The truck asked me to spend the week in jeans, which is what I did, although I worked at nothing requiring jeans or the use of a truck.

It seemed appropriate -- big, red pickup and nice blue jeans. The ensemble suggested the possibility of physical labor, or doing something more manly than typing words into a computer.

But I ignored the suggestion in favor of more enjoyable fare -- a drive to Richmond and environs in the 2003 Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab pickup.

I had a good time.

There is nothing like running along Interstate 95 south of Washington in a vehicle that isn't intimidated by 18-wheelers, sport-utility vehicles, or little sports cars recklessly darting in and out of traffic. People give the Ram 1500 respect, probably because it demands it.

With its muscular front fenders and huge cross-haired grille, the Ram 1500 is a pickup that looks like a Peterbilt or Mack truck. That grille has been the Ram 1500's trademark since its introduction in 1994. Truck buyers love it, which is why Dodge didn't tinker with it much when it did a major rework in 2002. Dodge simply made the grille bigger.

It's all about marketing. People no longer buy pickups solely for hauling or working. They now buy them for the same reasons they buy cars -- to display some attitude, enjoy some luxury, show a little personality. Dodge's wide range of Ram 1500 models -- a possible 24 pickup configurations -- illustrates the point.

I drove the top-of-the-line luxury Laramie Quad Cab. It seats five people in leather-wrapped comfort. The cabin is quiet enough to enjoy a symphonic concert, which you can do with the Laramie's 11-speaker, 240-watt digitally amplified sound system. There are all kinds of storage bins for work tools and fun stuff, and there are myriad power options, including power-adjustable pedals to help give small drivers a good seating position in the big truck.

Viewed from one perspective, the Laramie Quad Cab version of the Ram 1500 is a sport-utility vehicle with a 6.3-foot cargo bed (which was shortened by three inches to that length last year to allow more interior space). It's a wonderful ruse. The hysterically self-righteous among us who have taken it upon themselves to literally trash other folks' sport-utility vehicles don't seem to have the same hatred for pickups.

Still, Dodge realizes that some people just want a pickup truck to pick up. So, for 2003, the company is introducing a bare-bones Ram 1500 Work Special that is available in two-wheel or four-wheel-drive, regular cab or quad, with either a 215-horsepower V-6 or the 240-horsepower V-8 installed in the luxury Laramie.

For the people who absolutely must take their pickups off road, Dodge is introducing a Ram 1500 Off-Road model for 2003, replete with skid plates for front and rear axles and the four-wheel-drive transfer case, as well as tow hooks, fog lamps, and a heavy-duty cooling system.

But the Laramie Quad Cab version of the Ram 1500 suits me just fine. I don't particularly want to go off road -- or haul away that stuff that's been sitting at the rear end of my driveway for several months. I just want to look tough when I'm driving on the rather frightening I-95. It's a matter of faking it until I make it to a more civil road.