Value Your Dents

July 2013 Column Brady L. Kay

I found myself watching the movie Cars 2 with my family the other night. My kids love the animated world that is populated by cars so we end up watching this movie quite a bit. I think my favorite line is when Mater, the rusty tow truck, has an opportunity to get refinished by having all his dents buffed out, yet refuses because to him those dents are way too valuable.

"You can't touch my dents," says Mater. "I got every one of them dents with my best buddy Lightning McQueen. I want to `member these dents forever."

Now Mater is often a few cans short of a 6-pack and a little naïve at times, but he's also a non-conformist; and that's probably what I like about him most. He's comfortable in his own rust so to speak.

I think we can learn a little something from our pal Mater and it's actually a lesson I learned years earlier, well before this movie was even dreamed of. When I turned 16 and finally got my hands on a driver's license I couldn't wait to get behind the wheel. I inherited an old truck that was passed down from my grandfather, to my father and then to me. I was a little harder on it than they were, so it was clear early on that it had no chance of making it to another generation.

When I got the truck it was nearly 25 years old, yet was in surprisingly good shape. But like most teens it didn't take me very long to give it its first dent. It was stock and not made for off-road action, but that didn't keep me from taking it places this truck shouldn't go. On one of my early adventures I found myself really stuck in some deep mud while trying to keep up with my friend's truck. We were miles from civilization and neither one of us had a tow rope. So our young minds conjured up a great plan based on a few two-by-four boards I had in the back. Our brilliant idea was to place the boards between the two vehicles and while keeping constant contact, slowly push the truck out of the mud and back on drier ground. Well of course at 16 you don't tend to really think these things through, so we were genuinely surprised when the boards slipped and the two trucks collided.

The sight of the dent made me sick to my stomach. The collision damaged both trucks, but the dent just below my hood was the most glaring because the truck didn't have a single dent on her until now. The hardest part was telling my dad, but even after that lecture all I could think about was getting that dent fixed and gone. I wanted to hide my stupidity.

Well at that age it's all you can do to come up with enough spare change to keep the tank full, let alone fix dents and repaint trucks. I never ended up fixing that dent, even though I kept that truck for nearly 10 more years. But the longer it went, the more I started to appreciate that little dent. It became less of a reminder of a past mistake and more of a funny story to bring up when people asked about it.

So like Mater, I learned to value my dent. And now that I'm older and not necessarily wiser when it comes to making dumb judgment calls that sometimes end in dents, I still have this same outlook. Now it can be a little harder to accept when our trucks are a lot newer or we're in a better financial position than we were in our teens, yet I personally feel every true daily driver could use at least one small blemish.

Take Mater's advice: cherish your dents. They add character to our trucks and provide great stories to tell. 

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