My Dad and His Trucks

My dad has owned trucks since before I was born. When he came to this country, he became a blue collar worker, making minimum wage at just $1.60 an hour (in today’s dollars, it would equal to $10.74). He worked at the Howard Johnson (which became a Holiday Inn), located in downtown New Orleans on Loyola Avenue, and worked there for over 40 years before he retired. That hotel was so significant in his life — and I always associated and will always associate that hotel to him. It’s just a piece of dad.

When he started working at the hotel, he was a janitor. As things would break, like the ice machine or a dishwasher, my dad was the only one who could fix it. My dad had an engineer’s mind (he studied engineering in Cuba before the Revolution), and knew how to repair things. Slowly but surely, managers started noticing and he got promoted to the maintenance department. From being an associate, he eventually became the main guy in charge: the chief maintenance engineer at the hotel.

Not only was my dad working full-time at the hotel, but he also owned a bunch of rental properties and worked on his houses often, too. So, he needed a lot of tools. He had most of his tools in a built-in toolbox in the back bed of his truck, and a few scattered inside across the passenger seat. Unfortunately, trucks like his were prime real estate for thieves who wanted to snatch up his tools and sell them off.

The first truck that I remember he had was a beige Ford or Chevy (I can’t remember the exact manufacturer). And after repeated — and I mean, this truck was stolen at least six time — thefts, my dad bought “The Club.” But even some thieves were able to saw that off (ruthless assholes!).

One day the beige truck was gone, and a shiny new 1998 green Dodge Ram came about. My dad really like this truck, and when thieves started liking the truck too, my dad finally had enough and bought an alarm. Sure enough, the thing would go off in the middle of the night, but luckily the truck didn’t move.

That truck stayed with my dad for a very long time. Back in ’98, I was 12 years old and that truck was around during those important high school years. Occassionally, dad would have to bring me to school or pick me up, and that was always interesting because his truck was never clean — it was always cluttered. I’d walk to the passenger side and he’d always say, “Wait, don’t get in yet,” and start rearranging everything. Everything included small tools, papers (a whole lot of them), pieces of piping or sheet metal, walkie talkies… the list can go on. He eventually made a small opening so I could sit down. Let’s just say that riding in this truck wasn’t the most comfortable thing ever.

When I got my driver’s license at 16 I asked him if I could drive his truck, and surprisingly he said yes. I knew he really loved it, and even though he loved me more, I didn’t think he would trust a 16 year old with it. So to my surprise, I was able to get my hands on a big old truck to cruise around in. I cleaned the inside of the cabin, making sure that everything was accounted for and not thrown away.

Even though my dad let me drive his truck, that still didn’t mean he wasn’t worried about the both of us. When I drove it, I would always come home at a reasonable hour, and he’d be waiting outside for us. I could see relief on his face as well as contentment — I think he like that I liked driving his truck.

High school years turned into college ones, and the truck was still in his life while I went off to further my education. Because these things don’t stay like-new forever, the truck started breaking down — first, it was small things here and there. Eventually, it lost the air conditioning, which is a pricey thing to fix (but not outrageously so). I figured he fix it soon since it was so satanically hot in New Orleans, but he did not. And not only dad, my father never fixed the air conditioning on it.

He’d come home drenched in sweat often, and I’d plead for him to please get some air in that truck, but he refused. My dad has been always stingy with money to the point that he’d suffer through southern heat to not put money into repairing the truck. He drove the truck, airless, for five years before getting rid of it.

When he finally got rid of the truck, he replaced it with a beautiful silver 2012 Dodge Ram. Of course, I was thrilled with his new purchase, but unfortunately he only got to enjoy the Ram for two years before we had to sell it the truck. I was with my mom when we went to sell it, and the reality and gravity of my dad’s situation hit me hard that day.

Another piece of him was gone.