I was pumping gas while turning sideways to shield myself against the wind and light rain. This pump was missing the convenient notches that would have allowed you to free your hands and return to the shelter of the vehicle. It was 38 degrees, but felt much colder with the wind. It was late at night, I was tired, and had 3 more hours of driving before I would be home.  It was slow going with the trailer. You couldn’t take the faster route because it involved parkways, and you spent most of the time just above the speed limit anyway due to the precious cargo. Why was this worth it, I contemplated? The gas pump was particularly slow, giving me a chance to review what lead up to this moment….

The ad was from Craigslist. It surfaced using one of those Apps that let you construct a saved search and alert you when there are new items matching the criteria. I have turned off the alerts since lots of people now stuff their craigslist ads with 100 keywords to get people like me to drown in false positives. However, I do periodically peruse the search results manually, and on this occasion, there was  an ad which was either a scam, or a guy not too facile with grammar or a computer. There was no picture. The Ad was short, the wording was vague, and the price was excellent. The vehicle, however, was 16 hours away according to Mapquest (then the industry leader in map software). On Monday, I called the number, and got Henry.

Henry was a man of few words. He answered each question with the minimum necessary word count. He seemed rather disinterested in selling the vehicle.  However, he did confirm the price, warning that it was firm, he answered questions to fill in some detail, and said he would be around anytime I wanted to come see it. Great deal, but too far away, and too costly to ship. Game over, back to work. Then 2 days later, on Wednesday, Henry calls to honor my place as first in line since he has another buyer interested. He emails me two grainy pictures that look ok, but pictures are worth a thousand lies. I pass. Game over, back to work. Thursday evening, Henry rings back. The other buyer fell through, I am the only other interested person, and he needs to get the vehicle gone before Monday. Oh, and he has a new, lower, final price, if I can get it before Monday. He is much more sociable at this point. I tell him I will call him back before noon Friday. I need to sleep on it.

The last thing I could do was sleep. How could I take advantage of this potential deal? How could I become more confident that this was not just a waste of time and money? I searched the Interwebs for transport options. Expensive, and ridiculously expensive if you wanted pickup right away. I emailed a buddy in a neighboring state. Out of town. I looked at flying in, moving it to a storage place and flying back. Expensive short notice flights and then the storage cost, plus the same need to get it back home.   Then, somewhere in the part of the brain stem that has reacted for millennia to the combination of frustration and desire, the idea emerged. Why not just go get it yourself? The rational self responded immediately. Because it is 32 hours of driving stupid, and that is if you don’t stop, and by the way, you can’t leave until Saturday because of that appointment, remember? Not to be outdone, the insane self calmly retorted, yes you can do it, you have 44 hours between the time you can leave, and the time you have to be at work, giving you a full 12 hours of stop/sleep time. Piece of cake. Just because you are insane, doesn’t mean you can’t do math. The rational self torted (what is the opposite of retort anyway?) that several other plans for the weekend would need to be dashed, that you really didn’t have enough info to make this a sure bet, and that the weather forecast was lousy for big chunks of the trip. The insane self reminded me that extra parts were included, and then he kicked rational self in the groin……and so it went.

In the brilliant sunny light of a new day, it all became clear. I would drive there and back with the trailer, I would secure this deal for just the few hundred in gas and food that it would cost for the marathon. I informed Henry that I would see him early Sunday morning. All I needed was a good nights sleep Friday, and a cooler full of snacks and drinks. What actually happened was a few calls to fellow Gearheads, a bunch more research online about the particular model and year, some playing with map routes, some work-related matters, and a not so good nights sleep. Then I got on the road. The fastest route was the interstate, Hours upon hours of numbing highway. Four hours, gas. Rain. Four hours, gas again. More rain…… and so it went.

After a couple hours of sleep, I met the seller, wrapped up the transaction, loaded the vehicle, and got back on the road.  For some reason, an hour going home is longer than an hour getting to the destination. Fatigue has some time-altering properties if it could be properly harnessed. And weather can do the same. Rain. Interstate. Gas. Interstate…..and so it went.

The pump handle clicked, indicating that the tank was full once again. I hurriedly replaced the nozzle and got back in the truck. I shuddered and turned up the heat. It was 3 hours to home, I was tired, and I had cargo that was not running, needed much work, would never be worth a lot of money, and that I traveled a thousand miles one way to purchase. I took a swig of some lousy hot coffee and smiled. And miles to go before I sleep…..Insanely rational.

5 Replies to “Rational Insanity”

  1. I absolutely love these essays! The Whitman reference at the end was clutch! My college president back at Kentucky State used to quote "Woods" often. I gotta ask, though: what was (is) the vehicle following you home in the essay?


    1. Todd and Swedespeed850,

      The cargo was a Porsche 914, which at the time was not worth very much. It was an epic journey…..

  2. In 1973 when I foolishly let go my ’68 Camaro RS/SS 427ci, due to the Oil Embargo and the threat of vastly higher fuel prices, I was shopping for a more efficient auto. I remember test driving a Fiat 124 Spyder, Datsun 240Z, Triumph TR6 and a BMW 2002 before settling on an Audi 80 Fox. While I was perusing around the Porsche/Audi dealership I remember being very tempted to opt for the Porsche 914. At the time it would have only been another $800 or so, if I remember correctly. My Audi was about $3600 and I believe the base model 914 was around $4400 or maybe as high as $4800.
    I had fun with the Audi, it was practical and it treated me well, but of all the cars tested on my list, I probably chose the worst one as far as collectability and future value/investment.

    1. Todd, who knew back then what the future would hold. The 914 was not regarded as a smart choice then given the options. It was also regarded as a VW !

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