A Little Pick-Me-Up

Tim Marrs

Last year, Ford, Chrysler, and GM sold 1,514,176 full-size pickup trucks. America’s car dealers also moved thousands of Toyota Tundras and Tacomas, Nissan Titans and Frontiers, and even 490 Dodge Dakotas. The F-series was the most popular vehicle in America for the thirty-first straight year. Our love for pickups is something that’s taken for granted, but our affinity for large open-bed work vehicles is kind of strange in the broader scheme of things—imagine if the most common form of footwear was the L.L.Bean duck boot. I mean, even outside of Maine.

The nonpickup owner might glance around at these behemoths in traffic, note that a minor percentage of them actually have anything in the bed, and wonder why anyone would buy such a thing. The reason, I can tell you, is that even if the bed is empty 95 percent of the time, the other five percent makes up for it. Those 1.5 million pickup buyers clearly decided that it’s better to have a truck and not need it than to need one and not have it. I don’t fancy myself someone who needs a pickup, so when I recently got my hands on a 2013 Chevy Silverado crew cab, I assumed I’d use it as a family car the way so many pickup owners do. I’d strap child seats in the back seat and register minor annoyance on the way home from a grocery run as the foodstuffs loose in the bed preclude my usual take-no-prisoners driving style. No full-throttle right-angle sprints into traffic, lest a loose jar of salsa fly over the gunwale.

A funny thing happens over the next few days, though: pickup-intensive jobs suddenly materialize, as if the mere existence of the Silverado diverts my reality into a parallel dimension where I regularly use the tow/haul button and have an opinion on bedliners (spray-in, all the way). I stop shaving and my manner grows taciturn, for I have many projects to complete.

First, there’s the matter of the playground. My sister-in-law has a wooden playground set that she’s handing over to our kids, and I’ve been avoiding the onerous task of disassembling it and bringing it over to my house. Now that I’ve got a truck, though, I’m invigorated with an industrious, can-do spirit. I fill the Silverado’s bed with slides, swings, and a small climbing wall. Then, realizing that I still have several thousand board-feet of lumber left, I go to U-Haul and rent a trailer for the rest of it. Back at the house, my wife asks me who helped load the playground set. Nobody, I answer. I’ve got a pickup. That’s all the help I need.

The next day, I notice that heavy rain has eroded part of my gravel driveway. Normally, that information would constitute a Class F low priority. But I have a pickup truck, so this bare driveway does not stand a chance. I drive to a landscaping store and load the bed with a half yard of gravel. If you don’t know how much a half yard is, go find someone with a pickup and ask them. They’ll know.

Now my driveway has deeper gravel than a runoff ramp for out-of-control tractor trailers. Your feet sink into it with a luxurious crunch. I’d rake it to spread it out, but I’ve already got another mission for the Chevy: hauling a dune buggy.

My neighbor Tim got his five-year-old son a little dune buggy for Christmas, so we take it to a nearby off-road park for a shakedown. The buggy is a snug fit in the bed, but it goes in with the tailgate closed. Riding in the back of the Silverado, the buggy reminds me of a tender on the stern of a yacht. Now I want to take this truck to Nantucket, deploy the buggy, and inform onlookers that we’re on a shore excursion.

So, in the space of just a few days, I’ve towed a cargo trailer to move a playground set, hauled gravel, and toted a dune buggy. Those were all Planned Pickup Events. But on my way home one night, I turn a corner to discover an unscheduled opportunity for truck-based heroism: a girl in a broken-down MGB sitting at the bottom of a hill.

She waves me around, but it seems poor form for a chivalrous truck-driving fellow to blithely abandon a lady contending with the cruel trickery of the British car industry. I stop to talk, and it turns out her driveway is just at the top of the hill and she’d rolled the car out with hopes of popping the clutch and firing it up. Except it didn’t start. Which left her at the bottom of the hill with a dead car.

Evidently an experienced MG owner, she has her own tow strap already attached. So we throw the other end on the truck’s hitch, and I gently get the car moving up the hill (an injudicious stab of the throttle and the Silverado could likely rip the MG’s underpinnings from beneath its body). Mindful of the fact that she might not have much in the way of brakes, I inch the little roadster up over the summit to a moderately flat spot. Infused with truck-based confidence, I’m tempted to start troubleshooting her ignition problem. (“Oh, here’s your issue right here—your distributor cap was eaten by squirrels. Common problem with these things.”) But I’ve got to be on my way. There are surely other people out there in the city who need help from the amazing Pickup Man.

A few days later, the Silverado is gone and I’m back to my nonpickup way of life. Major household projects are posited but not executed. Dune buggies remain parked. I don’t rescue any damsels in distress. Frankly, life is a whole lot more relaxing.

I believe it was Pickup Confucius who said, “With great capability comes great burden. Man who park truck in driveway wake up with chores on refrigerator.” And anyway, I don’t really need a pickup. But would you mind if every once in a while I borrowed yours?

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