but this place is just right.
For the past six months, not a day has gone by when I haven’t thought about buying a pickup truck. Not a nice one, not even an average one, something old and kind of broken, just something I could drive to the dump, or to Home Depot on a Saturday so that I can buy some wood. Do I actively or even passively need wood right now? No, but, like, what if I did? There would be no way to obtain it without the aid of an old-ass truck. No, I couldn’t just put the wood in my regular car, stop asking questions you’re ruining the fantasy.
There is something romantic, or at least inherently “American,” about having a truck. It’s a big metal box you put shit in the back of, the sky’s the limit. These days pickups are, in many cases, overpriced and obnoxiously large luxury vehicles that no one actually uses to haul stuff: a brand-new Ford F-150 Platinum costs at minimum $55,000 and includes interior wood paneling, onboard WiFi, and seats that will literally massage your butt. But where I grew up in rural North Carolina, pickups were a necessity for a whole lot of people. Maybe they had a farm and had to lug equipment around; maybe they were building something on their land and (unlike me) had an actual reason to go to Lowe’s and buy some wood. In that context, owning a truck said, “I am a person who does things.” As a professional writer and editor who often spends the entire day working in my bed, I am not a person who does things. But if I had a truck, maybe I could become one.
The point is, I spend a lot of time looking at ads for pickup trucks on Craigslist. I cannot stop. I fear I am at the point that I enjoy looking at the ads more than I would enjoy having one. Pretty much any car costs a relatively high amount of money, and if it doesn’t, that usually means you’re going to end up having to pay a lot of money to get it fixed once you buy it. But in my mind, there exists the platonically broken Craigslist truck, one that’s cheap enough for anyone to afford, that’s broken in only in inessential ways. Air conditioning? Who needs it. Does the radio work? Whatever, I bet they sell radios on Amazon. Oh, the engine smokes whenever it starts up because the previous owner didn’t change the oil for three years? Okay, never mind, let’s go to the next ad.
A good truck ad on Craigslist tells a story. If it costs less than $6,000 — this is “cheap” for a truck — it’s not perfect, and people are going to want to know why. How long has the poster had it? What function did it serve? What’s good about it? What about the bad? Why must the poster get rid of it? If they answer enough of these unspoken prerequisites, a portrait of a life begins to emerge, especially if and when the poster refers to their truck as “she.”
Clearly, there’s a lot going on here. It seems like this is the perfect truck for someone who hates music and is comfortable with owning a vehicle that requires a level of personal responsibility somewhere between “dog” and “baby.” I feel as if reading this ad taught me something about myself — namely, that because I am not comfortable with this level of sexualization when it comes to truck, this is not the truck for me.
The methods for contacting the seller can be telling, as well. Many people selling their trucks require phone calls only, no texts or emails because who the hell uses that crap, no calls after 9 p.m. because they wake up early.
Then there are the ads that approach true poetry:
I’m sorry, what? How is the fact that someone took the doors off this thing at all related to the fact that it was stolen? Like, if the truck-thief just needed a pair of doors for their own truck, wouldn’t they just steal the doors off that one instead of the whole thing? Also, how does a person end up with a stolen truck with no doors? The amount of mental gymnastics you have to do to get to “normal” here is just fantastic.
But then, there are the honorable Craigslist truck sellers, such as this person, who knows his 1990 Ford F-150 has a leak in its second fuel tank (trucks chug gas, so sometimes they feature two tanks so you don’t have to refuel as much) and can give you the parts to fix it along with the truck:
“Now this is someone I could do business with,” I thought to myself, my mouse hovering over the “Reply” button as I wondered to myself whether this would finally be the Craigslist truck I emailed about, perhaps even the one I bought. After deliberating, I couldn’t do it. What if an ad for an even cheaper and even less-broken truck comes online tomorrow?