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September 2011 Dr. Vern

Posted in Features on September 1, 2011
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Contributors: Dr. Vern

Something disturbing has happened in the Jeep world. My carefully crafted image will likely be shattered. You see, there’s nothing left for me to complain about. Yes, it’s shocking, I know. As a Jeep columnist, my primary duty is to complain. Normally, you could name any subject and then I’d work up my righteous indignation about it. (If nothing else, I’d have a promising future in talk radio.) New Jeeps, old Jeeps, modifiers, resto-fanatics, no subject was safe, but now I’m drawing a blank. I’m almost cheerful and upbeat. How did things ever get so out of control?

Look at my situation. I’ve got a couple of old Jeeps that would make most enthusiasts drool. The pride of my fleet is a ’48 CJ-2A in nearly stock trim. An open Jeep is the perfect vehicle for hitting the trails in the summertime, so I’ve never even considered getting a top for it. To keep this Jeep from getting lonely, there’s a ’63 Willys wagon next to it in the garage. While far from perfect, this rig still turns heads no matter where it goes, which is practically anywhere. Good weather or bad, rocky trail or freeway, I’ve got the perfect Jeep for almost any situation. There’s nothing to complain about there. I’ll have to look elsewhere.

Let’s see what else I’ve got going on. My wife and I just moved to a fabulous antique farmhouse, on a huge fenced lot in a small town out in the country. There’s room galore to stack up Jeeps around the property and nobody will see them. Supposedly the house is really nice, too, but I haven’t paid much attention to it because I’ve been busy setting up my workshop. There’s nothing but happiness everywhere, thanks to our new abode. How in the world am I, a professional complainer, supposed to carry on in such a situation?

And if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s always my red hot smokin’ wife, to borrow the words of that famous philosopher, Ricky Bobby. My wife said, and I quote, “You should expand the shop so you’ll have enough room to restore a Jeepster for me.” She’s not talking about one of those homely Commandos from the late ’60s. She wants a ’48-’51 Jeepster, a beautiful-looking vehicle that shared the same basic front end as Willys wagons and pickups. How can I experience the intoxicating thrill of secretly bringing home another Jeep when she is not only encouraging me to get another one, but is actively searching on my behalf? It’s just not fair.

As I desperately search for something miserable to perk me up, I don’t know where to turn. Having recently endured a houseful of teenagers, an absolute gold mine of suffering, my wife and I used the same trick my parents employed: We moved and didn’t tell the kids. They all had no choice but to become responsible adults and support themselves. It’s quite an unusual concept in our newly empty nest, but I can clean up the kitchen, leave, and then return to find the place exactly as I left it. By the way, all of the kids have become respectable, productive members of society, with nary a magazine editor in the lot. Nothing to complain about there, I’ll have to keep looking.

Back to our new residence, maybe I can find a complaint after all. Setting up a workshop requires a lot of heavy thinking. Even though you tell yourself you’ll set up the shop a certain way just to see how the layout works, everybody knows you only get one shot. You’ll never get around to relocating anything. Wherever you set up the drill press is where it will stay. The vise? Better pick a good spot because it will never budge. There’s a lot of pressure to do it right the first time. (Editor’s note: How true, I agonized selecting just the right spot in my garage to hang my Backstreet Boys posters.) An empty workshop is like a blank canvas awaiting an artist’s touch of how to properly equip and organize it. The only problem is my gift covers how to find fault with anything and then gripe about it. It’s a skill as masterful as Renoir or Monet wielding a brush, except nobody is interested in what I do.

Now that I think about my new shop, I do have one complaint. I’m not very impressed with the quality of most new tools. Take my arbor press, for example. It’s a handy tool for tasks such as pressing bearings onto shafts. One day, the main casting simply broke in two for no apparent reason. You’d think an arbor press would be designed for sledgehammer blows on the end of a 3-foot cheater bar, but maybe that’s not the case.

Perhaps the unexpected failure of the arbor press is not a legitimate gripe after all. Looking around for proper complaints, I’m reduced to mentioning the soup I had for lunch. The soup itself was fine, but who in the world designed the can? It’s the perfectly wrong size. One can makes too much soup for one person, but not enough for two. Has my life become so miserably wonderful that this is the only thing worthy of complaint? While getting dressed this morning, I thought I was on to something when my wife said there was a hole in my brand new socks. Turns out that every sock has a hole in it. It’s at the top, where you insert your foot.

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