The Waving Game
by Eric Bergeson, August 5, 2009
After ten years and 260,000 miles, the time came to put my loyal and trustworthy Ford Ranger out to pasture.
I saved the taxpayers some money by not taking advantage of the cash-for-clunkers program. My pickup is not a clunker. It never will be. I’ll probably keep it forever.
The Ranger is now a field truck. The guys use it to go fix the deer fence or trim trees.
I visited my old pickup last week and there was a rusty wire cutter on the front seat next to a little pile of gravel. An inch of mud covered the floorboards. A new scratch showed on the endgate.
I felt a twinge of regret.
Just for old times sake, I swept out the box. Sections of wire and strands of twine had alreadly hardened into the mud caked in the grooves of the box.
I would feel more guilt for abandoning an old friend, but this world is too full of heartache and sorrow for me to spend my limited supply of sentiment on a hunk of steel.
But just when I determined to be hard-hearted about the whole deal, my Ranger brought me back to reality.
When I brought the new car home, I wanted it to have the position of honor right in front of the garage. So, I had to move the pickup.
For the first time in 260,000 miles, barring dead batteries and broken serpentine belts, the Ranger didn’t start on the first twist of the key. I had to grind on the starter for thirty seconds and pump the accelerator a little to get it to fire up. Even then, it ran rough for a while.
My Ranger knew what was up, and it wasn’t going to go quietly.
But I have moved on. I now have a gray car like everybody else.
True, the label called the color “metallic silver,” but there is no denying that the car is just plain gray.
At one time, most everybody drove a black Model T. Now, everybody drives gray cars that look the same.
I enjoy the car so far. I drives like a dream. It has every gadget available. But at 3663 miles, I don’t think it has proven itself enough for me to mention the make and model here. That honor must be earned over time.
The most troubling effect of this change in my life is that nobody waves at me anymore.
At first, I thought maybe I had done something wrong — although I know the rumor mill isn’t efficient enough to cause everybody to quit waving at you at the same time.
But when you don’t get waved to — ever — you start to feel excommunicated.
I didn’t realize how much local waving behavior depended upon people recognizing your vehicle. I thought people waved at everybody.
But they don’t. If you drive a gray car with slightly tinted windows so they can’t see your face, people think you’re in the mob. And that’s where they draw the line.
So, it looks as if I have checked out of the waving game for the next ten years.
Anonymity has its benefits. The other day while listening to loud music, I blew through a yield sign in the middle of the countryside. It was one of those intersections where two gravel roads meet and the cattails make it impossible to see in either direction.
Just after I roared through the intersection, I saw our mail lady’s car cross in the rear view mirror. She just missed me. She had the right-of-way. It would have been my fault.
However, thanks to my gray car with tinted windows, I am quite sure she didn’t know who the idiot was who ran the yield sign. That is a good thing, for you don’t want to offend the mail lady.
The transition is going to take time. I know that I will miss the Ranger’s four-wheel-drive in the winter. I’ll have to start plowing my drive.
It is also annoying to have to open the trunk in order to haul garbage to the dumpster.
As the years pass, though, I suppose the gray car will fill the empty space left in my heart when I retired the old black Ford Ranger.
But a big change like this isn’t easy no matter how much you like new car smell