The power of possessions

Published 9:17 pm Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I saw him drive up at the diner as I was finishing my coffee inside. The window booth, which I always ask for, gave me front-row seats to the happenings outside.

He was driving a ‘99 Ford pickup missing at least one hubcap. There were scratches down each side and a dent in the rear panel. Something was dangling from the rearview mirror, and duct tape was prominent on the dash. The tailgate looked like it quit working five years ago, and I heard the squeaking door as he exited the driver’s side, exposing a few naked springs in the seat cushion.

The driver — I’d say in his mid-50s — closed the door behind him without looking back as he sauntered into the diner looking for a table. He found some friends over to the side and joined them.

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He struck me as a casual fellow, open and unpretentious, jovial and warm, unconcerned with those things that grant prestige to different crowd. He was so much at ease that I was tempted to join his cheerful group, but I harnessed such desires, thinking that would be more prudent.

Not far on his heels appeared another vehicle, driving at a slower, more cautious pace. Had I not recently seen it advertised in a magazine, I would not have known it to be the newest style of Mercedes-Benz.

The driver chose his parking spot carefully and eased between the lines. The shiny chrome stood out against its dark background, and the quietness of its motor would never have alerted me to its presence.

Not a scratch or ding was evident as the driver meticulously opened the door and closed it gently behind. For insurance, he checked the locked door again and nervously entered the diner, looking back to affirm his possession’s immaculate state.

He chose his seating, window-side, so as to not distance himself from his stately chariot and grant him an unrestricted view. As customers swung into the parking lot, I noticed him paying close attention to the Mercedes.

Eating hastily, he left a tip ($10! I couldn’t help but notice) and exited the café, stopping only to wipe a tiny smudge from the front fender with his handkerchief. Gently stepping into his ride, he patiently checked his mirrors, made sure nothing was remotely close to his exit route, eased back slowly and was out into the highway.

As he disappeared down the two-lane road, the sun reflecting off the rear bumper, the thought struck me: “Must be nice getting new things.”