I've never been part of a cult, but I did drive a Jeep Wrangler for several years. If you've ever owned a Jeep, you know there's a similarity. Jeep owners seem to think they all belong to some elite club, and other people just wouldn't able to understand what it's like to drive a vehicle that can safely get you to your "job" Monday through Friday while also allowing you to do some "balls out off-roading with the motherfucking doors off" on the weekends. In fact, Jeep owners are such annoying assholes that they actually wave to one another to acknowledge their kinship -- or they used to when I had one. (Sidenote: When I had a Jeep, my response to the Jeep-wave was normally a hand gesture most drivers reserved for expressions for extreme anger and aggression.)
Now I drive a Toyota Camry, a gold 2005 model that my girlfriend refers to as "The Grocery-Getter." When I pass other Camrys on the road, the drivers don't wave. No, these people are too busy screaming at their kids or nervously gripping the wheel with their liver-spotted hands and pondering their approaching death to do that type of thing.
But not too long ago, my car did get some unexpected attention. I was making my way back to the Grocery-Getter with the 30-pack I'd just purchased at the beer distributor when I noticed an awkward-looking, middle-aged guy walking toward me and smiling broadly. When I offered an uncomfortable smile of my own, the awkward guy spoke: "How many miles?" he asked while continuing to smile.
"Your car. How many miles she got on her?"
"Oh, a little more than 110,000," I said.
"Great! That's really great," he said still beaming.
I expected that to be the end of it, but awkward guy was far from finished. After holding his stupid grin just long enough to move the needle from kinda weird to outwardly uncomfortable, he spoke again.
"Three-ten," he said, and waited for my response.
"What? What are you talking about?" I asked.
"I've got three-hundred thousand on this baby right here," he said pointing to the blue Toyota Camry directly in front of mine that I hadn't noticed until that moment.
"Wow, you really got the most out of that car," I said, gripping the door handle of my own car in an effort to let the guy know I was ready to leave.
"Oh yeah, these cars will run forever if you take care of them. But you gotta take care of them. Get the oil changed every -- and I mean every -- four to five thousand miles, tires rotated every six, then you're golden. But I don't want you to think I haven't had to do anything. Cause that's just not the case. At one-seventy, she needed struts, and that wasn't cheap. Brakes have changed a bunch of times, and a few minor things here and there but, all things considered, I think I made out pretty good."
Did I mention that this was in the middle of the day on a random Wednesday in the middle of March in a deserted New Jersey beach town? This guy had approached me and my Grocery-Getter from the direction of the beach where he'd probably been staring off at the ocean and meditating on significance of owning a car that passed the 300K threshold. The goofy smile was all I needed to decide this guy wasn't playing with a full deck, but he seemed harmless enough. So after the unsolicited Car Fax report he gave me on his vehicle, I couldn't imagine he'd possibly have anything else to say about his car. But I was wrong.
"Do you wanna see it?" he asked, substituting the stupid grin for a pair of raised eyebrows.
"The odometer. Do you wanna see the odometer on my car?" he asked.
"That's alright, I believe you," I said. And with that, I finally got in my car and left.
I've thought about this interaction a lot. Chances are, this weird little man's odometer overture was completely innocent. Maybe he did just want me to see that his trusty, dependable Toyota really had as many miles as he said it did. Or maybe, Toyotaman would've waited until I was straining my eyes to read the tiny numbers on his odometer and whipped his dick out. "Whataya think?" he'd ask, and I'd have to find some tactful way to compliment his penis, while also explaining that I wasn't in the market for that sort of thing.
But a small part of me feared that something more sinister at work. Had I took Toyotaman up on his offer, I feel like there was at least a 40% chance he would've taken a crowbar to my head right at the moment I let my guard down and peaked my head into his car. When I came to, I'd be in a cage in some dank basement in some remote location with all the other poor bastards who fell for Toyotaman's look-at-all-the-miles-on-my-odometer trick. I'd spend the rest of my days listening to details of his beloved Camry's magnificence, and begging for mercy and water. Eventually, I'd die in that cage.
That never happened, though. I was able to resist the temptation to peak at Toyotaman's odometer and, if you ever run into him, you should do the same.