By Judith Toy
Ode to My Truck
One day in the heat of this past July, the transmission in our family car began acting bumpy and peculiar. The hazard light went on. In the same week, we had a flood in our kitchen which meant buying and installing a new water heater, our washer and dryer both stopped working, my PC crashed, two vacuum cleaners broke and a wheel came off the lawn mower. Mercury was in retrograde. With my loyal Toyota Tacoma truck, circa ought-two, today we’re picking up a new (used) washer and dryer donated by sympathetic and generous friends. All we need now is a dolly and two strong men. They are on their way.
To be true WNC women, we should pack three items – a reliable pickup truck, a good pair of hiking boots for the trails and a chain saw, to hack back our Appalachian forest. Whether you call them trucks or pickups, these open-bed vehicles are the workhorses of our mountain kingdom. This is my first truck and the first of my vehicles I have thought to name. And heaven forfend, I ordered a vanity plate: TOYZENDO. My last name is Toy and a zendo is a meditation hall – thus, my truck becomes a meditation hall on wheels, reminding me not to exceed the speed limit. Also to follow my breath. If the truck goes fast, I go fast. My truck and I are one.
It was love at first sight, on the Black Mountain Ford website a few years back. I wanted to fit in, in Black Mountain, in these hills. I went out to the lot, and there she was parked, shiny, black and true, with her two-person cab, a diminutive pickup waiting for me, just at the moment when my father’s old Buick Regal had died. She was beautifully broken in. I test-drove other trucks, just to be a responsible shopper, but she was the only one for me. My heart was set. I bought her that day.
She’s a true Zen truck, fully paid for, all four cylinders, and good on gas. She has no frills and nothing automatic, except one sweet little feature: if you lose your (mind)fulness and leave the headlights on, when you park the truck, they automatically shut off while you shop – a gadget that has saved me many a jump start. On road trips, I revel in shifting her well-worn gears. Downshifting at lights, I feel the force of her grinding pistons under the hood. And to open and close my windows with no more than muscle, this is the life. My truck reminds me to slow down and breathe.
How you get into my truck is – who knew? – turn the key in the lock: woman and machine in perfect sync. Plus when I climb into her, I am higher up than, say, a person sitting in a normal-sized car, which, for a short woman is perfect bliss – looking down upon others.
One of my favorite features of truck life is backing up to the mulch bins at Black Mountain’s Whatever Rents, and watching while the front loader guy dumps a load of fragrant mulch into my truck. Back at the ranch, I feel like a hardy farmer as I scramble into the truck bed with a pitchfork in hand, hiking boots on foot, and pitch the mulch into the wheelbarrow, to spread on our wild, fertile and slightly manic garden. To allow light for the flowers, our giant old trees surrounding it need regular hacking back with the aforesaid power saw.
As a woman who wishes to be of use, I am fulfilled. Whenever anyone, anywhere, reaches out for moving help, I am there. We’ve moved our gypsy daughter maybe ten times around Greensboro and WNC. I’ve had countless offers to buy my pickup. Those who know trucks know that Toyotas last forever if you routinely change the oil. My daughter’s boyfriend made me an offer, but that’s where I drew the line. My truck. I do lend her to friends – not my daughter, the truck – for hauling boxes of books, bales of hay, endless flats of spring plants, appliances, mattresses and Lazy Boys.
Neither my grandmother nor my mother drove, nor did I until age 23, several years after I sideswiped a parked moving van with my father’s brand new ‘57 Chevy. Remember the Chevys with the big fins that looked like mechanical fish? They came in colors you don’t see anymore. My dad’s was a two-toned cream and mint green – his pride and joy. Sadly, in the fuzzy altered state of a new car owner, he decided to offer my first driving lesson. I was thrilled, so thrilled that I neglected to properly steer. That sideswipe cost me any further driving lessons until one of my first husband’s teaching colleagues who had a crush on me decided to give me after-school lessons in our Volkswagen Bug. That’s when I first learned to shift gears. The headiness of that moment has stayed with me.
Taking the garbage to the curb is an issue in a household where the driveway veers up at a 45-degree angle. Enter my trusty Zen truck. It’s like butter to haul trash and recyclables down, and empty garbage cans back up the drive, where we keep them in a covered area in case of the odd meandering bear. Mountain living.
Mercury Retrograde, known as Rx, is an astrological phenomenon that messes with our mindfulness. It appears to cause power outages, power surges, confusion, downed cable networks, missed appointments, unmet expectations, broken appliances, scrambled information, static, forgetfulness, unfinished projects, web servers gone awry, tiffs, arguments, heated discussions and the best-made plans unmade. So far, knock on hood, my low-tech Zen truck has not been mucked up by Rx. Mercury moves out of retrograde tomorrow, thank my lucky stars.