Fear me and my 26 foot truck


411: Driving a really big truck.

I lived a movie called “Retrieving Sarah”.

When this last semester ended Sarah and I had a discussion about when she’d be returning to DC. She gave me a deadline of June 15th, and then decided to move home two weeks early. That rocked.

However the trip itself Sarah described as “the trials of Odysseus”. First, the U-Haul folks decided just because we had a reservation, didn’t mean we had a truck. Then they gave us a truck, but we had to drive 45 minutes to Salem to get it.

We get to Salem, go up to the counter and the kid asks for our parent’s phone number. Our parents. Dude, I’m 37, I’m on the hook for my parents’ now, not the other way around.

“Ok”, he says, “you’ve got the 26 footer.”

Another kid behind the counter hears that, looks over and says, “Biggest truck in the fleet” and shakes his head. This is not a good sign.

I know that what I wrote doesn’t express the full impact of the emotion he conveyed. Imagine that he shook his head as he looked at us, as if to say, “When I’m driving down I-95 I’ll be sure to stop and leave flowers at that roadside cross that is your grave” because you’re driving the widowmaker, truck number JH1227.

When I didn’t think the day couldn’t get any better, the young kid that desperately needed our parents’ phone numbers said, “You can drive a standard, right? It doesn’t have automatic transmission.”

Perhaps you’d like to inform me that it has a radiator leak? (No, you won’t tell me that. I’ll discover that on my own on the streets of Philadelphia tomorrow.)

We take the truck and head out. Right about the time that I’m discovering the quirks of the stick shift, it occurs to me that I’m being tested. Something (life, god, yahweh, a higher being) is testing me to see how much I love Sarah. This vengeful bastard of a higher power is trying to see if I’ll break.

Well I won’t break, though the fact that I have to double clutch this thing (and that’s not by design) is giving me a bitch of a tennis elbow and a hell of a knee cramp.

John loaded the whole truck.  He rocks.Most of Sarah’s loser Harvard friends that were supposed to help us move flake out except two, but we get the truck loaded ok. John, Sarah’s fellow Design school student in the photo, does most of the work. Notice the Jesus-like glow around his head. He was, in fact, our savior. We buy him pie and head out of town.

Right about 11:30pm we’re somewhere near New Haven CT when Sarah blows a tire and has to pull over. Her cellphone is dying and I didn’t see her pull off. She finds me with the help of a passing cop who has the amazing talent to be able to give locals directions to a nearby crack hotel without the slightest hint of irony.

It’s obvious we’re not going to get the tire fixed tonight in the middle of the holiday weekend, so we plead our way into a hotel that isn’t supposed to take dogs and crash. In the morning we get lucky and find a Firestone that can replace our tire and we kill some time waiting for it. I unload a couple of chairs from the truck and Sarah demonstrates that she can knit anywhere, under any conditions.

Knitting is better in a parking lot.
Sarah knits while pondering the industrial nature of Milford, CT.

We get the tire fixed and truck down to Philly to drop off some of our excess furniture. Our friend Cheryl, who’s film I saw at the Tribeca film festival recently, has bought an old crackhouse in Philly and is restoring it herself.

Cheryl’s amazing. There’s truly nothing that scares her. Sarah and I love her to death, and we take most of the furniture we bought to furnish our Boston apartment that won’t fit in our tiny DC house to give her. It “falls off the back of the truck”, literally in some cases, and we setup Cheryl with a futon bed, a dining room table and chairs and several computer desks.

No change lost in the couch cushions in this place..
Cheryl’s got some work ahead of her.

Navigating Philly’s streets is where I truly shine. I realize that I’m in a huge vehicle. Nobody can possibly miss me, and they scramble to get out of the way. I alternatively curse and pump my arm triumphantly as I navigate Philly’s narrow residential streets and squeek by cars. A couple of people who’ve parked on corners in slightly illegal spaces come running out of their houses, waving at me to wait until they can move their car down the street away from me. The fearful look on their face emboldens me as I barrel down narrow streets with cars parked on both sides.

The rest of the trip is rather uneventful except for getting thrown off the Garden State Parkway (no trucks). If trucks aren’t allowed, why do they build all the toll booths big enough for them?

The effort involved makes me appreciate what I’ve got just a bit more.