Ask Jack: Mustang Salty!

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
ask jack mustang salty

Quick now: Just how full is your refrigerator at this precise moment? I mean, it is kinda full, is it sorta full, is it totally full, is it almost empty, does it have the bachelor’s portion of beer and Cretaceous takeout? The reason I ask is because when I visit my more successful friends I’m simply bowled over by the amount of empty refrigerator space they have. Double and triple Northlands or Vikings with nothing in them. Deep stacks of empty shelves. Sometimes they have empty sections, doors behind which the air is chilled to 33 precise degrees but where nothing is stored.

My friends tell me that they need the space for the parties and gatherings they are going to have. I refrain from pointing out that in the modern suburban era nobody ever goes to anybody else’s house unless it is on pain of death/shunning/shaming. That gregarious age documented by Updike and Cheever is long gone. My friends won’t be hosts. Nobody’s coming to the parties that they won’t really have. All of that empty fridge space will always be empty. They spend most of their nights on “foodie adventures” anyway, spending massive amounts of money to avoid being trapped in their homes with only Netflix to fill the gaps in their meaningless conversations. And it’s only the two of them anyway, plus one designer baby after the wife turns 38 and panics.

I feel very virtuous, almost Spartan, because I only have a single-width Sub-Z from about 15 years ago. And my fridge is relatively full. But still there’s empty space. Sometimes Danger Girl goes through and tosses a half-ton of expired food. Still more fridge than we need. Compare that to the fridge at my grandmother’s house. She had four boys living in the house. Six people to my three. And her fridge was under six feet tall. With two cramped compartments. How did she do it, particularly given the fact that she cooked a real dinner, a real lunch, and a real breakfast every night? How did she survive on one-fifth the frosted space available to my DINK foodie friends?

This is my theory: I believe that when people are part of a true community, they purchase and equip their families based on their authentic and actual needs, with the belief that if things get out of hand they can go to their community at large for help. My grandparents knew all of their neighbors, knew their community leaders, helped people, were helped in return. They didn’t buy capacity they didn’t immediately need.

In the judgement-free Elysium of 2017, by contrast, we feel utterly disconnected from the real communities around us. We focus on online faux-communities where the slightest deviation from groupthink is punished by banishment. More and more of us live in cities where we neither know nor trust our neighbors. Even in the suburbs, our work schedules and helicopter parenting serve to disconnect us from community. And we each spend our money on extra capacity just in case. My grandmother knew that her neighbors would spot her a little fridge space for the parties that they did have on the weekends. I would no more let my neighbor store food in my refrigerator than I would let him give my child a bath. It’s better to have extra fridge space just in case.

Speaking of extra capacity, Sean writes:

I have a 2016 Mustang GT 6MT, the base model. I’ve accumulated 25,000 miles in 15 months of ownership by commuting 75 miles round trip to work. I drive the car year-round here in (way) upstate New York, conceding to the elements only the fitment of a set of Nokian Hakkapeliitta 8s from December to March. I grew up in northern Vermont, so I’ve driven across hilly country under heavy snow all my life, but even so there were approximately five workdays last winter when I felt justifiably concerned that I wouldn’t make it home at night. I’d say my chances on any given such night were about 10-20 percent of running into some serious inconvenience. Extrapolate forward four to six years and it’s a certainty — mathematical, meteorological, and metaphysical — that I will be stranded in a blizzard.

My options: (1) Do nothing, and concede this minor flaw within an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable Mustang Ownership Experience. (2) Further increase the snow-worthiness of the Mustang beyond mere Finnish-engineered snow tires. Maybe I can carry tire chains for when things get squishy? It’s also occurred to me to upgrade the clutch pack differential to the Torsen differential from the Track Package. My reasoning is unassailable on this point: Audi quattros and the AM General HMMWV had torsen diffs, so it stands that the Mustang would be infused with the same legendary snow-worthiness. (3) Expand the fleet. Everyone else in these parts has a 4×4 truck so why not use the right tool for the right job? Ancillary to this option are other benefits: reduced mileage and salt exposure for the Mustang, thereby allowing me to keep it for another year or two, and it’s always handy to have a truck around for home renovation projects and whatnot. The wife has a medium-sized SUV suitable for child- and dog-hauling duties, so a regular cab truck would be fine. Both garage spaces are occupied, so the truck would be relegated to the driveway. (4) Start paying attention to the weather channel and skip work on the days when transit could get iffy. This method obviously increases my risk of being fired.

