Today was a very difficult day for me.
I sold my truck.
I was hoping to make it one more month because April would have been exactly 20 years. But I’ve been driving a lot for work the last few weeks and needed something more reliable to drive in the Ohio Winter.
But it’s not about the milestones, it’s about the moments. And there were a lot of great moments the past 19 years and 11 months.
It was April 27th, 1999 and my friend Clint and I went over to my house after track practice. We were supposed to get cleaned up for a scholarship ceremony that night to be held at San Diego Copley Symphony Hall.
The ceremony was for the Salute to Education Scholarships, supported by the San Diego County Ford dealers and Ford Motor Company.
But we didn’t really want to go. Why? Because we were supposed to have read a book (can’t remember for sure, but I think it was Hamlet) by the next day and we hadn’t even started yet. Our plan was to watch a movie version instead.
That was our plan.
My mom had a different plan.
My mom won.
So we went to the ceremony. Everyone who got the scholarship got money towards college and you didn’t have to attend the ceremony to get the money.
But you did have to attend the ceremony if you wanted to put your name into a raffle drum that would be spun around at the end of the evening. They would pull one name out and that person would get to choose from the two cars that were parked on the stage.
I’m a very pragmatic kind of guy. There were 250 of us scholarship winners. So the thought never crossed my mind that I might actually win the car/truck.
Towards the end of the ceremony, I kept looking at my watch. I knew that I had a long night ahead of me watching Hamlet. I was ready for this thing to end, just pick a name out and be done with it.
When they pulled the name out, they first read the high school: West Hills High School. I think there were 5 of us from our high school there that night, including my friend Clint. But I didn’t even flinch. Surely it would be one of the other 4 people.
Then they called my name.
I remember Clint looking at me. I hadn’t really heard my name that well because my mind was already in another place, occupied with how long I’d need to stay up watching Hamlet.
Everything was a blur for me. I think it was Clint who had the sense to tell me to go up on stage. So I did.
When I got up there, they asked me to say something. Now most people, you know, people who thought they actually had a chance of winning, would have rehearsed some kind of speech in their minds. But not me. I spent precisely 0 seconds thinking about it. So I was very unprepared.
I simply leaned towards the mic and said, “thanks”. Surely it was a big disappointment. To this day I regret not having more to say.
Then they asked me to pick which car I wanted. There were two right there on the stage: a 1999 Ford ZX2 and a 1999 Ford Ranger.
My mind still wasn’t working so I turned to the crowd and put my hands up. Everyone yelled, “pick the truck”. I guess it was an obvious choice. So I picked the truck.
It was quite a night. Needless to say, I didn’t end up watching Hamlet. Sorry Mrs. Schaffer 🙂
Picking It Up
I can’t remember how many days later it was, but we went to the Drew Ford Round House of Values in La Mesa to pickup the truck. Sadly, the Round House of Values was demolished last Summer (click here).
It was there that I met Joe Drew. I can remember walking into his office. Lots of wood paneling and I’m pretty sure there were hunting/fishing pictures on the wall. The office felt very cozy and down to earth, just like the man. Joe Drew impressed me as being a very genuine person.
Now I’m not 100% sure on this, but I got the impression that Joe Drew was one of the main driving forces behind the Salute to Education scholarship.
I went back one time after I was in college and had lunch with Joe Drew and his son Bill. They walked me over to Subway, bought me lunch, and wanted to know how college was going. What great people. Joe has since passed away, but I hope Bill gets to read this. I’d love to be able to take him out to lunch sometime. Here’s a picture of Joe and Bill that I just grabbed from a Google search:
My parents signed a bunch of paperwork and there were lots of smiles. My mom said that my dad couldn’t get over being at a dealership, not having to haggle over price, and signing paperwork indicating no payment due.
Since I didn’t know how to drive a stick yet, my dad drove the truck off the lot with me in the passenger seat. We went straight to a parking lot so I could learn how to drive it to school the next day.
That night we parked the truck in our garage. I remember waking up several times during the night and going into the garage to look at the truck, just to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming. This memory came back to me quite vividly today. For the past few years, I’ve been parking the truck on the street in front of our house here in Columbus, Ohio. But today I parked it in the garage (with the garage door closed since it’s so cold) as I was cleaning it out. At one point I shut one of the truck doors and heard that “door closed inside the garage sound”. I’ve probably only had the truck in a garage a few times in its life so that’s not a sound I’ve heard very often. I immediately had a flashback to that night in 1999. It felt like I was there.
What a happy day that was. I am so thankful to all of the San Diego County Ford dealers (especially Joe Drew) for making it possible. Here are some pictures.
Off to College
I was so shocked to get into UCLA that I hadn’t thought about how I would get back and forth for Thanksgiving, Summer vacation, etc. I’m sure my parents had worried about it, but I was oblivious.
Now I had wheels which not only solved that problem, but solved it in style.
Before I went off to college, I was able to do some camping with some friends in the San Diego mountains (that was back before it all burned up in the early 2000s). We all slept in tents, but Sam (the big guy on the right) slept outside in the back of my truck.
Also before college, I went up to Orange County to help get a building ready for a church conference. I don’t remember why, but we had to move some dirt. The truck was only a couple of months old at that point, but we put it to good use:
During college I was able to move stuff for people, like this recliner, and take time to enjoy the process:
Also during college, my friend Paul (with his Chevy Blazer) and I took some guys off-roading in Big Bear one weekend. Paul snapped this really cool picture:
At the time, we thought we knew what we were doing. Looking at that picture now, I’m thinking, “stupid college kids”. We didn’t have a back-up plan for what we’d do if we got stuck crossing that water.
