Lake Fausse Point, Louisiana

March 28th, 2005

Oh, The Misery of It All

So some of you may be aware that I recently was involved in a little car accident. Not my fault, but my truck is out of commission until it is repaired. It took 16 days to get authorization from the insurance company to begin repairs, and to get me a rental vehicle.

Now, authorization finally came a week ago, and the insurance representative called me with the happy news that my truck would be repaired and I could get something to drive. I asked for a full-size truck.

"Why do you need a truck?" they asked.

"Well," I replied. "I bought a truck. What your client crashed into was a truck. Ya folla?"

"I folla."

I got the reservation number for the rental company and called them up.

"I need a full-size truck," I said.

"No problem!" the cheery rental place rep said. "We have lots of trucks!"

"Great!" I was starting to feel encouraged. "Full-size trucks?"

"Yep," she said. "Four-door and all."

"Wonderful! I need one with a trailer hitch."

"Oh," she said. "I'm sorry, we don't allow towing with our vehicles."

We went round and round on this issue, and I brought into play what I perceived as the substantial argument that the purpose of insurance was to insure the quality of life of the person offended. Unfortunately, the rental company ownership apparently does not fish. A call back to the insurance company did not help.

So I get a full-size truck, no hitch. This means that for one more weekend, until my Silverado is out of the shop, I am grounded and fishless. This also means that this edition of "Native Waters" is a struggling, floundering and desperate attempt to hold your vague remaining interest until I actually do get to the water again. Please pity me.

This truck is a big Dodge. I mean, a BIG Dodge. I feel like a 10-year-old driving it. Eighteen-wheelers give me a wide berth when they see me coming, and little old ladies in Cadillacs take the shoulder. This truck is big. I am short. I strained my back just climbing up in the dadgum thing the first day.

I call it the Dreadnought. Not only because it's so enormous, but because I dread getting in it, and naught can make me feel better about it. The Dreadnought is also white, and shows every speck of dust and drop of mud between here and the Rez, of which there are many. Yet it has nice bells and whistles. They ring and whistle at me all the time. They whistle if I don't put my seatbelt on in 3.2 seconds. They ring if my fuel gets low. They whistle and ring if I leave my headlights on after I turn off the key. It's making me paranoid.

It has a CD player which I have yet to figure out how to operate, power windows and doors, and cruise control. It has buttons on the air conditioner I can't for the life of me determine the purpose of. I pushed one of them and it lit up, but did absolutely nothing. I'm glad it wasn't a James Bond-style ejector seat. It has an overhead console that tells me the direction I'm traveling and the outside temperature. I was riding home one night from work and the outside temperature was, according to the overhead console, 58 degrees. I wasn't the least bit uncomfortable, but I read the display and thought, "Gee, it's chilly out there," and turned on the heater. Not only am I paranoid, I'm gullible, too.

It does not have automatic headlights. My Silverado has automatic headlights. When I started driving the Dodge, the first night I used it I sat in the garage for 10 minutes trying to find the switch for the headlights.

I drove a Toyota Tacoma the first 16 days before I got my rental. The Toyota belonged to a friend. There's a button on the console marked with a red up arrow. This button bugged me for days. What in the world could it do? Was it the real ejector seat button? It did point up, and it was in red, but then, knowing how backwards car designers think, perhaps the arrow pointed up but meant down, and if I pressed it, I would eject my passenger under the vehicle and onto the street. Maybe red doesn't mean "danger" in Toyotaland, maybe it means, "Go ahead, push me and see what I do!" I was afraid it was another James Bond thing, and if I pushed it, it would spew oil all over the street to throw off any evil-doers on my tail. All the cartoons and movies say never press any button in red. I am a firm believer in these moral lessons.

After a week, I could stand it no more. I sat in my yard, made sure the truck was in park and my seatbelts on. I was also alone in the truck, in case the ejector seat went off or the air-bags deployed. Mustering my courage, I reached out and pressed the button. The emergency flashers came on.

Now, this may seem silly to you, but it isn't funny at all. Just what, pray tell, does a red up arrow have to do with emergency flashers? They don't flash "up." They just flash, period. Flashers are not directional. Who designs these things, and how did they graduate kindergarten?

I also don't like the power window controls. You pull the switch down to make the windows go up. You push the switch up to make the windows go down. Who designs these things, and have they ever actually lived in the real world? Up is up, down is down, don't confuse the issue, or the driver.

You know what I miss? Dimmer switches on the floorboard, that's what. You just tapped them with your foot. I miss good, old-fashioned knobs on the dashboard that you turned right to make the windshield wipers work, and each notch was a faster speed. I miss air-conditioners with controls marked "HOT" and "COOL" and "HI" and "LO." Period, that's all folks. I miss cars that did not whistle or ring bells unless you hung them from your rearview mirror. I miss cars that didn't tell you if you should be cold or hot. I miss power window controls that you push up for up and down for down.

I miss radios with two knobs: One to tune, one to make louder. If you had a cassette deck, you had three buttons, one fast forward, one reverse and one eject. I do not think car audio should have more buttons than the space shuttle. There's just something not right about that.

I miss cars with controls that had moving parts. Nothing but contact switches and little touchpads in today's vehicles. I'm suspicious of buttons that don't actually move. It leaves me unsatisfied. It's like it robs me of the satisfaction of pressing a button, hearing a clunk! and having something happen. It's like going fishing without setting the hook.

Fishing...? It's been so long, I've nearly forgotten the meaning of the word. Next week, the Silverado comes home, hitch and all. Pity me and pray for me. It this run of bad luck continues, I may be writing for "Consumer Reports." ~ Roger

It's out! And available now! You can be one of the first to own a copy of Roger's book. Native Waters: A Few Moments in a Small Wooden Boat

Order it now from www.iuniverse.com, Amazon.com, or Barnes & Noble.com. Roger will also be giving away three autographed copies to readers. Stay tuned, for an announcement on the Bulletin Board on that soon.


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