You might do the same

My husband and I spent time last week in Taos, NM. We enjoy lodgings that might be called quaint or maybe even old fashioned. Taos and some other places in New Mexico offer many such places. One of the reasons we choose such spots is that we often meet people there who make our visits interesting. Last week didn’t disappoint us in that regard.

The photo with this post shows the car that pulled into the space next to ours at the Kachina Lodge. We were sitting outside our door, enjoying the afternoon clouds, which hinted at the possibility of showers. When the car’s two occupants greeted us as they unloaded, it wasn’t necessary for them to tell us they were from Texas. The license plate on the vehicle and their accents told us. Before long, they joined us outside. Their hometown is near the Texas Gulf Coast, and they were heading to California.

Conversation soon turned to an explanation of the car. It’s the third one the husband has painted. The first two had more than thirty coats of paint each, those coats applied by brush, décor supplied at the whim of the owner. In October, it would be Halloween themed; December calls for Christmas trees, and so forth. The longhorns on the front remain no matter what the message or other décor. The passenger side (wife’s) window carries a sign notifying passersby that “A person who rides in this car has to be really secure.”

We heard the whole story. The car painting began when their son returned his first car to them after he was able to purchase one of his own. It was old to begin with and after ten years of his college attendance and young manhood, it was worth nothing as a trade in. So Mom and Dad had a “free” car. Why not paint it? It would be the perfect conversation piece. So over the years, after the first car gave up the ghost, a second “free” car followed, and now this third, with its thirteen coats of paint.

The next day, as they departed, I thanked the driver for the story of the cars. His parting words were, “If you had a free car, you might choose to do the same.”

I have reflected on his words several times since. I wonder how many of us would make that choice—to entertain others, to prompt conversations with strangers, to be viewed as a bit odd, at least on first acquaintance. Would I be the one who thought of myself as really secure, able to ride in a hand-painted vehicle and do so proudly? Mostly, I’ve wondered what makes a person think of a car as “free?” Is it because he’s free?

What do you think?