SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska
Column - Commentary

Too big, too small, clearly not 'just right'  


June 30, 2022

Ketchikan, Alaska -
As I am getting older, I am learning that "Goldilocks" applies to cars as well. 


 When I was younger, I had a hankering for low to the ground sports cars. Not that there were many of those in Ketchikan when I was growing up. There were a few speedy models, but it was always hard to drive them into and out of the pothole farms that pass as roadway here. 

 I also liked Big A-- trucks and jeeps too. Back in the day, there were fewer of those around. Now it seems like 4 out of every 3 infernal combustion vehicles in Ketchikan is a Big A—truck. Making every parking lot an exercise in taking your life into your hands. And not successfully. 

 These days, neither big truck nor small car is a good fit for me. 

 Neither is "just right" anymore. 

 For example, my wife has a low to the ground Toyota (not a sports car in anyway shape or form). It's okay to drive, as long as you don't' mind having to look up to see the under carriages of every other car on the road. Natch, there is a value to being able to drive completely under some of the other cars on the road. 

 But it is nearly impossible to get out of.  At least for me. 

 A while back I saw a Facebook video of "an old man getting out of a Ferrari." He, or course, had to literally crawl out of the low-slung Spider and then fumble around getting back to his feet with the help of a cane. 

 Ha, ha, ha, ha. 

 Actually, not so funny.   

 When I step out of my wife's “Not A Ferrari,” my knees have to bend beyond what is a guaranteed point of self-recovery. It is a great struggle to get upright again.  Not a good feeling. 

 So, low slung cars – cool as they look - are really not an option for me anymore. Unless there is a James Bond ejector button to fling me skyward onto the sidewalk. 

 Apparently, Big A—trucks aren’t an option either. 

 I got off The Rock recently. 

 Hmmm, that doesn't quite sound right, does it? 

 Seriously, though, nothing about travel is 'right' anymore, is it? 

 That thought occurred to me as I found myself standing around with a group of strangers putting our clothes back on in the airport and it seemed like we had missed a step or two. 

You know, the drinks.

The dinner.

The hanky panky. 

 But I digress. 

 Anyway, I went elsewhere, and part of my trip involved a rental car. At the counter, they informed me that my chosen reserved car (bland middle of the road vehicle) was not available. Would I mind a pickup truck? 

 Well, heckfire, yeah!!! 

 For one thing Big A-- trucks convey status. I am driving a land leviathan around therefore I am person of parts. 

 Even more important, I can afford to put $6 a gallon gas in this monster. I am clearly someone who owns an oil company. 

 For another thing, I love command seating, especially when I am navigating in unfamiliar territory. Looking down on the other cars is awesome! 

 And for another-nother thing, folks in other cars tend to give you a wider berth when you are careening around in a big truck with observably rusty big truck driving skills (you pull into the traffic flow, stomp on the pedal, and about 20 seconds later the 400 horses kick in and the truck launches forward like the Space Shuttle). 

 So, there I was, off The Rock, enjoying tooling around in a big truck. 

 And therein was the challenge.

Trucks have gotten so gargantuan these days that unless you are six feet something, (which I, most assuredly, am not) you can't ingress or egress one without looking like an adult klutz trying to negotiate kiddie chairs in an elementary school class.  Only in this case you are the tiny person in the Edith Ann chair. And that’s the truth. Look it up. 

Sure, they have running boards and all manner of handholds (am I climbing into a truck or am I climbing El Capitan?), but it doesn't make it any easier to get up into the thing. 
If you are average or less in height, getting into a Big A-- truck just looks awkward. 

 Yeah, I know, you are asking the obvious question. How does this work for all the guys suffering from Small Man Syndrome who buy Big A-- trucks to compensate for their other shortcomings? You see SMS’s in big trucks all the time. 

 I don't know. Maybe, they extreme lowrider the thing, so that it goes flatter than a municipal bus and they just step into it like the shower. 

 At any rate, (5 percent?) I digress. Again. 

 Next up, is the egression from the “Cab” of the Big A—truck. Note that no one ever says their car has a “cab”” unless of course it is an actual taxi. I once went for a ride in a real life, fully armored tank. It did not have a “cab.” It did not need one. But trucks need to have a "cab." Go figure.

 You have arrived at your destination, turned off the onboard computer (that constant reminder that your gas mileage is between 2 and 3 mpg is irritating anyway), and pulled into what amounts to three and a half parking spots. 

