DRC_Manuel Taboada

Manuel Taboada

“A pickup got caught on a dash camera after ‘coal rolling’ a Tesla,” read the news. What is that? I asked myself. I’d never heard of it, and with the story coming from California — for all practical purposes a foreign country if not another world — I decided to find out.

Coal rolling, it turns out, is the practice of installing a switch in your diesel truck designed to fool the engine into thinking it needs more fuel, thus belching out huge clouds of black smoke. Evidently, in California, it’s a sport of sorts to do this in front of electric vehicles.

I thought about it. I guess there is no expense or limit to the effort some people will go to in order to irritate their neighbors. Who comes up with this stuff? It reminded me of how limited my imagination really is. Every time I think I’m ahead of the rest, all I have to do is read the police blotter and take a seat at the back of the line. According to Mark Twain, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. For my part, I can never imagine the circumstances that lead to the stories in the police blotter: wife beats husband; friend cold-decks roommate; person goes into a grocery store, orders a birthday cake, and runs out without paying. Last week, there was a note about a lady getting on Interstate 35E facing the wrong way, then falling asleep off to one side. When the cops woke her up, she was surprised to know she was in Denton.

I started making a list once, but I quit when the list became endless. Also, I’m speaking of Denton. It must be heartbreaking in bigger towns.

And it’s no better with Dear Abby. I still remember reading of the happily married woman bragging on her husband, on their marriage, on how wonderful he was, on how happy they were, especially after she became pregnant, then asking for advice on whether to tell him that the baby wasn’t his. Hello!

Years ago, I knew a guy I privately called Ruff because it seemed the right name for a caveman. His goal in life was to leave his two kids a rifle with a scope and a pistol. I thought to ask about leaving them good manners and an education instead but decided against it: With some people it’s no use. At the time, I didn’t know he was a convicted felon, until one day he opened his car to go home from work and a gun fell out onto the parking lot. “Oops” he said, grinning. “I’m glad the cops didn’t see it.”

Turns out his brother had to buy it for him and if found in his possession they’d both be in trouble. I keep thinking any day now I’ll see news of Ruff in the police blotter. Or perhaps they already caught up to him and he’s parked in a safe place.

I suppose we’re not that different than California after all: If Ruff had the money, he would be one to install a “coal roll” switch in his pickup.

MANUEL TABOADA lives, works and writes in Denton. He welcomes feedback and can be reached at manueltaboada.com.

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