One of the many GenX childhood experiences of mine—which would be frowned upon by the makers of today’s safety standards—involved riding in the back of my father’s pickup truck. Some of my memories of this fun activity are quite vivid, such as when family and friends all vacationing together in a Catskills cabin would pile into the truck with our beloved (and now illegal) three-wheeled All-Terrain Cycles in order to ride loops over and around some nearby sand pits. Some other mental images are lacking in specific visual details, but carry with them an emotional component of anxiety combined with exhilaration. During a recent visit to family in NJ, while driving with my mom, I unexpectedly received clarification on those blurry, uncertain pickup truck memories, 40+ years after they occurred.
As I drove my mom’s car on a fairly busy NJ road in February 2023, we slowed down for a traffic light behind a pickup truck with two men in the back facing us. When I pointed them out to my mom, the two men cheerfully waved at us, and we all began to laugh. My mom and I immediately began to reminisce about how riding in the back of Dad’s truck had been a common occurrence for us back in the 70s and early 80s. As we chatted, I observed that the truck had turned onto an on-ramp for the highway, as we were also doing. I spoke of this to my mother, saying, “Wow! They’re going on the highway like that? You know, I’m a little surprised that we only stayed on local roads, never rode in the back of the truck on highways.” To this my mom replied, “Sure you did, when we traveled to the cabin in NY! We needed you to keep the dog company and hold things down, keep stuff from blowing out the back.”