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Tom Grace

February 9, 2010

Travels with Uncle Chet: Toyota can ride on its record

AMSTERDAM _ The air was biting cold outside, but it was warm in the old pickup, tooling along the Thruway.

``This is our exit,’’ said Hon, who had printed out a Google map.

``Amsterdam.’’ Uncle Chet looked toward the old brick city. ``Haven’t been here in a while.’’

``I haven’t been here in 40 years,’’ I said.

``We’re still a ways from Cambridge,’’ he said. ``That’s just north of where I was born.’’

``Never thought I’d go to just north of where you were born to get a claw-foot bathtub.’’ I glanced at Hon.

``They’re pretty rare,’’ she said, ``especially when they’re small and deep like this one.’’

``Are you buying this thing, sight unseen?’’ Uncle Chet asked as we slowed down on the curving exit ramp.

``We’re not driving six hours to go window shopping,’’ I said.

``It looked good in the photos,’’ Hon said. ``And the ad said the porcelain is perfect.’’

``Wonder how old it is?’’ I slowed for a tollbooth in a line of traffic.

But when I clutched to down-shift, the clutch froze to the floor. I hit the pedal again; it stayed down. I swore, braked harder, reached down with my left hand to my left heel, stretching until my nose was just above the dashboard and I got a finger under the pedal.

I pulled the pedal up, then pushed it halfway down again with my foot and wiggled the shift into neutral.

``Is that an Olympic sport?’’ Uncle Chet said.

``That’s Toyota quality,’’ I said. ``But it’s happened before, so I know what to do.’’

``You mean, you’re going to do that every time we shift?’’ he said. ``I’m getting out right here.’’

``No, I just can’t put the pedal all the way down,’’ I assured him. ``Something freezes when it hits the floor.’’

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Tom Grace

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