COTD: Effort equals results edition

"Effort equals results" is the slogan Roger Penske likes to quote his racing teams and other employees. While today's haikus were paragons of thrift, RyGuy took one post about a used Pontiac GTO and turned in a epic-length comment that's closer to a short story than a blog post:

I know the owner of this car. Not personally, but the type. I can picture him now.

He works very hard at a trade-type job — maybe he's a plumber or an electrician. He's not super-bright, but he knows his job well, pays attention to detail, and it shows in his work. He might get dirty on the job, but he's almost obsessively clean and neat off the job. He always tucks in his shirt, even if it is jeans-into-shorts. Almost always sports a baseball cap over his receding hairline; it features his favorite car brand or sports team, and is never askance, but as clean and straight as the rest of his person.

He is terminally single — partially because he works so much, partially because girls are complicated while cars are easy to comprehend, and partially because, though he'd never admit it to God or himself, he doesn't actually like girls.

So his free time is spent on his car and car shows, drinking with his friends while watching NASCAR or sports, and detailing his car.

Now we come to his car. He has an older, but very well maintained S-10 that serves as his non-trade DD (the work truck or van is company-owned). But these days, the S-10 is just the parts hauler for his pride and joy — the GTO. He had dreamed of owning this car ever since the first whispers of it made the rounds of the buffbooks in the early 2000s. During the housing boom, he had as much work as he could handle, and made great living at his trade. As soon as he had saved enough, he walked into the Pontiac showroom and paid cash. He didn't even try to negotiate the inflated price the dealer would insist is necessitated by scarcity and high demand, and he thus far, far overpaid.

He enjoyed the car stock for a year. The LS2 was like nothing he'd ever commanded in his life. He rarely drove it really hard, but was occasionally aggressive enough that he eventually found himself wanting more grunt. Still riding the housing bubble and with 5 figures just sitting there in his bank account, he decides to modify his GTO. He loves the clean and unfussy look of the car, so he decides to leave that alone and head straight for the engine compartment. After talking to his Pontiac dealer about performance parts availability, he agrees to pay a small fortune to have his still-very-fresh GTO disassembled from the firewall forward to install a supercharger and several supporting modifications. After picking it up, he drives it carefully to the performance shop in town with the cleanest garage and has it dyno-tuned. Conservatively, of course — there's no need to stress all the components to their limits. Still, he drives away with over 500 hp as measured at his wheels, with the dyno sheet to show to his friends (he's not on any pontiac forum — yet).

Within a few months, a change comes over our friend. He starts turning his cap backward while driving his GTO. He's still obsessively clean, but he decides to take up smoking. Not wanting ash in his car, he drives with the windows down, which means he has to turn up Kenny Chesney (for whom he feels... something he cannot quite place). He will occasionally peel away from a stop light just to feel the momentary rush. At the urging of his friends, he takes his car to the nearest quarter strip to see what it will run. He's kicked out after one run because he doesn't have a helmet, but he's satisfied now that he can whoop up on 99.9% of the cars he might encounter on the street.

So he starts going out late at night to look for prey. At first, he goes for easy pickings — FWD tuners. It doesn't matter how modified they are — they can't touch him, so he quickly moves on. The AWD tuners can sometimes jump away due to the traction advantage, but it doesn't take him long to reel them in. Bored, he begins rejecting most challengers. He gets a reputation around town. It's the stock-looking black GTO that goes like nothing you've ever seen. No one can touch it — no one that is out street racing, that is.

As his ego swells, so does his desire for recognition, so he takes it to that shop downtown and has them work over the look a bit. He doesn't really know what he wants, so he just tells them "make it flashy". A few thousand dollars later, his car cannot be mistaken for any other.

The inevitable happens — his success, his mellow attitude, and his unbeatable car attract a track slut. Thinking it's about time he secured his manhood, he takes her home and lets her do what she will. As they fumble around — she an expert, he a novice — on his sofa while football plays on the big screen, he is initially disturbed by the fact that he can't shake the image of a shirtless, smiling, sweaty Dierks Bentley out of his mind, but his mind is soon wiped clean by the sensation as she goes down on him.

