Tuesday, January 26, 2016

More Power than We Need

For my birthday this year, my dear wife gave me a present.

She knows that my Scots Irish blood means I am a creature of peculiar contradictions.  I am, being a Scots Presbyterian, a lover of thrift, frugality, and the practical.  My inner Irishman, however, enjoys a good raging hooley, a bit of the wildness that makes life's story a story worth telling.

I've learned, over time, that it's best to let John Knox make most of the significant purchasing decisions.  And so though an efficient hybrid and a practical used minivan do their stalwart duty in our driveway, my heart longs for more exuberant things.

"Your present: go rent a fun car again," she told me on my birthday.  She's done it before, and it's a favorite gift.

As it so happened, inbound was a great beast of a snowstorm, the forecast "historic," the tolling bell of weather panic ringing from every virtual steeple.  As other Washingtonians scurried about like Tokyo denizens before a giant rubber suited man, I contemplated the optimal possible non-military surplus vehicle for dealing with the snow.

So on the day of the storm's arrival, I pulled into our driveway with a Big Red American Truck.  A Ford F-150 XLT SuperCrew 4X4, to be precise.

That first morning, as the blizzard howled, I cleaned the great red beast off and prepared to test it out on the 18 to 20 inches of unsullied powder that covered our suburban road.  The snow, up to my knee, seemed impossible, impenetrable, so deep it was a challenge to walk.

I've always been a confident snow driver.  Heck, I even enjoy it.

But looking at the depth of Snowzilla's first evening's leavings, I was convinced that I'd made a mistake.  This was a colossal boondoggle.  I'd pull out, and get stuck, and that'd be that.  It would be lovely driveway candy, for as many days as it took them to plow us out.

I was wrong.  In four high, with traction control engaged, and with 1,500 pounds of snow packed down in the bed right over the rear axle, the truck was unstoppable.  The big Ford just...pushed.  And the snow got out of the way.  I made two runs through the neighborhood, carving nice deep walking tracks into the snow, perfect for walking the pup.

As the blizzard roared on, I got out every hour or two, and kept tracks running through the neighborhood.  It was, occasionally, a bit technical.  And more than a little fun.  I got through, pounding through four foot snow berms.  The truck and I could not be stopped.  Six thousand five hundred pounds of 4X4 with 420 foot-pounds of torque just gets where it needs to get.

So I ran errands, checked in on my parents and my in-laws as the storm roared, shuttled my teens to help with shoveling afterwards, and surveyed the scope of Snowzilla's impact.

A day passed.  Then another.  The roads got plowed.  Not all of them, but most.  I ran errands.  We visited my parents, and my in-laws.  I stopped to help the stranded, including a plow that got stuck on a hill I'd traversed just three minutes before.

It was utterly enjoyable.

But on the last day I'd rented it, as streets reached the point where I could easily traverse them with one of our more frugal vehicles, I began feeling, well, odd.

Here I was, in a glorious beast of a truck, and...I didn't need to be.  I'm not a farmer or a contractor.  I don't live in the Upper Peninsula or Fargo.  It felt like excess capacity, like the kind of meal that sets well after a day of hard labor, but that just leaves you feeling off if you've been sitting around all day.

And as fun as it had been, I found myself eager to be out of it, and back into something that more reflected my actual needs.

Power, after all, can be a dangerous thing if we become too used to it.