I was reflecting on my dad, who passed away in 1996. I think about him often — probably every day. He was a memorable man and I’m reminded of him every time I look at my arms and hands. Back before the entire world owned smartphones, taking and developing photos was a bit of a pain. So, I don’t have many pictures of my father. This is how I remember him.
As a kid growing up in Whittier CA, some of my friends absolutely hated their parents and, from what I could tell, usually for no good reason, if it’s reasonable to hate someone, at all. I couldn’t relate to that, but neither could I fully appreciate the depth of my parent’s wisdom until I was out on my own for a while.
I remember a lot of things my dad taught me on a variety of subjects; mostly about how to drive and maintain a car. He was a truck driver, hauling gasoline in doubles around the Los Angeles metro, working out of South Central LA. I really cannot think of one thing he got wrong. Everything I remember him telling me, I found to be wise or true or praiseworthy.
Here’s a compendium of just a few of my dad’s admonitions to his son, beginning with the automobile:
Cars and Driving
- When I got my driver’s license, I drove all over and often with no real purpose. Gas was 25¢ a gallon, so I thought this was pretty cheap entertainment. My dad liked to remind me that every mile you drive costs more than the price of gas. When you want to know how much a mile costs, keep track of your expenses and divide the total by your mileage at the end of the year and you may be surprised. When you add up insurance, gas, oil, maintenance, and repairs you will discover that owning a car is not cheap.
- When slowing down, use your clutch and downshift into a lower gear, if you drive a standard transmission. Clutches and transmissions are heavy duty and last longer than brakes.
- Don’t take corners or turns too fast, because it’s hard on the front wheel bearings and you’ll be replacing them earlier than you need to. It’s better to go slow into turns and makeup time on the straightaways. This advice saved me hundreds of dollars in bearings, driving back and forth to work across two forks of the Yuba River to Camptonville CA, about 50 miles a day, for about 24 years.
- Don’t burn rubber. That’s just foolish.
- Don’t floor it when the light turns green. You’re wasting fuel.
- When you’re driving down a divided road, stay away from the median and wherever you drive, don’t get onto the shoulder unless it’s an emergency or you really have to. Those are the places you will pick up all kinds of junk and get a flat tire or worse.
- Don’t follow trucks too close because they tend to “throw” rocks and stuff. Whenever possible, avoid following a gravel truck.
- If you’re in someone’s blind spot, get out of it as soon as you are able — especially semis.
- If a trucker needs to pass, give him plenty of room and flash your high beams when it’s safe for the driver to change lanes. They appreciate that.
- When we got our Toyota Landcruiser, I began doing my own maintenance and got way into modifying it. My dad told me more than once: “I don’t know if I’d do that. Engineers have designed that vehicle as it is and, when you modify it, you may run into some unanticipated problems.” That’s one piece of advice I completely blew off and paid for dearly in stress, time, and cash.
Being a Working Man
- Do your best and never cheat your employer. Don’t take anything that’s not yours.
- Leave for work early to allow for unforeseen problems or delays such as roadwork or traffic accidents.
- Punch in a little bit early if you are allowed to. That way, you won’t get jammed up around the time clock with a bunch of employees at the last minute and punch in late.
- Don’t use your sick leave unless you are really sick. People that burn up their sick leave for time off are foolish and will be sorry someday when they really need it.
People and Relationships
- If two brothers are fighting, don’t try to break them up or get between them. They’ll turn and start beating on you. That actually happened to him. The same is true for family or other relationships.
- Avoid partnerships, if you can.
- Look people in the eye when you’re talking to them and give them a firm handshake.
- Keep an eye open for anyone who appears to be left out, snubbed, or picked on. Engage and include them in whatever way you can. My dad did that all the time in our neighborhood and family. He was also a thoughtful son and nephew, checking in on elderly family members and taking care of their physical needs, too.