OPINION: Squatty-body pickup may be what you need

·5 min read

Jul. 3—From my dad, I inherited my love of books and classical music, my nose, and my opinion that vehicles are for getting you from Point A to Point B. I don't need bells and whistles. This is probably because my first vehicle was a Comet, which my siblings and I called "The Vomit" — a hand-me-down "four-in-the-floor" standard clunker with no air conditioning.

My husband, on the other hand, likes tools and creature comforts, and the little Honda Ridgeline we recently purchased fits the bill.

For years, I drove a 3/4-ton, crew cab Chevy with a Cummins diesel. It got 18 miles per gallon, which wasn't bad for a big truck, but it had started getting a bit long of tooth. My husband began to suggest we trade it in for something else — for me. I knew better. I had about as much say in the matter as a goose has on whether its liver winds up on a plate next to toast points, a schmear of fig jam, and a sprig of parsley.

Chris drives a Honda Accord hybrid. It's our second; our first we handed down to our son, Cole, when Chris began hankering for a more loaded model. He said the original Accord had "too many miles on it"; that's what men say when they want a new vehicle. Our first Honda is still going strong, and through a happy coincidence, it's become a testimonial for Cole, who works at Fowler Honda in Norman.

Enter Honda Accord No. 2, an attractive shade with heated leather seats. The leather is so hot in the summer that if I wear a dress, I cook my flabby fanny. And why would anyone want a sun roof? I want to keep the sun out, not invite it in. There are other features I have no clue how to access or use, and dashboard icons don't help. And the car makes an awful howling noise. Only Chris and I have heard it; no Honda dealership can detect it, and neither can Cole. Chris says it has "something to do with harmonics" and that it "only happens at a certain speed." He's exaggerating. It happens at every speed; he just never sits in the passenger seat, because if he's in a vehicle, he's driving.

I agreed "my" car could be a Honda, mainly because Cole sells them and anything else would seem like a betrayal. But I would have been fine with a stripped-down, used economy model. I don't even care about power windows. And I prefer cars, although I had become fond of the lead sled I drove for years. But Chris wanted another truck. We needed it, he insisted, in case we had to "haul something." I'm not sure why the 1992 GMC heavy-half that malingers in our yard — known as "Old Blue," even though most of the blue paint has flaked off — couldn't do that job.

So we bought the Ridgeline — the same color as the Accord. Coincidentally, it came with every bell and whistle a geeky engineer could design, including a "refrigerator" — a compartment in the bed that doubles as an enormous ice chest. But the geeks don't get Oklahoma; they don't realize we need cooled seats, not heated ones. Nor could the geeks explain why anyone would want a heated steering wheel. One of the other salesmen told me many clients with arthritis raved about that feature, but he was feeding me a line. I have arthritis myself, and a heated steering wheel has no more appeal for me than a hemorrhoid.

The main problem here is the timing; we still owe on Honda No. 2. This is the first time I've ever had two car payments, and when I think about it, I nearly lose my lunch — which lately has been vegetable juice. This doesn't seem to bother Chris, because the Ridgeline is a tool — and he doesn't mind going into debt for tools. The rub is that he still has to drive the hybrid car to Tulsa and back every day, because it gets better gas mileage. So, after work each evening, he goes outside and moons over the stubby, snub-nosed little pickup, and pats it appreciatively. It's cute — in the same way as a Hobbit is cute. It's not the robust type of truck I'm used to, though it has plenty of get-up-and-go, and is very comfortable. I appreciate the captain's chair armrests, and the stereo puts out a lot of base, which I like.

Ironically, we ought to feel lucky we were able to find a vehicle to go into debt over. Because of the pandemic, shortages on parts and other factors, there aren't many cars on the lots. We did a story on it. The U.S. closed down much of its manufacturing years ago and shipped it to countries with slave wages, so CEOs could become billionaires and we consumers could pay cheap prices for those creature comforts. Tariffs, plant fires and the pesky Chinese government also find blame in various quarters.

I have told a few friends that Cole will eventually get them a vehicle if they want one, but he'll have to work at it because of the shortages. I've advised patience, and told them they may have to move quickly when one becomes available. They may have to accept features they really don't want, like a heated steering wheel — which is no more necessary than a gold toilet in a tycoon's mansion.

Lately, I've started telling friends that Cole will go out of his way for them, but they ought to be serious about buying, and give him a chance to beat any other offer. That's only fair. I had one friend who put him through the hoops, then wound up buying a used Buick. I doubt the Buick has a heated steering wheel, but if it does, I can't help but hope it singes her hands.

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