Lessons from a Hairy Man
We've had a car sitting in our thoroughly expat (i.e. full of weeds) driveway for months, maybe a year. It's been dead for so long, gathering dirt and tree sap and the odd angry bee's nest, that we've forgotten whose car it is. I know our 12 year old tried to claim it about six months ago as something that he had 'left outside' but I am less and less convinced by his argument that it was his birthday present from Grandma.
It's become part of the landscape, along with the weed-lawn that we carefully cultivate, the compost heap and the overgrown hedge that keeps the neighbour's dog and its propensity for digging hippo size death-pits in our garden, somewhat at bay.
I only noticed the car again the other day when I put my mug of tea on it as I stopped to tie my shoelace. Then I circled it like I had found treasure. I promptly washed it in the belief that removing year's of dirt would help the engine to start. Surprisingly, it didn't, so full of get-it-doneness I immediately called a tow company who, out of the blue, told me they'd give me cash for the car. Apparently I had indeed been ignoring a rainy day fund right there next to Fido from next door - who had been listening to my conversations and was now trying to bury the car before I could shift it.
A somewhat round and hairy man came from the towing company driving a truck the size of a small Cornish village and proceeded to attempt to pry the car from the ground. When he grunted "How long's this thing been here?" I shuffled nervously, raised my eyes to the sky, contorted my face pretending to do some difficult calculations and then lied "Oh, I'd say maybe about a month." He looked from me to what was left of the tyres that were slowly and embarrasingly reverting back to oil and hiding themselves into the tarmac of my driveway. It was obvious that my oscar worthy performance had been less than convincing, but he didn't seem to care as he attached more ropes, pulleys and grappling hooks to the car like he was laying siege to Warwick Castle.
To cover my embarrassment I did what I always do at awkward times - I proceeded to talk too much. The hairy ZZ-Top band member didn't seem to care much about that either. Nothing I said seemed important enough to him to answer. He did his job in silence, like the grim car reaper while I paced around digging my chatty hole deeper.
The only time my bearded visitor offered a reply was when I babbled something about towing. This Yeti had been towing cars for over 10 years and yes, it was his passion. Any car, any year, any condition, from any place - he could instantly recite how to grab it, chain it, lift it, drag it, pull it, hog-tie it and brand it. He was a dead car moving machine. He probably didn't even need his tow truck - he could have done it with his bare hands (actually his hands were hairy too - on both sides).
In his element, he hurled facts and figures (and saliva) at me. There were two of him in his company (I imagined another bearded lead guitarist) and they were moving about 15 cars each per day to the scrap yard just from my area of town alone. He worked six, sometimes seven days a week and because of this, his ex-wife had taken his Ford Explorer and looked for pastures greener and less hairy. Nowadays he particularly enjoyed towing other people's Ford Explorers - thought it was some kind of cosmic payback. He didn't actually use those words - he was more of the 'what goes around, comes around' philosophy-only-after-budweiser kind of guy, but I knew what he meant.
But now he had me thinking. He and his Southern Rock twin were hauling 30 cars a day for six days a week - that's 180 cars...or over 9000 cars a year from just around where I lived! Did everyone have a dead car lurking in their driveway that went unseen, like car sleeper-cells? Hang on, now I really was doing some difficult calculations in my head. So, there's five counties like mine in the State - that's 45,000 cars a year being pried from their slumber and piled high somewhere or being sliced up to be car-organ donors. While ZZ dribbled on about hitch positions on Chevys I began to wonder who was the bigger liar, him or me? The State I live in is one of the smallest in the country, by far. Let's say the other 49 were at least four times more active in ridding gardens of 'treasures' than mine. That's......I reached for my phone calculator.....8,865,000 cars per year meeting their maker.
This did not sound good - not good at all. I had recently read (and I confirmed by googling it - yes, phone technology we love it) that in a recent year only 7,667,066 new cars had been sold! Then the realisation hit me like a charging Great Dane to the groin. I stared at the car murderer in front of me as he shuffled about his business. He and his brotherhood of henchmen were single-handedly removing all our beloved cars from America and we weren't replacing them quickly enough! The numbers proved it - year on year they would be progressively ridding America of its means of transportation - inexorably moving back to a horse economy. Yes, we'd all have great rose bushes, but no way to get to the Mall.
My mind raced - I needed to stop him. Fido was suddenly at my side. He looked up at me - those doggy eyes agreeing with me and hinted that I should make use of one of his handy man-trap pits. Steely eyed and jaws set firm, we approached the evil dwarf...this Ford flogger, this Saab slayer, this Kia Killer, this American dream destroyer....it was time to take a stand for the automobile and the Nation's very future. Me and my next door neighbour's best friend - we would take a stand. End of this great nation's economy? Not on our watch.