They have a fun roll-around together, and she leaves in the morning. She doesn't leave a number — hell, he doesn't even remember her name. Was it Karen? Katy? Whatever. He doesn't hear from her or see her out at night for a few weeks, but he's not concerned. She was just the first, and he has since had quite a few more entertaining nights.

One night, he finally notices her on the strip. She is looking right at him, apparently trying to get his attention. Being a nice guy, and now much more secure in his heterosexuality after all of his studding around, he decides to go say hi. The look of concern on her face as he approaches bothers him, though, and she wastes no time in dropping a bomb on him. Something he, in his inexperience, didn't even know to be afraid of. She's expecting, and he's the most likely candidate. She wants to keep the baby, and while she won't force him to share custody, she wants financial assistance. She tells him there's nothing he needs to do for a while, but gives him all of her contact information and insists on getting his.

He is at first speechless. He doesn't know what to think and goes home immediately without another word. For the first time in months, he calls his mother and tells all. His mother, at first relieved that all those posters of country music singers he'd always had in his bedroom were hero-worship and not *something else*, explains calmly to him that she's happy to be a grandmother, though she feels a little young for it, and tells him that even if he doesn't have feelings for his child's mother, he needs to be a part of his or her life and provide financial support.

Okay. That's fine. He can do that. He does not know whether he actually has feelings for the child's mother. Right now, he's just... sort of numb.

He stops going out at night for a while. For the first time in his life, he tries to get a handle on how much money he actually makes. He sits down at his old Compaq and attempts to make a spreadsheet in Excel like he learned in that class in high school everyone had to take. Once he has a number, he sits down to talk to his child's mother about how much money she'll need for the baby. The number shocks him. Do they really cost that much, and do they really need all that *stuff*?

Yes, and yes. Devastated, he goes home. He now has to figure out how much money he needs to live, at minimum. Car insurance, renter insurance, health insurance, utilities, food, rent, gas. His numbers are red before he even gets to gas. Something has got to give. He's already living in the least expensive house with a garage that he could find without going into a bad neighborhood. His insurance has a high deductible and his coverage is minimum, so there's no room there. He can eat out less and save money on food. Not going out in the GTO at night will save him gas money and maintenance. He can probably do some things to save electricity and water and reduce those bills. In the end, he gets the bottom line into the black, but just barely. There is no give at all.

The baby is born, and because he is on good terms with the mother, our friend is able to meet his progeny for the first time in the hospital. For the second time in our narrative, a change comes over our friend. A feeling for the little guy in his arms he can't describe. He feels like he wants to cry, but he isn't sad. He stays at the hospital much longer than he expected, and holds his son the entire time. He knows he cannot just throw money at this boy's mother — he wants to spend time, lots of time, with his boy. So he talk to her about it. She agrees, but says that while he's really young, much of the time will need to be spent with her because she wants to nurse him exclusively. He starts to object, but she insists that it's better for his boy's health, so he drops it.

Over the ensuing months, he spends as much time as he can with his son, and subsequently, his son's mother. A bit predictably, they develop a fondness for one another, and soon enough, he starts thinking that he wants to have her around all the time. He invites them to leave her parent's house and come and live with him. Believing that this is more what grown-up life is supposed to be like, she happily agrees.

After moving in, she works over his budget, removing the line item for child support and adding in individual expenses related to the child. Between his full-time wages and her part-time (she's in nursing school, naturally), they'll actually be quite comfortable. She questions only one item on his budget — insurance. Why is it so high? He says it's the GTO. It was high to begin with, and he has picked up a few speeding tickets while he's owned it, adding points to his license and more money to his insurance premium.

All the while, the GTO has been sitting in the garage under a cover. The battery has died, the tires are out of round, the gas gone bad. She looks at it — not with disdain, but concern. She suggests he sell it and buy something that can carry the whole family. Initially outraged and refusing, he then starts thinking about what he could buy with the money he thinks he can get for the GTO. He sets his sights on a decently-equipped full-size Chevy, and prices the GTO accordingly, which you now see listed here.