The Weeklong Switch

June 2015 Column Brady L. Kay

What started out as a joke soon turned into a nightmare, and to be honest, I’m still not quite sure how it all happened. Often people think the only reason I drive a diesel truck is because of my job. Yes, as editor of Diesel Tech there are plenty of perks—like being the first to try out new products when they get released. However, since the day I turned 16 I’ve never gone more than just a couple of months without a truck, so working in this industry is only a perk and far from my main motivation. Forget the obvious reasons such as my size. At 6 feet, 5-inches I wasn’t exactly born to drive a hatchback. Or that showing up to Home Depot in anything other than a truck is ridiculous in my mind, even if you’re just buying bolts. Yet, we’ve all seen the guy with his Tercel fully loaded with lumber and cement bags who thinks he’s smarter than the rest of us.

Truth is, I love diesel trucks and that’s what lured me into one of the dumbest bets I can recall in recent memory. My friend—and after this bet I use that term loosely—called me out in front of the guys and said if I would just drive his two-door Toyota Yaris for a week, the gas mileage alone would convert me to his world and way of thinking.

That’s when I should have walked away because the thought of me driving that go-kart on steroids would already make me a loser regardless of the outcome. But we swapped keys, thinking somehow this stupid challenge would change either one of our minds. I had no problems letting him drive my diesel, other than I worried he wouldn’t want to give it back. But a bet is a bet, even though I wasn’t exactly looking forward to driving his hamster-powered Yaris.

Well, let’s just call it diesel truck appreciation week because my self-confidence took a serious beating the second I got into it. For starters, it only had one windshield wiper, that’s how ridiculously small it is. With my long arms I could easily roll down the passenger side window and because I was so embarrassed, I had to park farther away than normal so no one I knew would see me with it. The bet was that we each had to put at least 500 miles on the vehicle, which meant I would need to take a little road trip.  

I had a hard time finding a passenger so it turned out to be a solo trip, which was actually in my favor. There wasn’t even enough room to put my suitcase in the back, so it had to ride shotgun on the passenger seat next to me. Not just passing semi trucks, but even a butterfly burp would cause the car to shake and nearly send me off into a ditch. Not to mention the zero respect I got from other drivers. In my diesel if I’m behind another vehicle in the passing lane, cars always move over. Not true in the Yaris. Nobody gets over for this joke of a vehicle and who can really blame them?

The car did have cruise control and that’s the only thing that saved this from being the worst 500 miles of my life. My friend’s biggest mistake was in thinking the fuel mileage alone was going to be enough to off-set the rest of the Yaris. Sure I pay more to fill up my truck, but after my little joy ride I have a different perspective on paying for diesel fuel—my safety.

I pay health insurance, car insurance, house insurance as well as life insurance. Unless something goes horribly bad, you could argue that writing those checks each month to the insurance companies is a waste of money. But we all pay for insurance because it’s the smart thing to do. Paying a little extra at the fuel pump is like having additional insurance. I clearly pay more than my friend, but I know my odds of surviving a crash are a lot higher than his. That’s enough of a reason for me to never want to get into another Yaris again.

Our bet did nothing to change either one of our minds, but it did generate some funny photos and good stories to tell in the future. Of course it will be awhile before I’m ready to try something dumb like this again. 

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