Posted on November 14, 2018
by Steve Janowick

I’ll never forget that look in his eyes.  

He was in his mid-40’s at the time, but his expression was that of a 12-year old who just got his first Schwinn bike.  I could see it clearly through his windshield as he pulled up to my apartment complex. That shit-eating smirk that’s half parts pride and vanity.  After he parked and turned off the ignition, he sat in it for a few moments. I could see him looking around the cab, still in that admiration phase.  Inspecting the dials. Stroking the upholstery. Fiddling with a few knobs and buttons.

When he finally got out and started walking toward me, after a few head checks to make sure it hadn’t moved, of course, I noticed a distinct difference in his walk since the last time I saw him.  He sort of strutted now. Maybe I was imagining it, but I could have sworn his chest was puffed out more and his arm swing was a little more exaggerated with each step. My brother was now the proud owner of a very used, black Dodge Dakota, and as he got closer to the apartment, he looked like John Travolta walking down the street to Stayin’ Alive. You remember the classic scene.

It didn’t matter that the thing had over 100k miles and its best days were a distant speck in the rear-view mirror, this truck had its claws in him the same way Christine had hers in Arnie Cunningham!  He was no longer the soccer Dad and husband driving his family safely around in his plum-colored Saturn. He wasn’t the safe and predictable nice guy anymore. Suddenly, he was dangerous! Someone not to be fucked with.  He was the cowboy, biker, MMA fighter and mysterious drifter synthesized into the ultimate bad-ass!

That is the power a pick-up truck has over a man.

I read somewhere that some of the domestic auto manufacturers are actually discontinuing their car lines because demand for trucks is so high it’s not cost-effective to make cars anymore.  When did this change in perception of the pick-up happen? I mean, I can remember a time, not that long ago, that trucks were reserved for people that actually needed them as opposed to wanted them.  Rural living, working stiffs that had to haul loads or pull weight or make a couple bucks doing side jobs. When the trucks were as ugly as the guys driving them. Just kidding of course!

But then, when the early 80’s/90’s came around, all the advertisers started going after Joe Suburbanite-truck makers included.  And if you were going to entice him and take his money, you’d better craft a vehicle suited to his sensibilities. And before you knew it, just as Harley’s started showing up in every weekend warrior’s garage, the pick-up truck was accessible to, and marketed for, a much broader, more “refined” man.  

Fast forward to today, and some pick-up trucks are blinged out with more options and features than any German luxury car.  But still, with all that said, that doesn’t take away from them being synonyms with all things alpha. They are big, strong, intimidating, dependable, can carry a lot…and look good doing it!  What man wouldn’t dig those characteristics for himself?  Of course, those attributes can be taken to cheeseball extremes.  You know the guy. The red-neck, Mad Max. The one with the 10-inch lift, spiked rims and giant smokestack belching the black plague with every push of the accelerator.  But barring that extreme, pick-up trucks, more than ever, are the consummate symbol of red-blooded Americana machismo for the everyday, classic man. The hard worker. The outdoorsman.  The free-spirited adventurer-he’s all of them when he’s behind the wheel of his truck.

At least he is in his own head.

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