Driving a Beater Truck

Goin' down the road feelin' bad, honey babe. Goin' down the road feelin' bad. Lord, I don want to be treated this ole way. --Elizabeth Cotten

Driving a beater means that a 10 year old girl with an upscale afterschool hobby look at you like, "What are you doing here?" When you stop to rescue a red bellied woodpecker that was recently struck by a car, a college-aged jogger will stop 100 yards away and jog in place for a long, long time. Basically as long as you and your beater vehicle are there.

Drivers of beater vehicles usually have a camaraderie, much like drivers of vintage VW bugs have, except I have never seen a VW bug driven by anyone but a white person. Maybe you have, but I haven't.

Beater vehicle camaraderie can cross racial lines. Not always, it depends on the situation. My husband and I had several vacations grind to a halt courtesy of a broken beater vehicle. People of all nations have assisted. One left our broken vehicle even worse off, but at least he tried. The guy was drunk and probably didn't realize he was pouring tap water from a Fantastic bottle into our beater's battery. It didn't seem quite right, but I figured he knew what he was doing. He had a beater vehicle also, so he probably had to fix it often. Right? I later learned that batteries of all vehicles, even beaters, prefer distilled water. Picky beater.

Conversely, drivers of beaters are often grumpy. We worry that our beater may break down at any moment. At the intersection of Livingston Avenue and George Street in downtown New Brunswick, for example. Drivers of beater don't typically wave at each other like drivers of VWs do, especially if you are holding up traffic.

Beater vehicles allow you to strike up conversations with the guy who pumps your gas. "Hey, howsigown? Yeah, usually hafta put the pump in upsi down. Yeah, sorry. Thanks. 'Preciate it."Often, the guy has to stand just outside the driver's side door of the beater while a line of cars pulls up. An Audi, a Hyundai, a Chevy. The drivers tap impatiently. They glare at the impossibly dirty beater vehicle. The driver of the Chevy juts out his chin and jerks his head up slightly. "Hey, what's the hold up?" The attendant services the other cars, and the pump to the beater vehicle clicks off as the handle slips out of place.

"All done?" the attendant asks. "Well, my gauge doesn't work. Mind trying the pump again?"

"Naw, no prolem."