I was living with an awesome family at the time. On the way back from Big Bear we filled the back of the truck up with snow so the kids could have a UCLA neighborhood snowball fight. Look at those happy faces:
And then there was the time I took Matt and Nick to do some doughnuts in a dirt lot in Santee. Matt and Nick are twins, both of them over 6′ 6″ with strong handshakes. Matt was shifting through some doughnuts and, all of a sudden, the shift knob on top of the stick came off in his hands.
I drove around for months with just the stick (I thought it was cool), but eventually my dad went and bought me a replacement knob. Thanks dad.
As I was cleaning out the truck today, I found the original knob. I just decided to put it on my desk as a memento. Here’s a picture:
And that brings me to my dad.
Today was a tough day.
I’m not ashamed to say that I was choking up while cleaning out the truck.
Partly it was remembering things like when I closed the truck door in the garage like I mentioned earlier.
But mostly it was thinking of my dad. My dad was diagnosed with dementia in the Fall of 2015. The past few years have been brutal. At this point, my dad is in a memory care facility in La Mesa. He can’t really communicate, can’t walk as of a few weeks ago, and I’m basically just sitting by the phone waiting to get the call that he has passed away. It’s any day now.
It’s amazing how much memory is tied to physical things. I’ve observed it in my dad the past few years. My dad knew computers very well, but that knowledge was the first to go, while his attachment to physical things remained.
And I’ve experienced it myself too. I’ve been able to go back to San Diego every 2-3 months the past few years, but my day to day is still here in Ohio and there isn’t really anything here that reminds me of my dad.
Except for the truck. That’s what made today so hard.
I got the truck in April 1999. A few weeks later I turned 18. As an early 18th birthday present, my parents got me a bed liner for the truck (which they purchased from Drew Ford of course). That was a very expensive birthday present. And it was my dad’s foresight. He wanted to get it in place before anything got scratched:
I realized tonight that even one of my favorite pictures of me and my dad, from when I was going through a rough patch, has the truck in the background. I’m just having trouble finding it so I’ll add it to this post once I do.
It took me a while to clean out the truck today. I gave it a thorough cleaning, not because I thought it would be worth more money that way, but because I wanted to linger, logging some last good quality moments and cherishing the memories that kept flooding me. I also felt like I owed it to the truck to make it presentable.
My kids have grown attached to the truck too. They were very sad today. My daughter was crying, just like me.
Me (trying to be strong): “It’s just a car, not a person.”
My Daughter: “I know, but I feel like the truck is part of our family.”
The kids got to play in the truck one last time right after I finished cleaning it out in the garage:
My son was the one who spent the most time playing in the truck the past few years. He spent hours in there pretending to drive it. It was basically a “front yard play structure”, a fixture that appropriately made it into the Google street view of our front yard:
If I lived out in the country, I would not have taken the truck to Carmax today. I would have parked the truck in the backyard and made it a permanent “backyard play structure”. I almost did it anyways, ready to deal with the complaints from the neighbors. But I didn’t have the guts to follow through.
Today I took the kids for one last drive around the neighborhood, then we took some pictures before I drove the truck off to Carmax:
Carmax gave me $1,000 for my 1999 Ford Ranger. And I’m applying it to the purchase of a new car, a car that I don’t care about. It’s just 4 wheels and a steering wheel. The truck was a lot more than that.
Mike took good care of me. Seeing my truck reminded him of his old pickup truck which he doesn’t have anymore. Another guy saw the truck and told us about his 1993 Ford Ranger that he misses. So I was in good company.
Mike even posed for a picture after all the paperwork was done and I handed him the key:
Sentiment or Something Else?
I didn’t expect it to be so hard today. I didn’t realize that a car/truck could be so sentimental. It’s just four wheels and a steering wheel that takes you from point A to point B. At least that’s what Uber and the religion of self-driving cars wants you to believe.
But maybe there’s more to it. The feeling of the open road, the freedom to move around whenever you want.
I heard from someone at the recent Acumatica Summit that you need a VISA to move from city to city within Russia. And you get searched constantly as you’re moving from place to place. Could that be the future of Uber and self-driving cars too where the government now has control over our travel? Maybe that’s crazy. Or maybe a car is more than just a “symbol” of freedom. Maybe it’s a “requirement” for freedom.
Anyone who has experienced dementia with a family member knows the connection between a car and freedom. Taking away the keys from someone is VERY painful. Because you aren’t just taking away their car. You are taking away part of their freedom.
And maybe that’s why a car/truck is so sentimental.
The Salute to Education Scholarship didn’t just give me a truck, it gave me freedom.
Freedom to drive off to UCLA for college.
Freedom to come back and forth on breaks.
Freedom to drive out to Palm Springs and audit the Betty Ford Clinic while working at Deloitte and Touche.
Freedom to go on multiple camping trips, including one memorable time where some friends and I had to wait in the Tioga pass that goes into Yosemite for an hour or two while they cleared the roads from a rock slide. It was a beautiful day and I always kept a football in the truck. So we started a game of High Sierra road football with some others in the long line of parked cars.
Freedom to move from Los Angeles to Ohio in 2011 and start a family.
Thanks Ford Salute to Education for giving me freedom in the form of a truck and in the form of helping me to get an education that allowed me to get a job that allows me to work remotely and travel back and forth from Ohio to San Diego every 2-3 months these past few years so I could see my dad. That has been more important to me than the highest salary in the world could ever be.
I am eternally grateful.
And I hope that I can have a hand in doing the same for someone else in the future.