Conspicuous Consumption
  Friday   September 12, 1997




The Usual Suspects

So I'm sitting here trying to figure out what I'm going to write about tonight and my mind keeps going back to the same thing: my truck needs a bath. That leads to the thought that it also needs a new paint job, which leads to thinking of the shiny new paint on Beth's new car, which leads to thoughts of another new car... Which means that tonight I'll be talking about conspicuous consumption. Welcome to my mind.

I drive a 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60. No, it's not the big Lexus-looking (and costing) FJ80 all the studio execs are driving this year, and it's not the little Jeep-looking FJ45 with the Chevy 327 engine all the serious off-road guys are driving. It's the FJ60, damn it. 6 cylinders, four speed manual shift, roomy enough to haul the family and big enough to drive over anything that gets in your way. There aren't that many of them on (or off) the road these days, so you probably don't know what I'm talking about. So here it is:

Not my truck

Actually, this isn't my truck, but this is what it used to look like before some pinhead in its past decided it would be a cool idea to paint it a drab gray that doesn't buff up even when you wax it. No, my truck has a matte finish. As if it that weren't bad enough, he also had it painted by Earl Scheib's idiot brother. The gray paint is starting to flake away, revealing the original blue of the above picture. What with the flaking paint and the fact that it looks dirty even when it's clean, I don't wash it anymore. Which makes it look pretty scrungy sitting next to Beth's new car.

She bought it about a month ago, a 1998 Volvo S70T5. Fire engine red, leather interior, sunroof, all the bells and whistles... It puts my poor truck to shame. The truck's only consolation is knowing that, if it wanted to, it could drive right up onto that snobby little Swedish import, park on its roof, crush it into a pancake, and then drive away without a backward look. Take that, you sporty little bastard.

Do I sound jealous? I am, a little bit. Don't get me wrong, I love my truck, but it's... Well, it's not brand new. It's not shiny. It can drive right over the damned block, all right, but it can't drive around it for shit. Take a corner at high speed and you're likely to end up sliding down the road on your head. It's not a sports car. I want a sports car.

Specifically, I want a Porsche Boxster.

Not my car

Look at those lines! Can't you just see yourself (or, more to the point, me) tooling down PCH in that with the top down and the wind rippling through your hair? (Your hair is to the point; between male-pattern baldness and an aggressive hair-cutting policy, I don't have any.) Wouldn't it be cool to have the Cruiser, the Volvo and the Porsche parked in the driveway? Sure it would. But...

The Porsche costs something like $50,000, I think. We could afford it if we sold some of our stock, but the taxes would kill us and it would be a silly way to spend that much money. I already have the truck and we just bought Beth's car and we're thinking of buying a new house, so it just wouldn't make sense to spend it on a toy like that. Besides, if we were going to waste the money like that, I have a better way.

I've always wanted to fly, and that's part of the reason I'm not getting my truck painted yet. A new paint job will cost about $3,000 to do right, which is a good chunk of the cost of flying lessons. And if you're going to take flying lessons, it only makes sense to buy this plane, doesn't it?

Not my plane

That's a Mooney, kids. It seats four, flies high, cruises at almost 200 mph, operates at a relatively economical $75/hour, and will get you anywhere you want to go much faster than a Boxster will. And a used Mooney costs about as much as a new Boxster. A much wiser purchase, wouldn't you say? I should get one, shouldn't I? Please? Somebody tell Beth, will you?

Nah, never mind. These are all pipe dreams for now; conspicuous consumption is a tough nut to crack without the income to make it happen. But it will happen. And when it does, I'll drive my Boxster to the airport, hop in my Mooney and fly to Colorado, where I'll get my Cruiser out of the hangar I lease there and drive it to our ski-in cabin on the slopes of Aspen.

And I'll think back on when I wrote this and smile.





Copyright 1997
Chuck Atkins