Electrify America charging stations are a pimp-my-ride electrical car jamboree.
One afternoon in Paso Robles, Guy tried to figure out a charger while Pepper and I stretched our legs. We were rushed. We wanted to reach Morro Bay in time for me to watch the sunset on the beach while he set up our tent in the RV park.
Another Rivian purred up next to us and parked. An elderly man got out and smiled genially. He was wearing a plaid flannel shirt and paint-dotted Carharts. His truck had dusty cat footprints sprinkled over the hood.
“I haven’t seen Red Canyon before,” he said companionably, crossing his arms and nodding. “I went with the El Cap Granite. Mostly I see LA Silver. That comes standard, you know.”
I had no idea what he was talking about, but I smiled my extra-special smile because I’m a sucker for a man in plaid flannel and that is no lie. He pointed to our truck.
“Hmm. Red Canyon. I thought it would be more of an orange. It looks good.”
“Ah yes,” I said, patting Guy’s truck like I’d had some voice or even any interest in the selection of its paint color during the four years I had forgotten its imminent construction. “Red Canyon.”
Guy stalked over, frustrated. He didn’t mind waiting years for the truck to get built, but waiting for malfunctioning chargers to charge said truck was a whole ‘nother story.
“This charger isn’t responding,” he announced tersely.” I’m doing everything right, but it doesn’t respond.”
He feels that way about me too sometimes, but he doesn’t get to say it out loud.
“Yeah, that charger hardly ever works,” Rivian man nodded. “Try the one on the right.”
Before Guy could act, a sleek Volkswagen ID4 slid into that sweet spot on the right.
“Great,” Guy exhaled loudly.
“Nice car,” the man murmured, his eyes sliding over the Volkswagen like it was a wet t-shirt contest. “Brand new.”
Guy got back into his truck. It’s not easy to finagle that beast into a back-in spot: what with the tent all over the rearview mirror, and the bike rack sitting on top of the back-up camera. The bikes themselves add an unpredictable 3 extra feet to the back bumper. Luckily, Guy is a good driver. Eventually, he plugged the cord into his truck. We waited in tense anticipation, wanting so very badly to believe.
“No account found,” the screen flashed without even trying very hard to please.
“Goddammit,” Guy said, not quite under his breath.
“Yeah, that didn’t work yesterday either,” Rivian man said. “You should use that one. It’s the most reliable these days.” He pointed at a lone charger sitting kitty-corner to the others.
“Well,” Guy said, “someone else is using it now.”
It was a dude with a black F1 Lightning who had arrived during Guy’s most recent backing-in feat. We glared. The driver pretended not to notice.
“Right there is the most common problem I’ve seen,” the Rivian man said, nodding at a white Chevy Bolt at the end of the line of chargers. “He’s still plugged in, but his car is full-up. He’s just taking up space.”
Guy clambered aggressively back in his truck and backed it ferociously sideways over the meridian towards the Bolt. His truck’s bike rack pushed its way into the middle of the parking lot, bulging into the exit lane.
“Are you sure you want to park like that?” I asked. “That seems like kind of an asshole parking job.”
“Help direct me so I don’t hit anything!” he ordered, inching the truck in an impossible angle between agave plants and charging posts.
“Oh, you’re definitely going to hit something,” I said.
He jumped out of the truck, pulled the plug out of the charged Bolt and tried to stretch the cord far enough to reach our port. It didn’t reach. He pulled again.
“Motherfucker,” he said, escalating.
No one asked me, but in my opinion, it’s bad enough parading around in an $80,000 vehicle. Using said vehicle to block traffic at a bank on a Friday afternoon just rubs in more salt, regardless of the end-goal being saving the Earth.
“I’m kind of glad that didn’t reach,” I said to the man. He didn’t respond.
Guy roared his truck off the meridian, pulled into the original unworking port, and called the 1800 Electrify America help number.
Meanwhile, a man in a Hawaiian shirt driving a Hyundai IONIQ5 pulled into the second port that had failed us. He plugged it into his car. We didn’t say anything. His car started charging, no problem, like clockwork. We glared at him, too, switching our eyes between the Ford Lightening and the Hyundai to keep the animosity equal.
I then switched my glare to the fully charged Chevy Bolt smugly denying us a glorious Morro Bay sunset.
“What happens when you leave your car plugged in after it’s charged anyway?” I asked Rivian man because he seemed like someone who would know. “Is that guy in the white car going to get in trouble?”
He did, in fact know. Who here is surprised?
“He would get charged for every minute he goes over, but now that your husband unplugged him, he won’t,” he answered.
We chatted, idly watching Guy talking on the phone, plugging and unplugging, punching buttons, entering codes, trying to remain civil. The Volkswagen woman joined us. She was going to San Diego. It was taking longer than she’d planned because of various charging snafus, but she didn’t mind because she and her dogs had stopped for a long walk on the beach and they were all pleasantly tired. She was wearing a “Life is Good” t-shirt like me, and I wished I could have joined her on that walk. I mentioned we’d hoped to get to Morro Bay before sunset.
Rivian man looked at the sky and shook his head.
“Not going to happen.” he said cheerfully. “Say, I got the Forest Edge interior, while I see you went with Black Mountain. Wanna look at my Forest edge? It turned out real nice.”
Much like the selection of the Red Canyon paint, I’d had no insight into the choice of our Black Mountain but I admired his Forest Edge just the same, as well as the dark trim that he chose after Rivian discontinued the light trim option and delayed the desirable Ocean Coast options.
“I just didn’t want to wait for the Ocean Coast,” he said. “I waited four years for this truck and I was ready.
“I’m already on the list for the Rivian SuperTruck,” he added. “500 miles to the charge. Tenneco’s CVSA2/Kinetic H2 semi-active suspension technology on a skateboard chassis. I’ll sell this one as soon as the new one comes.”
“I read online that some people are selling their Rivians as soon as they get delivered and making a big chunk of money,” I offered. “Have you heard that?”
He made a scornful noise in his throat and looked chagrined. “That’s not the point AT ALL.”
I shouldn’t have mentioned it.
Guy was still on the phone, and the Volkswagen woman and her dogs headed off to San Diego; we kept chatting.
Rivian man told me about the first job he had after Vietnam, flying helicopters for a logging company outside of Coeur de Lane. He’d quit because it was just too dangerous, what with the other pilot being drunk all the time and getting paid by load while the rest of them were getting paid by the hour. He got a job flying out of Paso Robles, where he’d met his wife, a cowgirl who worked at the airport. Not long after they started dating, she was fueling a plane, and the nozzle malfunctioned. Fuel spilled over her arms and everywhere, and as she tried to back away, she tripped and fell. Her big silver belt buckle sparked when she hit the concrete, and flames engulfed her.
“3rd degree burns over both her arms and her upper body,” he said.”It healed up so tight that she could barely bend. A couple years later they took skin off her stomach, cut a slit in both arms and added in stomach. Now she’s absolutely fine. Her fingers even work. She knits.”
“Holy shit,” I said.
“Yep,” he nodded. “She’s quite a woman.”
Guy put his phone back in his pocket and headed toward us, silhouetted against a darkening sky. He was definitely putting up the tent in the dark tonight. The man in the Ford Lightning unplugged his truck, charging completed without a hitch, and drove away.
Rivian’s man phone made a series of loud quacks. He jumped and looked at his watch.
“That’s my wife,” he said. ‘I better get back and let the cats in before she gets home.”
“Don’t you need to charge your car?” I asked. “Have we been in your way?”
“Oh, I don’t need to charge” he said. “I can do that at home. I just come down here to see what’s going on.”