Set The Record Straight


I dropped my work car off at the body shop for repairs on Saturday afternoon. The General followed me in her car so I’d have a way back home. No work on the car was planned before Monday, but my Monday mornings are always full. I leave the house most weekday mornings before 6:00 a.m. headed to the office. It’s not that I’m the eager beaver. It is more that I’m the road weary commuter that wants to get ahead of the traffic if at all possible. I didn’t have time to negotiate a car drop off and a rental car pick up on Monday morning before going to work. It wasn’t going to happen. The logistics simply didn’t add up.


Actually, I had a board meeting scheduled for 8:00 a.m. Consequently, Monday was inconvenient at best. At the latest, I needed to be in the office by 7:00 a.m. The folks at the car rental place in Dripping Springs are not open on Sunday. They also don’t report to work until 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Like I said, “Monday was inconvenient for me”. Certainly, negotiating a car rental on Monday morning was not going to happen. “Impossible” is the one word that describes my predicament.


The only option that I could come up with was to drive my truck to work on Monday morning. As a rule of thumb, I don’t drive my truck many places. I like the way it rides, but the General said it is my last truck when I purchased it five years ago. Consequently, I’m not going to wear it out. Actually, my not wearing it out is patterned behavior and has no relationship to the General’s proclamation that it is my last truck. It may be, but it more likely is not. She may be the General, but even as a junior officer in the boot camp existence I’m living in, mine is the final decision when it comes to acquisition of vehicles. I drove my last truck 40,000 miles before selling it to a friend. The truck was ten years old. The truck I’m now mostly keeping in the vault is half that old and has only been driven 18,000 miles. I don’t drive it much. Pristine and like new are the descriptors I want to always associate with my truck.


As it turned out, it was a close call that I made it to the car rental agency at all before they closed for the day at 5:30 p.m. on Monday. The person who handled the reservation and met me at the counter couldn’t have been more pleasant or helpful. However, the agency’s policy regarding what constitutes a day didn’t set well with me. Reportedly, regardless of the time you pick a vehicle up on any given day, by midnight that same day you’ve used a full day and you pay the full amount for the daily rate. It is unlike other car rentals I’ve used at the airport where you get a 24-hour rental. So here I am picking up a vehicle fifteen minutes before the car rental office closes for the day and by 12:00 a.m. a full day’s rental is due or at least charged.


The crazy thing is that it shouldn’t matter to me. Why should I care? I’m not paying for the car rental. Not one red cent is coming out of my pocket. The insurance company for the vehicle who hit mine is paying for the car rental. I should simply let it go and consider it no more, but it still bothers me. At the end of the day, I have no control over the rules or how the rental is managed. For that matter, I don’t even know the amount of the daily rate.


While I was waiting for the rental car’s make-ready, a man and his wife turned in a rental car. The man laid the keys on the counter and said to the attendant, “You have no idea how eager I am to have my car back.” His wife added: “People looked at us every were we drove that car. We’d get out of the vehicle and say to anyone standing nearby: “This car isn’t ours. It is a rental.”


So what were they driving? I looked through the window and what (in terms of model) they were driving didn’t even register on my radar screen. Even if I raised my right hand with the other on a stack of Bibles and promised to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God, I couldn’t answer the question. What they were driving was irrelevant. The color of what they were driving was the issue. It was off the charts for both awful and ugly. I’d almost rather walk.


It is not my intent to hurt your feelings if you drive a square shaped vehicle that is painted lime green. God Bless you if you do, but who in their right mind would want a car that calls that much attention to the driver? I found myself both feeling sorry for the family returning the vehicle and anxious about what might be in store for me. What would I do if the rental agency provided me the same kind and color of vehicle?


Consequently, when the agent brought forward a dull looking gray nondescript vehicle, I was greatly relieved. Jeep made the nondescript vehicle. Before you go off the deep end and think “Wow! – a Jeep”, let that thought go. It was a Jeep only because it had the letters “J” “E” “E” “P” on the front of the hood. Think scaled-back and barebones and very small and you’ll find you are almost there, except that it wasn’t that good. However, it was gray and not lime green. I was grateful and I was good to go.


The downside of driving something you’ve never driven before is you never really know where the cruise control and windshield wiper buttons are located. I pressed something and a “Now Pairing” message displayed on a screen. I immediately turned it off. Somehow it seemed like an invasion to my privacy for my phone to be coming through the Jeep’s speakers. However, I’m sure before I get my car back, I’ll wish the Bluetooth features are all working.


I drove the vehicle yesterday and out of nowhere I’m hearing the sound of Adele. Her picture was even displayed on the dashboard’s display screen. Okay, so my phone was paired. This was “my music” that was playing. The next thing I know it was the sound of the “man in black” coming through the speakers. He was singing The Ballad Of Ira Hayes. The words reverberated with the sound of his deep voice: “Call him drunken Ira Hayes, He won’t answer anymore, Not the whiskey drinking Indian, Or the Marine that went to war.”


I knew the story. I had seen the John Wayne movie entitled “Sands of Iwo Jima” when I was a kid. In fact, there wasn’t a World War II movie I didn’t see. My dad never talked about the war, but he also never missed a World War II movie. I also knew the story of Ira Hayes, a Pima Native American who was one of the six flag raisers immortalized in the iconic photograph of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima during World War II.


At the risk of substantiating that I’m weird, I had the thought yesterday when I heard the story of Ira Hayes reverberating through the speakers in my rental car that the words of the song had to be painful for the descendants of Ira Hayes to hear. I wondered if Ira Hayes had children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren? What would be the weight and impact of linking the terms “whiskey drinking Indian” together with “the Marine that went to war”? Why not simply celebrate the positives and let the darker sides of our humanity fade from our memories? Why not just remember that Ira Hayes fought for freedom and everything that represents? He was an authentic American hero.


Why not remember the fact that he was instrumental in clarifying the identity of one of the men who raised the flag that didn’t have the good fortune to return home. He walked and hitchhiked 1,300 miles from the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona to Edward Frederick Block, Sr.’s farm in Weslaco, Texas, to share with Harlon Block’s parents that their son had been one of the men raising the flag when the iconic photograph had been taken. His identity had been mistakenly credited to someone else. Block’s family were grateful for the disclosure. Block’s mother said she knew from the time she first saw the photograph that it was Harlon in the photo. Mrs. Block took what Hayes said and wrote to her congressman.


Why don’t we set the record straight by choosing to focus on the strengths of individuals rather than focusing on areas that don’t represent their best? Particularly when folks have passed, why not celebrate their life and glean from the strengths they represented? It is only then that we can attempt to incorporate those same kinds of characteristics in our lives.


All My Best!



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