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New Year Shuffle

January 15th, 2010


For twenty-six of the last twenty-seven years I have used the Brownline Daily as my personal day planner. I’ve got them all, along with a few infidels from previous years, lined up in chronological order on a shelf beside my desk.

If I want to know something about any day for the past thirty years I simply have to select the day planner, turn to the appropriate day and have a look at what I was up to. Not only where I was and whom I was meeting, but what I was driving or flying in, what hotel I was staying at and if I did my power walk, sit ups and push ups. In recent years even the level of my tinnitus, that pesky smoke detector sound that went off in my left ear about 10 years ago, is registered on a daily basis.

Hanging on to the day planners is obviously a good thing because after all, who knows when I might need to know my room number in a Djibouti hotel on April 15, 1983. Or what restaurant I ate at in Calcutta on May 3,1996.

My outgoing 2009 Brownline Daily is soiled and weathered and the back page, with key phone numbers, is tattered and smudged. Not surprising considering last year included 251 travel days, 104 flights and about 100,000 km of driving.

A new year means a fresh start with a new, black spiral-bound Brownline Daily. It also means it’s time to transfer certain information from the 2009 planner to the crisp 2010 one I picked up last month.

Aside from day by day activities, my day planners have pages of phone numbers, a page of hotel and airline loyalty club numbers and a page summarizing travel for the year. But one of my favourite pages is ‘The Fleet’ page, where my humble collection of millstones is listed along with their odometer readings at the beginning and end of the year. On that page there is a chart with each vehicle’s ‘kilometres driven’ for each of the past 6 years.

The total distance driven by the fleet is usually a good indicator of how busy work was. The busier I am the lower the total distance because I usually fly somewhere and acquire wheels at the destination.

In 2008 a total fleet mileage of only 3,727 km meant business was good and I only averaged 372 kilometres per vehicle. In 2009 things were even quieter on the ‘Fleet’ page. Five of the vehicles did not go anywhere, just hung around the storage bunker collecting dust. Of the five driven in 2009, the low-miler was Lisa’s VW GTI with three kilometres for the year and the high-miler was the ’91 Pontiac Firefly at a whopping 630 kilometres. Adding the other three makes a grand total for 2009 of 1,334 kilometres. Geez, I often put two or three times that distance on a rental car in a week!

I know there are people in the medical, and probably other, professions who would say I have a problem, some rare phobia or disorder. I often lament that the ‘fleet’ came about because my mother Edith gave my Dinky toys away when she got tired of seeing them parked in the ‘cubby hole’ closet of my long vacated bedroom. Or perhaps I was a greedy kid who never shared his toys.

OK, at the very least it’s bratty to have 10 cars and trucks that rarely get driven. My theory on car ownership is to think long term. We bought a few ‘favourite-at-the-time’ vehicles at the end of their production cycles like Lisa’s ’99 VR-6 GTI and the 1995 BMW 540 six-speed I have owned for 15 years. Even the newcomer, a 2004 Porsche 911 Carrera that I rationalized purchasing five years ago, is the last of the 996 series of 911s.

The key to this financial wizardry is that I will never need to buy another car. Think of the savings, as I make do with some of my favourite, achievable production cars until the end.

By the time I registered all the odometer readings in my 2010 Brownline Daily, I realized another entry was necessary, the Haulmark car-hauler trailer I purchased a few months ago for some work we are doing with the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

I’ve always wanted an enclosed car hauler. Problem is I don’t have a truck to haul the Haulmark with and that may involve yet another entry in ‘The Fleet’ page. GM lent me a Sierra HD 2500 crew cab until after the Olympics and with 41 deployments and more kilometres of haul distance last fall than I put on all of my fleet combined for the year, I’ve bonded with hitching, strapping in and maneuvering the trailer in and out of a slew of Vancouver tight spots.

Unfortunately I’m also festering a good case of truck fever for a Duramax Diesel Sierra of my own. Lots of decisions to be made in the next few weeks: box length, extended cab or crew cab, axle ratios and all kinds of things my wife does not seem that interested in.

Lisa has never given me grief about my vehicular thirst. She has tolerated my lame rationalizations of long-term investment and hefty vehicle savings when I am in my ‘90’s. But the other night when I was going on and on and on about two-wheel drive instead of four-wheel drive, she huffed.

“Where do you plan on parking that trailer? Really?”

She had never talked about my millstones like that before. And although I realized she was on to something, it was still like getting whacked across the teeth with a 2 by 4.

So I guess I had better use a pencil to fill in the space in my Brownline Daily for 2009 Haulmark car hauler and the Duramax diesel Sierra pick-up I need so badly.

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