When you slide back behind the wheel and get rolling, check out all the new model cars sharing the interstates with you. Even if you can’t afford to buy one, go sit in a few of them. Doesn’t matter who makes them. You’ll get the feeling that they are all pretty much the same. Only the advertisements are different. A couple of days ago I happened on a car for sale. It was a 1964 Ford Thunderbird. White, a little faded on the outside but still so shiny white inside I needed sunglasses. All original. Only 51,181 miles on it. The engine, oily and dirty under the hood, had been there since it left the plant. It was, as it had been back in ’64, one of a kind. You would never have any doubt that it was a Ford Thunderbird as it passed you by on the highway. And the Chevys from that era would also be instantly recognizable.
That T-Bird got me thinking about originals. We still turn them out today, but political correctness makes them a dwindling species.
It’s a little bit the same with green tomatoes. I like mine with flavor, a little bite and a big crunch. And the best ones I can find are at our local farmer’s market. They have scratches on them and indentations where a vine has pushed them out of shape, and some other blemishes that make them appear a little less than Grade A. But the flavor and the bite and the crunch are all there. They’re satisfying. Now down at the local supermarkets the green tomatoes, and for that matter the red ones, are all perfect to behold. Unblemished. Just like the apples and the pears and the grapes. Looking great! But they don’t satisfy quite as much as the ones that don’t look so perfect that I buy from Sue or Linda or Bud the day after they pick them.
A good trucker is unlikely to be featured in Gentleman’s Quarterly or called up for a Women’s Wear Daily photo shoot. Or asked to be a spokesperson for a political party or grand marshal of a Thanksgiving parade. But maybe there’s more behind those wise old highway eyes than just looking the part. Maybe a really good trucker is more substance than image. An original.
Living life to the beat of your own drummer is not buying the car with the sexiest or slickest ad. Perfect supermarket produce doesn’t make you the best cook in your family. And a lot of people who are politically incorrect are that way just because it’s often a popular position, too. Too many people make their decisions based on how they will be seen and judged by others before they worry about how they feel about themselves. Just being yourself isn’t always the easy way. But look around. I like the men and women of this industry. So many of them leave you feeling you’ve met someone that you know is not like anyone else you’re going to meet today or tomorrow.
Just like Johnny Cash. Most of us will remember Cash for a long while. If there was one thing that marked virtually every phase of his long career as a country music icon it was that he did what he believed he should do and he did it the way he believed he should do it. Rules were broken. Lines were crossed. The uncertainty of a road less traveled was chosen more often than not. It was important to Cash that he be somebody he liked and respected, somebody he could stare at in the mirror without any doubts even when others questioned his actions.
When the things you do in your life are the result of your own decisions, made from your own heart and mind and not because those decisions will let you roll along with the crowd, you are an original. Sometimes you’ll have no choice but to follow the crowd, for safety or some other reason. But knowing when you have to do that and knowing when you don’t have to is a gift, one that maybe took a lot of sweat and tears to come by. Don’t waste it. When you get the chance to be you, roll down that road. And to those who question you, look them in the eye and tell them, with certainty, that you’d do it all over again.