Other than mine, names have been changed to protect the guilty… (Image borrowed from here – my Ford had this epic paint job… I’ll keep looking for an original photo to post.)
I recall sitting on a fence (in more ways than one) along a side road, backing onto the stark prairie. Why sitting on a fence? Well it was due to two problems I was facing at that moment. The first was mechanical. The second was emotional. The mechanical one turned out to be the easier fix, as always. This was the days before cars were mobile computers. Yes, it was a truck. My truck. A Ford, lending itself to the joking acronym that Ford apparently stands for: “Found On Road Dead.” That was me, well, actually my truck, dead. I did all the things you’re supposed to. I poured a little gas into the carb, pushed my finger into the butterfly valve, then stuck a stick in there and went to try to turn it over. Nothing. You know, that rrrrr sound of a dead car.
A fellow happened along and offered to help. He was older, looked familiar, but I couldn’t place him. He wasn’t a local, or so I thought, but he seemed to know vehicles. He stopped, introduced himself as Paul – kind of cool, that’s my name as well, and offered to help. So we two Pauls leaned over the engine and speculated about what could be wrong. I neglected to mention that it was a very hot day. My parachute pants were not parachuting and my Flock of Seagulls gelled hair was wilting. Now for an older guy, he was dressed a little funny. Skinny jeans, Hawaiian shirt. short short hair. Maybe he was trying for punk rock? I asked where he got his shirt. he said “Costco in Hawaii.” What the heck is ‘Costco’ I wondered? Maybe an American chain store? Never saw an ad for them on tv. But then, here in the late 1980s, we still didn’t have cable. “too expensive” said my dad. So I always felt like I was missing out.
After a few moments, Paul went back to his car and got some foil wrap. And wow, what a car! It was shaped like an egg, all curves and sleek lines. Not a square headlight in sight. I asked him about it. “European” was all he said. He wrapped the gas line in foil and turned to me and said “these old Fords, they get vapor lock on a hot day. Gas line runs along the hot engine and vaporizes before it gets to the carb. You stall out because the engine can’t get any fuel.” He slams down the hood and I’m still stuck on “old Fords”… this thing is only a couple of years old – my pride and joy! And he calls it an old Ford…
But fuck. Melanie didn’t like it. “I’m not riding in some redneck truck” were her last words to me as I drove off in frustration. Seriously. How does a young guy like me find a girl that will ride (and heck, maybe make out?) in a truck? She has to be out there somewhere, but between my dad refusing to let me have a phone in my room, and my buddies all having girlfriends who mysteriously don’t have friends of their own to introduce me to, I’m stuck with Melanie. Or I was until I drove off today. And that’s the emotional problem I was having. Oh well, once I get back on the road, maybe I’ll go home and watch MuchMusic and plan for how I can find a new gal that might actually like my truck.
The hood is down, and my namesake says “start her up.” I get in and the engine turns over without too much fuss. I lean out the window and thank Paul. He smiles and says “I had a truck like this once. And by the way. Forget Melanie. A week from now a girl named Kim will show up at a party. Bring her a Coke and see what happens.” I’m thinking “what the…?” too speechless to say anything. Paul walks off, gets into his super egg, and drives off.
Many years later, I’m driving down a side road, reminiscing about that time a guy with my name stopped to help me with my truck. I think it was the old Ford. And what was with the wacky comment? That next week, Kim walked into my life and all it cost me was a Coke. And yes, she loved my truck and let’s just say that there was more that happened in that old Ford than I’m going to report here. As I drive along, I see a young kid, sitting on a fence. it’s a hot day. He has an old Ford, looks stalled by the side of the road. Might as well stop and see if I can help. I used to know how Fords worked….