LEARNING THE ROPES

Kids are taught the proper way to conduct themselves in all kinds of scenarios, learning the ropes so to speak. We’re educated on the insider secrets about what, from the exterior, looks like just another chore or responsibility, but the truly great ones make the tricks, secrets, dealing with people and not getting fleeced exceptional.

I recall my mom showing my sister just how big a splash of leftover coffee to use in a brown sauce. Not so different than my wife reminding the girls how many hot yellow peppers to add to the pot of red sauce that’s big enough to bathe the dog. (not kidding… but Larry is a Shih Tzu)

The little things can make all the difference.

While there was a myriad of things to learn as a boy on the bumpy road to manhood, one of them, though now obsolete and just a memory, was even better than a first trip to Disneyland; shopping for cars.

Sure you could use the same formula for work trucks or basic family transportation, but using the car shopping technique for cool cars, muscle cars, turned a chore into a labor of love.

In those days it started with a newspaper, but not just any newspaper. The real experienced folks knew to start with the Sunday paper. That’s how a boy learns he’s fast becoming a man; when you tore apart a newspaper and discarded everything, including the funny papers, to begin searching the classifieds.

Then there was the local Auto Trader, worth every cent of the fifty it cost. The veteran car shopper knew the publication came out on Tuesdays, ’cause in the used car business, it’s “first come first serve”.

I was taught to “dog ear” the pages and circle the potential motored treasure, sit by the landline getting addresses and directions, then plot a course around the city with approximate meeting times.

I learned fast that the best used car shopper does more than just kick a few tires, he crawls on his back and belly to look for things underneath the V-8 sporting muscle that the outside alone could hide.

One of the standards was pulling the dipstick to look for traces of water or gasoline in the oil. Another was checking the color of the exhaust to let you know if the engine was tired and burning oil, and on and on.

Time spins by like the obsolete spinning top and we’ve gotten more sophisticated. We’re less and less subject to the whim of some fella maybe trying to off a lemon.

I’m reminded that avoiding interactions with others can keep us from getting burned, but that’s not the point of our lives. It is a fallen world, but that doesn’t mean we have to become cynical. That was the Truth behind learning the ropes…

There’s value in interactions with people. In the end, that’s what it’s going to be mostly about, I think.

Which sorta makes it my duty to look for that perfect Plymouth Barracuda. Or maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention when I was learning the ropes of justification…!