Karl the Curmudgeon Won't Give Up His Truck

"Kid, I don't need a new car," my friend, Karl, said to me one evening. We were sitting at Klompen, our favorite Dutch-themed bar, watching the Eredivisie, the Dutch professional soccer league. We were watching Ajax Amsterdam take on PSV Eindhoven, and the score was 1-0.

I never said you did! Are you hearing things again?

"No, not you. Apparently Gert is bad for the environment."

Gert was Karl's old 1950s Ford truck that he said made him look like a farmer. It was part of his man-of-the-people shtick that helped him sell novels.

"And now she's after me to get a more eco-friendly car." He jerked his thumb toward the outside world where 'she' could be found.

He was referring to his youngest daughter, Alexis, the organic vegan anti-chemical evangelist whose Gender Studies degree from a liberal arts college was not helping her job prospects. She was currently the assistant manager at the Pay-What-The-Universe-Invites coffee co-op, but was going back to grad school for an MBA in finance in the fall.

Well, it would help the environment if you got one that didn't use so much gas, I said.

"That's not the point, Kid," said Karl. "The point is I love Gert. We've been through a lot together, I've nursed her through some hard times, and she's carried me through my own."

Like when?

"Like when I drove Alexis to her first day of college. We piled all her stuff into Gert and I dropped her off at the dorm. It was the second hardest day of my life."

Really? What was the hardest?

"The day she moved back in with me."

I walked right into that one, didn't I? I asked. So what does she expect you to get instead?

"She thinks I should get a diesel truck and convert it so it will run on cooking oil."

What, seriously? Those things smell like French fries.

"I know, and I don't want to spend half my time running around trying to track down used cooking oil from every McDonald's in the city."

What about a hybrid truck? Karl's made a rude gesture. So why not just get a regular car? I asked.

"Because that's not the point. The point is, Alexis wants me to change what I'm doing to suit her agenda. It's not like I'm one of those rolling-coal morons with the fat diesel exhaust pipes sticking out of their truck beds."

So what's so special about your truck? I mean, I've ridden in it, but it's just an old truck.

"She's more than just an old truck!" Karl plonked his empty beer mug down on the bar and stared off into his past. I gestured at Nicolaas for two more Grolsch beers, and pointed at Karl to put them on his tab.

"My dad had the same kind of truck when I was in high school, and I used to work on it with him, just so he'd teach me how to work on engines. I never worked on any other car, but I knew that one inside and out.

"After he died in 1994, and I had just published my fourth novel, I bought one and restored it as a way to honor him. I've been able to keep her running with parts I buy off the Internet or getting Big Ed at Ed's Garage to fabricate different parts in his machine shop."

But aren't you worried about the environment? What about the emissions?

"Kid, there's just 100 companies in the whole world responsible for nearly 71 percent of the world's air pollution. You think selling poor ol' Gert is going to make a dent in that? Look, she's got 420,000 miles on her. She's on her second transmission, and Big Ed and I just dropped a new engine in her six months ago. Not only is Gert older than Alexis, I think I've had them both the same amount of time. Honestly, if you were to ask me to choose between Gert and Alexis, I'd have to think about it for a minute."

And you'd pick. . . ?

"Well, Alexis, obviously! I'm not completely heartless." Nicolaas set our two beers on the bar. I picked mine up and took a drink.

Look, Karl, I understand how you feel. My car is about ready to die after 11 years, and I feel like I'm losing an old friend.

Karl snorted into his new beer, which blew some froth into his mustache. "What, your little Kia?" He wiped his face. "Kid, I've got shirts older than that."

I know, you're wearing it. Look, just because I'm not driving a car from the Jurassic period doesn't mean I don't understand the loss of losing an old friend. But I also know when it's time to let go of the past and move on to something newer and better.

"Sorry, newer is not better in this case. Today's cars are too complex, you need a PhD just to work on one of them. All I need is a couple of wrenches and a work light, and I can keep Gert purring like a cat."

So what do you need my help for? I thought you wanted me to help you get rid of Gert.

"No, I want you to help me get rid of Alexis. Can she come live with you?"

It was my turn to snort into my beer. I might, if you give me your truck. What do you say?

Karl stared into space for a few seconds. "Can I get back to you on that?"

Photo credit: Lomax58 (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)

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