weeds and littered with discarded appliances and trash. But that truck will be pristine. You can bet on it.
Your vehicle is typically your second largest investment, next to your house, so it is a big deal. Folks are therefore quite conscientious about their ride. The general public may never see your house unless you specifically invite them over. But anytime you go to church, a bar, the store, a ballgame... they do see your car. And that's probably why folks put so much time and effort into them.
But the average Joe Six-Pack doesn't do nearly the things to a car that they will do to a truck. Trucks and SUV's get such exotic treatment, even JonBenet's parents would think it obsessive and slightly creepy. Sometimes I wonder if there should be a law against "Cruelty to Vehicles".
I do not condemn materialism; Americans like their toys. I believe that if you can afford to pay upwards of $30,000 for a vehicle, you should be allowed to do so. That's part of what makes this country so great.
I also do not believe that the size of a man's truck is inversely proportional to the size of his schlong. (I do believe this myth is true about stereos and belt buckles, though.)
Nor do I bemoan the damage that these SUV's and large trucks supposedly do to the environment due to their gas consumption. Surely if you can afford the truck, you can afford the gas. Pissing off the environmentalist crowd is kind of fun, anyway. They're cute when they're angry.
However, I must question the common sense of putting so much love and money into a vehicle while neglecting everything else. It's a tough sell when your wife wants to put braces on your kids, or buy a new washing machine, and you can't because your truck payment is too high.
The old lady won't buy that argument, and soon you'll be living out of that truck. And that's the way it probably should be, if it indeed costs more than your house. It will become your house.