Vehicles that are barely roadworthy are dangerous enough when they aren’t nearly twenty-two feet long, a full lane wide at the mirrors and known to catch fire periodically.
The Wonder Truck runs on danger, and a quart of oil every 150 miles. An untrained pedal foot can cause the carburetor to belch fuel up into the air filter. Sometimes the spongy material ignites into a controlled burn that lasts as long as the filter does, but most of the time when she gets to smoking it’s a matter of sheer chance versus operator error.
These sorts of details were left unmentioned to my new roommate, Monica before embarking on a trip from Seattle to Olympia and back to retrieve everything she owns from a storage locker. Never having driven the Wonder Truck for an extended amount of time on the freeway, I soon discovered in mute terror a number of cute little quirks the Wonder Truck develops at the top of third gear while Monica dosed blissfully on the passenger side of the front bench:
1. 54mph is fine. At 56mph, the steering wheel develops nearly four inches of play, enabling the sloppy steering linkage to change lanes at its own whimsy.
2. The speedometer is broken.
3. The radio is broken, which actually helps in estimating your speed by listening to the pitch and frequency of a busted valve’s clacking.
4. The passenger side mirror is broken in half, creating a funhouse view of traffic merging onto the freeway via the WonderTruck’s mile-long blind spot.
5. Nothing is as it seems.
Monica was spared these horrifying revelations. Her stylish early nineties dentist sunglasses diminished the glare beaming from the whites of my knuckles. We swapped stories and caught up on old times as the Tacoma aroma wafted in through the cocked wing windows.
It was a sunny day in Olympia. At the storage locker, the Wonder Truck consumed everything Monica owned like it was a sample spoon of ice cream from Baskin-Robbins. Despite all its foibles, it’s one giant ass truck.
On the way out of town the errant valve went from producing its standard clacking noise to sounding like a handful of rocks in a clothes dryer. We stopped off at a gas station to add another quart of oil.
Under the Chevron canopy, no less than three young families topped off their minivans’ tanks while I spilled the first glug of oil directly onto the Wonder Truck’s valve cover and engine block.
Smoke billowed from the hot engine bay, through dual sliding doors, caressing car seats, disrupting DVD viewings of Veggie Tales.
“What’s going on?” Monica called from the Wonder Truck’s cab, her vision of the spill obscured by the massive steel curtain of the erect hood. When I didn’t respond, she softened the question:
“What are you thinking about?”
Sensing honesty was now of the essence, I told her I was waiting to see if the truck was going to catch fire.
We waited patiently for the engine to cool while the excess oil burnt off. Once it did we made our way back to Seattle without further incident.
Nearly a week later, I can’t help but think its only fair to let Monica in on the true amount of peril she unknowingly faced that day. At the moment she’s hanging the last of her favorite pictures on the walls of her new room across the hall from mine. Let’s confront her together:
B-Can I come in?
B-This might seem odd. Don’t mind the voice recorder.
B-It’s just for a thing I’m doing. I do a blog. I’m not sure if I told you that.
B-Could we talk about the Wonder Truck?
M-Yeah, what about it?
B-What did you think the first time you saw it?
M- It was like a gleaming garbage can.
B-Were you aware of the dangers it posed before we went to get your things from the storage locker?
M-Well it looks like a piece of crap but I figured if you got it to Seattle from your parents’ house it would be okay.
B-Did you know that it’s caught fire before?
M-No, I had no idea.
B-I can’t tell you how good it feels to get that off my chest. Let’s move on to a lady’s perspective of the trip. Specifically, your buns were quite possibly the first female ones to grace The Wonder Truck’s Indian pattern seat covers.
M-I don’t doubt that.
B-What did it smell like?
M-It smelled like gas and dust.
B-Could you smell my fear?
M-Yes, I noticed you never really glanced away from the road or took a hand off the steering wheel. It was cool though. You had it under control.
B-What kind of man would you presume normally drives such a truck?
M-A strong man, with a beard.
B-You’ll notice I’m clean-shaven.
M-I’ll notice that it’s not your truck.
(Unrecorded verbal dispute)
B-(Clearing throat) What do you think the average person would assume about you if the Wonder Truck were your daily driver?
M-…Would I be wearing flannel?
B- I catch your drift. Well its getting late… wanna watch Wipeout?
That went well. My conscious is clear and the only possession of Monica’s that caught fire during the move was her incense during the interview. Why she turned down an episode of Wipeout is beyond me. Then again, taking a ride in the Wonder Truck can be a sobering experience. Until next time, keep those dipsticks saucy and both hands on the wheel.
Part 1: http://motorspacenw.com/member/blogentry.php?b=1005&u=144