I have the disposable income to afford option (3), to the tune of $10k-$20k, but it would lessen my family’s ability to travel and engage in other amusements more worthwhile than truck ownership. Am I crazy for considering it?

Ooh, this is a good one, because it gets right to the heart of all these concerns about capability and capacity and social trust networks and whatnot. Let’s start with the point that many of the B&B have already made in their own heads: It is patently insane to spend ten grand-plus more every year in maintenance and insurance just against the one day every four to six years where you’re not going to make it home in the Mustang. I’m pretty sure every tow truck company in your area has all-weather-capable vehicles that will drive you anywhere you want for a dollar a mile and even bring your Mustang along for the ride.

Alternately, you could strike a deal with somebody you know who has a winterized Jeep to the effect that they will come get you from work for five hundred bucks. This was a service I used to provide for free back when I owned a series of Land Rovers. The world is full of people who will come get you for serious money.

The emotional problem with this is that it puts the eventual resolution of the problem into someone else’s hands, which can be unpleasant to consider in the abstract. Still. That’s my advice regarding bad weather. Put a thousand bucks in the glove compartment of the Mustang. That will solve any problem you might have.

Ah, but there are other uses for the truck. Extra capacity. To do trucky things. Plus there’s the undeniable fact that your Mustang will last longer if you don’t salt the undercarriage fifty times a year. I think that these are better reasons to have a truck. So this is my advice: Get the minimum viable product, as software developers like to say, for these purposes. I’m thinking a Ford Ranger 4×4 SuperCab from a southern state. The Regular Cab is nice in theory but in practice most of the ones you find will have led a tough life. Spend no more than seven or eight thousand dollars on it and resist the temptation to fix or improve every little thing on it. Run it into the ground over a decade. Give the Mustang a break.

And now that you have a truck, start being the helpful “guy with a truck” to your friends and neighbors. Use this as a tool to get to know people better. I’ve resolved to do the same with my neighbors, some of whom are utter ciphers to me. If they need help hauling something, I’m going to use my truck to help them. Who knows? Maybe some day we will manage to coalesce an authentic social circle. Might have a few grown-up parties with button-front shirts or something crazy like that. It could totally happen.

I should get a bigger fridge, just in case.

Join the conversation
3 of 69 comments
  • Smokingclutch Smokingclutch on Jul 19, 2017

    Yeah, maybe sad people in sad places hole themselves up and never have parties, but here in Southern California, my circle of friends has parties almost every weekend. It doesn't hurt that a few of us have pools, jacuzzis, and lovely (if small) backyards to enjoy. I don't spend time with my neighbors, but as someone above mentioned, I have a group of friends based on shared interests (festivals, music, food, craft beer, etc). We all live within 45 minutes of each other, and house parties are great because no one has to worry about how to get home, as most of us have space for guests to stay over if they want. I don't have anything against my neighbors, but they're either older folks that keep to themselves, or families with young kids. Nearly all my friends are in their 30s & 40s, all but one couple are kid-free.

    • Bikegoesbaa Bikegoesbaa on Jul 19, 2017

      Good point. I go to a lot of parties. None of them are with my neighbors.

  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Jul 19, 2017

    From what I've seen, excess freezer capacity is used to purchase food in bulk at a good price. The food then sits there for many months or years steadily becoming more freezer burnt, until eventually the freezer needs to be cleaned out to make room. The old food is thrown away and the cycle continues.

  • Jdt65724922 How can a Chrysler E-Class ride better than a Chrysler Fifth Avenue?
  • Lorenzo This series is epic, but I now fear you'll never get to the gigantic Falcon/Dart/Nova comparison.
  • Chris P Bacon Ford and GM have decided that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Odds are Chrysler/Cerberus/FCA/Stellantis is next to join in. If any of the companies like Electrify America had been even close to Tesla in reliability, we wouldn't be here.
  • Inside Looking Out China will decide which EV charging protocol will become world wide standard.
  • Chris P Bacon I see no reference to Sweden or South Carolina. I hate to assume, but is this thing built in China? I can't help but wonder if EVs would be more affordable to the masses if they weren't all stuffed full of horsepower most drivers will never use. How much could the price be reduced if it had, say, 200hp. Combined with the instant torque of an EV, that really is plenty of power for the daily commuter, which is what this vehicle really is.