Keep On Truckin’

Remember when those words arrived?  Boy, I sure do.  Suddenly it became the official signing-off expression for a generation of people, mostly young, who saw it as part of the newspeak that demarcated the old generation from the new.  Music, the environment, openness about sexuality,  education, and a language that captured the feel of these changes in flexible jargon launched a thousand ships in a thousand new directions.  Keep on truckin’ swiftly emerged as the new way of saying today’s, “Have a good one.”   Robert Crumb, comics writer and the creator of the line, was the most surprised man in popular literature when it took off in everyday parlance.  I hadn’t heard it for a long time until just the other week.  Someone threw me the phrase as I pulled away from a gas pump in – what else? – my pickup truck.

This isn’t any old pickup I rumble around in.  Note the key words in that.  Old and rumble (No, don’t call me old.  That would be disrespectful.  Keep your attention on the truck).   Back in my college days I worked hard for the money.  I suppose I still do.  Regardless, I thought I’d capitalize on my propensity for hard physical labour and buy a used pickup to work more jobs; things like painting houses or moving furniture.  It worked.  Though already ten years old when I bought it, my highly prized 1966 Chevrolet 1/2 ton truck went straight to work, hauling everything from car engines to horse manure.  I built a rack and carried great extension ladders.  In college I drove into Chicago in the dead of night to pick up the student newspapers at the printing house.  Once I hauled two gravestones.  How I got those heavy buggers into my truck using only my muscles still leaves me in amazement.   And if you’re wondering (and I know you are), someone else handled the bodies, though as an enthusiast for life’s experiences I’d have loved the job.

The face of 1966.  No AC, no power steering, no nothing.  Just a truck. Copyright James V. Michalec 2015

The face of 1966. No AC, no power steering, no nothing. Just a truck.
Copyright James V. Michalec 2015

 

The extra cash from all these missions got me through school with a buck to spare.  Along the way, I learned a trove of useful mechanical skills in taking care of it.  From spark plug gaps to brake shoes to starter motors I knew it all.  What a good and faithful machine that truck was, never letting me down.  What’s fun about it is that it still is.

Fate conspired in a curious way.  Every time I thought the moment had arrived to move the truck along, I needed it again.  Then my friends needed something moved.  Then I needed to be moved.  The process repeated itself over and over.  Everywhere I moved, it moved with me – or rather, it moved me and my things.  Like a dog given to a boy in fourth grade and following the growing youth straight through high school, the truck did the same for  me, and more.  Whenever I glanced in my side view mirror, there was my truck following me.  Great pals we became.  Inseparable.

A sideview rearview.  The truck that always followed me. Copyright James V. Michalec 2015

A sideview rearview. The truck that always followed me.
Copyright James V. Michalec 2015

While my white-wall bias ply tires have spun the odometer very slowly for many years, the complaints I hear on the new machines on the market mount.  Something about changing technology, I’m led to believe.

“Where’s your truck, Slim?

“In the shop again.  Computer trouble.”

“No foolin’!”

“No foolin’.  It’s costing me a fortune.  Only the dealer can fix it.”

‘That’s a real shame, Slim.”

“You got that right brother.  You want to sell your truck?”

Silence.

Almost half a century and still on the job. Copyright James V. Michalec 2015

Almost half a century and still on the job.
Copyright James V. Michalec 2015

When I drive this old beast around, it’s as if time suddenly stands still.  To me, it’s just me in my old truck again, the two of us off on another errand.  Yet all along the ride people stare or wave, while others honk a horn.   As a conversation piece the truck is priceless.  Men and women of all ages can’t resist saying something about it.  For women, it’s usually, “Love your truck!”  For the guys, I often hear, “I had one of those!”  or, “Want to sell it?”  How odd, I think to myself.  This is just my truck.  Nothing’s changed that much except that there’s no luster in the paint and it drips a little oil.  OK, I’m a little older, too,  and I wear Woolx now (see, I’m up with the times).  But through the windshield I do see a changed landscape.  I’m not the unusual one.  No, no.   It’s all those people out there, driving in cars and trucks that all look the same, behind tinted windows with satellite wifi, all the subzero air-conditioning on, working GPS systems while racing past me to the their destinies.

“Hey!  What year is that truck?”  the man asks me at the gas station.  I tell him.  I also tell him it’s the first vehicle I ever bought.  “Whoa!” he exclaims.  “That’s amazing!”

“Yeah.  I sure didn’t plan it this way.  Every time I thought I’d sell it, I needed it again.”

“Well, if you ever want to sell it, just tell me.”

“No.  I’m keeping it for now.”

“OK,” he says.  “Just take care of it.  And keep on truckin’!”