 Now, you have to figure out a way to deplane from your ride without looking like a complete idiot. In the five days of my trip, I never accomplished that. Not once. 

 First, I tried to use the running board, but they are never quite wide enough and you find yourself dipping one of your toes out of the cab and swinging your foot around as you try to locate the safety of the running the board. Then you step out and slide off the edge of it. Not a good look. 

 Next, I tried to just go past the running board all together. That wasn’t a good idea. 

 That was one long fall, there. And naturally, I did not stick the landing. 

 Awkward, again. 

 I’d like to say, I eventually found a smooth way to get into and out of my Big A— Truck rental. 

 I would also like to say that I won the lottery. 

 Neither is true. 

 But self-knowledge is priceless. 

 From now on, I will stick with middle sized SUV. 

 It may not be a perfect car, but for now it is just right. 

 As long as there is room for my walker in the back. 



The answer is yes.

For one thing, now I have to go back to shaving every morning. That's an extra five minutes out of my day that I won't get back - at least until I retire. Which is just about 500 days away, but who is counting?

When you think about it, shaving every morning is truly pushing your luck.

For example, you're tired.

If - like me - you are NOT bright eyed and bushy tailed at 6 am, shaving can lead to serious problems. Few places bleed as much as the face when punctured.

When I was a kid, I used to occasionally see grown guys wandering around with little bits of toilet paper stuck to their faces. Somehow that was considered less embarrassing than bleeding to death because they tried to get one last swipe out of a dull blade.

There were also these odd little items called "styptic pencils." People used to use those to "stop" facial bleeding after getting a "nick or a cut." They didn't seem to work because you still saw people with the tiny blood-soaked pieces of toilet paper hanging on their jowls.

I never understood why they were called pencils.

You couldn't write with them.

Heck, you couldn't even chew on them.

 And they had no erasers.

 No one ever asked for a "Number 2 Ticonderoga Stypic Pencil."

 Go figure.

But I digress.

So, no more masks means much more shaving. Which is not a good thing. I hate squinting into the shower fogged mirror every morning. I hate having to fiddle around with razor-sharp blades when i am barely awake enough to be upright. I hate having to do something that I probably wouldn't do otherwise, at least not nearly as often.

Recently I was off work for a couple of weeks. I think I shaved twice. The. World. Did. Not. Come. To. An. End.

Anyway, with a mask, it didn't matter if you had a "five o'clock shadow" at 8 am.

Masks also - over the last couple of years - helped me with my driving.

No, I did not wear them over my eyes. Although more than a few times masks got caught on my sunglasses or caterwhompas on my ears and did block my vision just a hair. They also caught caught in my hair as well. I never quite developed the important skills of donning my mask with one hand while steering with the other.

But that's not what I meant by masks being "helpful" with driving.

I have always been a vocal driver. I like to take note of other folks driving habits and I like to comment on them. Fortunately, Ketchikan drivers are such that there are always plenty of driving habits worth commenting on. We don't use turn signals. We never stop at stop signs. Heckfire, we even consider the lanes themselves as "suggestions."

This, of course, we explain away because of the weather or the potholes or even the deer (but not antelope) roaming about. It couldn't be because we are "distracted" drivers, could it?

Once upon a time, a large percentage of Ketchikan drivers were distracted by "demon rum." That number seems to have dropped some, but now we are distracted by eating, putting on makeup or texting. When your eyes are on the cell phone in your lap, they are not on the road. Good thing the yellow line is only a "suggestion," eh wot?

Personally, I am more distracted by the bad habits of other drivers (see above).

And I feel it is my responsibility to comment on said bad habits.

People driving too slow. People driving in a big hurry. People blocking traffic trying to turn left. People leaving their doors open halfway into the driving lane. People not using turn signals. People using their turn signals for several blocks. People stopping to let wanderers cross in the middle of the road. People not stopping to let wanderers cross. And all that is usually within a block or so of my house.

What does this have to do with masks?

Well, for the past couple of years, I have been able to "cuss" out all the other drivers and no one has known because I have been wearing my mask. Ya'll can't lip read with a face diaper on.

I know that some people thought it was odd that I was wearing a mask while driving because I was the only person in the car and - not likely - able to catch COVID from myself.

But I was just exercising my First Amendment Right of Intemperate Speech.

Now, I will have to dial it back a bit. Because you will be able to see my lips move again.

And you may not like what you see.

Which is why masks are a good thing!


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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.

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