I had a car accident this week. I’m fine. No one was hurt. I did, however, learn that when a Chevy Malibu takes on a Dodge Ram pickup, the Malibu will lose. Badly. In fact, my little ‘bu’s whole front crumpled while making a sound that was eerily similar to a can of biscuits popping open.
I’d already had a rough few days at school, and I was just getting over the flu, so let’s just call it a solid week of crappy days. I experienced a few break downs of varying length and intensity for the next hour and a half, including a moment of shame when I realized my accident would probably be mentioned during the drive time updates on the TV and radio, and another pang of embarrassment when my friend Mike–who kindly came to pick me up and drive me to work–confirmed that I had indeed made the radio.
There comes a point, though, when I’d cried all I could cry, and my team teacher made me laugh a little and then bought me a candy bar. (“If I wrecked my car and then it had to be towed away, I’d want to mainline sugar,” she explained.) My insurance company authorized a rental car, and I was feeling slightly calmer. Everything sucked, but I would get through it. My friend John gave me a lift to an Enterprise car rental place by my house. I went in and told them my insurance company had made a reservation for me. After consulting a list, he assured me I could pick my truck up in a few minutes.
My heart sank a little because before that very moment my biggest fear had been that I’d be issued something kind of lame like a PT Cruiser. I just assumed it would be a car. Part of my shock was the result of a language thing. My insurance told me they’d get me a rental car, and I called it the rental car place, and everyone says the word “car” so I just assumed that’s what I’d be getting. I also quickly remembered that one of my earliest experiences driving my dad’s pickup truck ended with me hitting a mailbox that I never would have hit if I’d been in a small car. But mostly I was mildly horrified because I don’t see myself as a truck person.
Part of our identity is wrapped up in what we drive. Just ask anyone who drives a fancy sports car. I drive cars. I drive small cars that get good gas mileage. That’s my deal.
And I wasn’t going to be driving just any truck. It’s an extended cab Ford F-150, which is a really large truck. I sputtered. I protested. I begged for something else and stopped just short of saying, “I listen to NPR and have the short stories of Dorothy Parker on an audio book in my car! By definition, I’m not the kind of person who drives something like that.” Meanwhile, the two guys working behind the counter decided to deal with my freak out in decidedly different ways. Scott, clearly service oriented, explained it was all they had right now, apologized, and tried to convince me the truck was really nice and not as big as I thought it was. His partner just made fun of me.
“Have you got your CDL? ‘Cause you’ll need it. You also probably shouldn’t go through drive-thrus in it because those spaces can be a little tight in a truck that size.” It’s almost as if he knew exactly how to hurt me. I answer the siren call of a drive-thru at least once every few days, and while I’m pretty sure he’s kidding, I know I won’t be taking that chance in a borrowed vehicle. There’s a part of me that can appreciate his particular brand of wise ass, but it’s the sort of thing that I find a lot funnier when it’s not happening to me.
“I won’t be able to park in the compact spaces at my apartment complex,” I complained.
“Oh, no, definitely not,” non-Scott said lightly.
Scott changed the subject when he saw I had an Arkansas driver’s license. He asked about the Longhorns/Razorback rivalry prefacing his question by saying, “In my generation…” He looked young, but usually when I make references to my generation or back in my day it’s because I’m older than the person I’m talking to. I was trying to figure out how old he was when he clarified. “I’m six years younger than you.”
So, to recap: I was in a car accident. I’ve been issued a rental truck that would be more appropriate for Bizarro McKelvy. And Scott just made me sound old. “Six years isn’t a generation gap,” I told him. “It’s just a slight age difference.” As I type this, I realize that could sound flirtatious, but my tone was pure irritation. He seemed to realize his misstep and quickly had me initial a few places and took me out to my truck.
Me with my brown Mary Janes, my sailor pants, and my big ass truck.
It was nice and smelled new on the inside, but I couldn’t help but notice it took some effort for me to climb up in the cab. I took it home where it took me three tries to park the damn thing. I drove it until the weekend, and when I brought it back to downsize my ride, Scott brightly announced: “We have a PT Cruiser if that’s all right.”
In the brief time we’ve known each other, Scott had quickly learned to spot my looks of dismay. He shifted gears and offered me a Ford Focus that was both less expensive and less aesthetically objectionable to me personally. He seems like a nice guy, actually. In time, I may even forgive him for thinking we are different sides of a generation gap.