One day in 1995, a new pickup rolled off the line at the Toyota factory. It was identical to thousands of others, shining peacefully in the Japanese sun, but in its heart beat the spirit of true adventure. Neither the mean streets of Tokyo nor the dusty backroads of Texas would satisfy its longing to be pushed to its very limits.
Being driven onto the cargo ship, its engine revved with anticipation. The South Pacific! In American Samoa it would find the true test of truckular fortitude: gaping potholes, salty air, water up to its oil pan, scarce parts, inept mechanics, and a series of palagi owners whose short-term contracts meant that next year it was someone else’s problem, so no, that $800 repair isn’t necessary, just patch it up so it’ll run for another few months.
These hardships took their toll. Under the hood, where steel bolts once held things tight, there was now an alarming amount of rope. Rust crept through the floor until the seat was no longer attached to anything, and would slide forward if the brakes (still working, miraculously) were pressed too forcefully. The engineers at Toyota never anticipated the beating its sheet metal would endure, but they had made a four-cylinder engine that could not be destroyed by conventional weapons. Our hero rolled on, somewhat more bumpily and squeakily.
One day someone removed the seat belts. Why? Had it become obvious that they were mere placebos, that they gave a dangerously false sense of security? Better not to feel swaddled safely in place when careering down a steep, twisty mountain road. Better to understand that this truck had had enough! Only a fool would tie himself to a machine that has endured such abuse at the hands of its drivers!
In February of 2010, insult was added to injury. Some fun-loving palagis, bored or drunk or both, covered the drab (yet stately) green paint with red, yellow, and gold. The truck was now a mobile corned beef can, to be used as a float in a Mardi Gras parade!
(Interesting linguistic note: The Samoan word for corned beef in a can is pisupo. When Americans first brought canned food to the islands, pea soup was the most plentiful and popular item. Soon all food in a metal can was called pisupo. Later the term became specific to corned beef, which Samoans love dearly. How and why did this happen? Who knows? Why is it that in Britain, cars drive on tarmac and airplanes land on asphalt, while in America it’s the other way around, even though the paving material is exactly the same in both places?)
The once-proud truck could no longer putter along unnoticed. The eye of the bystander was now drawn to the garish adornment, but lingered on the vehicle’s decrepitude. Embarrassed, it became like a petulant child with a bad haircut: “I don’t want to be seen like this,” it seemed to cry. “You can’t make me go anywhere!” It soon preferred hanging around the mechanic’s shop with the other “bad” vehicles.
This is the condition in which Pisupo Truck was handed down to me. Much time, money, and emotional energy has been spent exorcising the gremlins haunting its electrical wiring (some misguided soul installed and later removed a huge stereo system, leaving bare wires everywhere). I would like to think I’ve won its affections; I’ve driven it three days in a row now without incident. Will I proudly drive it for the next year, more curator than owner, until the next dupe with a one-year employment contract comes along? Or perhaps lovingly restore it to its former glory?
Did you see the “For Sale” sign in the back window?