It was not until I sat down in my brand-new pickup truck, complete with bed-liner and stainless-steel tie-downs and genuine Dodge quadraphonic cassette player that gleamed on the dashboard with cool green lights, that I understood the true nature of tolerance.

For the seat, that morning, had the texture and resilience of a golf-green after a hard rain – the kind where the water wraps around the top of your shoe and makes a golf-ball traveling at ninety-seven miles an hour stop dead, shooting up a long comet’s tail of moisture into the dreary air.

And the plastic facing of the tape player, the part that held the tapes and made the lights green, an especially enticing effect when traveling at night, was gone.  It was not cracked or scratched or damaged, it was plain gone, leaving a wounded-looking garble of electronic machinery, tape heads and screws and rollers that non-technological eyes should never be forced to behold, exposed to the harsh light of morning.

As the suit pants covering my derriere worked hard to absorb the maximum amount of moisture I ruminated thoroughly on the possible origins of the damage and in roughly the amount of time it takes a light to turn on when you flick the switch I concluded it had something to do with my newly licensed sixteen year old son, who, as it happens, had borrowed the car the night before.

Now, this might sound like outright prejudice; sixteen year old offspring on the one hand, damaged car on the other, and assuming a causal relationship between the two.  It could have been a passing wolf who, after unlocking the cab and listening to jazz tapes for a leisurely hour, mangled the tape player due to clumsiness and left the door open in his haste to depart.  But, as one of my college roommates used to say about why he was going to become an actuary, because they get paid lots of money for being right almost all the time.

The next step was to drag my damp butt up the stairs and vigorously shake the bed of said sixteen year old.  Now, as any parent knows, vigorously shaking the bed of a sixteen year old is roughly similar to rolling an omelette in a lightly heated frying pan; there is some movement, perhaps some olfactory response, but of communication there is none.

Now the face of a suddenly awakened adolescent has been variously described by experts in the field as “pie-eyed” and “droopy-lidded” and “as if he had just been asked a deep mathematical question such as, what is seven times three?”  Adolescents in this transitional form of consciousness, according to psychologists, are particularly suggestible, so it is a good time for parents to pose probing questions such as “Will you sign this paper agreeing never to drive again until age thirty?” and “Will you consent to certain surgical procedures which will prevent me from becoming a grandparent?”

But then it was time for that form of communication most dreaded by the male of the species, the father-son talk.  Most experienced fathers begin such conversations with a ritual gift followed by a salutation such as, “Here’s twenty dollars, now I don’t want to hear from you for a week.”  Then it moves smoothly on to deeper subjects such as the color of sneakers worn by Michael Jordan during the recent playoffs.  These intimate moments are then terminated by the ritual yelling, door-slamming and fist pounding that serves as a signal of respect among all men.

Moments of particular intense fraternity are noted by the veins standing out on the neck of the older male, the florid complexion, and the desperate look in the eyes that so often precedes severe cardiovascular disorganization.  The older male then wisely retreats as the younger pronounces, “I’m leaving to go live with my girlfriend in Cincinnati!”

Having already successfully performed such ceremonies on countless occasions I decided to pursue the ancient parental tactic of Assigning Responsibility Where None is Deserved.  That is, I sat down with my son and handed him one hundred dollars and said, “Now, I figure you owe me one hundred dollars for damaging the truck so just hand that back to me and let’s consider this resolved.”

Then he handed me the money and went back to sleep.  And I went upstairs and went to work, a satisfied man.