I bought my first truck about a year ago. Up until then, I'd owned just about every kind of vehicle except a truck. And a Hummer.
I'd had a couple of convertibles, a sedan and a station wagon. Once, I'd even owned a Jaguar. Granted it was 10 years old with an electrical system that defied repair but still, it was a Jaguar.
When the girls came along, I switched to minivans. There were three vans in succession. The last one, I drove for 11 years. It was the Tupperware of minivans.
You know how Tupperware is. It gets old and ugly. Those tomato sauce stains never come off completely. You're ashamed of it, but the lid still snaps on and burps out the air like the day you bought it so you don't have a good reason to get rid of it. Except that it's so darned ugly. I think that's why you see so much Tupperware at yard sales.
That's how my van was. The only reason it had a relatively decent paint job was because someone had decided to scratch the alphabet (through the letter "D") down both sides in 2006. Insurance covered the bill for fresh paint. It was much like putting lipstick on a pig.
There were dents and dings. I had worn a hole in the carpet below the brake pedal. Even though my youngest child was in middle school, you could still see where the infant seat had once sat, outlined as it was by grape juice stains and mystery sticky stuff.
Finally, I decided it was time to trade in the Tupper-van. I cleaned it out, feeling a lot like an anthropologist as I dug Sesame Street tapes out from under the seat (did I mention my youngest was 13 by then?) and found two CDs that I had accused my husband of borrowing and losing years before. Sorry, Arthur.
I had no idea what kind of vehicle I wanted, just something different. That's when I spotted the truck at a used car lot on Cleveland Highway. It was shiny red with a five-speed transmission and a killer after-market CD player. The price was right and the folks at the lot even sold my van for me, getting far more than I ever imagined it would command.
I figure some guy bought it and took it home, explaining to his irate wife, "See, honey, it's like Tupperware ..."
So, a year later, I still have my little red truck and I love it as much as the day I bought it. Each and every time I've driven it, I've worn my seat belt. Yet just recently, I discovered there was no legal reason for me to buckle up. Seems Georgia is the only state that does not require adult drivers and passengers in pick-ups to wear seat belts. It has something to do with ... agriculture?
Apparently Georgia farmers have been dead-set against any legislation requiring seat belt usage in their trucks. And they must have some mighty powerful friends under the big Gold Dome. Despite standing to lose about $4.6 million in federal highway funds because of failure to comply with seat belt use guidelines, the bill can't even get a hearing in the House of Representatives.
Hey, wait a minute. I have to send copy paper to school with my child because the school has run out and can't afford to buy more, all while yahoos in Atlanta are turning away millions because they don't want to require a simple action that will save countless lives and millions more in medical and rehab expenses. If I were circumspect, I'd say they were being shortsighted. But circumspect I'm not, and I say they're being a special kind of stupid.
There's been an attempt to mollify the farmers by exempting trucks being used "in connection with agricultural pursuits." I'm not quite sure what that means. Am I exempt if I toss a bag of fertilizer in the bed? Puh-leeze.
Passing this legislation would achieve several objectives. The first would be to save lives and minimize injuries. Then there would be the additional federal funds that would come from the state being in compliance with federal guidelines. It would also make our elected officials appear to be working to benefit of all of the people of Georgia and not just special interests with deep pockets.
How refreshing that would be.
Originally published in the Gainesville Times February 20, 2009