This is most evident with island vehicles. People here can be wowed by something flashy or new, but the best wheels are the survivors: beaten up and still chugging, useful and good on gas ($6.95/gallon at one station recently!).
That describes Porter, a 2000 Nissan Frontier pickup that we bought just slightly used in Richmond and served Tom well until 2004. By then I was living on North Caicos, struggling alone first with "John Wilson," a lumbering purple Jeep CJ-5, then with Sunbird, a yellow Chinese-made scooter. I sold the Jeep because it was just too much vehicle for me, and the scooter remained hard to start and dangerous to drive on our sketchy roads.
We had always thought of Porter as our island truck, so Tom drove him to Florida and shipped him off to me. I paid customs duty of $2,000 more than the Blue Book price. ("We have our own book," I was told. Of course you do.)
It took a while for Porter to show signs of being an island truck, but eventually the bed cover cracked and tore, the interior roof lining separated and was ripped out, the window-mounted rear view mirror refused to stay put and the spare, once removed from its impossible position under the truck, remained in the bed.
He was used to pull down a dead tree, carry loads of gravel and to give rides to countless hitchers.
When I moved back to Richmond in 2008 and my time here became more sporadic, I sold Porter to my friend Mark McLean, who runs a small car rental business. He put the truck into his "fleet," where it remains a workhorse and a favorite of return customers (are you reading, Kenny and Cheryl?).
Today Porter is even more the island truck - the ultimate island truck. The bed is beginning to rust through and when you turn on the ignition every light goes on and stays on. Just ignore them. Mark has taken excellent care of all the important functions, and the truck runs like new at 111,506 miles. There are even some surprises: the air conditioning and the seat belts still work!
Pretty, fast, a status symbol? Nah. That's not island. Porter is island.