RON’S OFF-ROADER RATING SYSTEM

— Chad and the FONI Index, By Ron Lawson —

There’s nothing wrong with you. Chances are you’re managing your time as well as possible. Take a deep breath and step away from the ledge.

The problem with your life isn’t that you don’t get to play in the dirt every weekend. It isn’t that you have the wrong UTV or ATV. It isn’t that you have the wrong job, the wrong spouse or the wrong kids. The real problem is Chad. He’s the guy who appears to have the perfect garage full of toys, the perfect wife, the perfect brood and all the time in the world to enjoy them.

I know, I know. Chad takes his whole family out every weekend. They come back with stories about cross-country adventures in their brand-new turbo four-seater. They talk about the camping trips where little Leon has learned to jump 60 feet off a dune on his 450 MX quad. You hear the plans of next summer’s trip to the Piutes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Let me tell you how to interpret what Chad’s life is really like. I call this the Fabricated Omni-perfect Neighbor Investigation Index, or FONI Index. Get your calculator out and answer the following questions.

Look at Chad’s new turbo four-seater. You don’t have to sneak into his garage late at night. The Chads of the world are always happy to give you a personal tour. The first set of observations involves the tires and wheels: Are the tires worn? Add 10 points if they’re moderately worn. Add 20 points if they’re worn to the point where they should be replaced soon. Subtract 10 points if they’re brand new. Look at the rims on the very edge. Are they roughed up with that look they get when they’ve been driven on a flat? Add five points—everyone gets flats. Is there a well-mounted spare? Add 20 points.

Check out the harnesses. Add 20 points for five-point aftermarket harnesses. Add or subtract nothing for the stockers. Subtract 10 points if they’re buckled and adjusted as if they’re sat upon. Add 10 points if the passenger seat is as worn as the driver seat. Subtract 10 points for perfectly clean floorboards. Add 10 points for a good intercom system. Subtract 10 points for a top-notch stereo. Add 10 points for a GPS. Subtract 10 points for any other personal electronic devices or even mounts for them. Is there an extra primary belt somewhere handy in the UTV? Add 10 points.

Now, look at the trailer Chad uses. Is it beautiful? Subtract 10 points. Is it dented and rusty? Add 10 points. Is it outright missing? Subtract 10 points. Does it have a built-in toolbox (with tools) and a spare tire that’s been used? Add 10 points each. Subtract 5 points for every light that works.

On to Leon’s ATV. Does it have aftermarket cast wheels? Subtract 10 points. Look at the exhaust; I’m assuming it’s an aftermarket one. If it’s stock, it’s the only one in existence. Is the outlet larger than the head of a cat? Subtract 10 points. If it’s a Honda, Kawasaki or Suzuki, subtract 10 points for the stock handlebar. If it’s a 400 and they think it’s a 450, subtract 20 points.

Chad’s family can give you the final clues. Is his wife (let’s call her Beyonce) beautiful? No points either way; I’m just curious. Do a quick appraisal of her everyday jewelry. Subtract 10 points if it’s worth more than Leon’s quad. If Chad wears any jewelry beyond a wedding ring, subtract five points. If he’s perfectly fit, subtract 10 points. This has nothing to do with anything; I’m just jealous. As for Leon, I got nothin’. Teenagers can’t be figured out.

Now, for the score. If Chad’s score adds up to a negative number, rest assured, he’s faking it. He owes so much on his UTV, he’s afraid to drive it. Beyonce probably hates him, but encourages him to leave the house on his own. This makes him nervous on weekends when Manuel the pool boy is scheduled, so he insists they go camping together on very rare occasions. He either rents a trailer or keeps it at a friend’s house in Pacoima. Leon only goes if he gets to bring his PlayStation.

If he scores above zero, sorry to say that his life is pretty good. He enjoys the family activities that UTVs and ATVs offer, and he’s much closer to Beyonce and Leon because of it. I have only one piece of advice—hang out with Chad more often. Maybe it will rub off.

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