M. Giant's
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Thursday, July 25, 2002  

A week from today, Trash and I are going to be helping our friends BuenaOnda and Astroboy move to Chicago. Me? I get to drive the moving truck.

I actually have a little experience at this kind of thing. Trash’s aunt moved to Des Moines a couple of years ago (yes, it’s a pattern) and I found myself behind the wheel of a Great White Beast for that project. Now that I’ve logged four hours or so at the helm of one of these Diesel-fueled, terrifyingly blind-spotted schleppers of households, that kind of makes me the expert. At least in our little group.

As you know, the most important thing to be aware of when renting a moving truck is that something will be wrong when you try to pick it up. They won’t have the right size, or they’ll overcharge you somehow, or something else will happen to completely throw your brilliantly conceived moving strategy and schedule clear off the rails. Uncle Bob knows what I’m talking about. Once Trash and I went to help one of her ex-professors load up her rental truck for her move to Kansas. One problem: no truck. So this poor woman had all of her stuff boxed up, including toiletries and a change of clothes, and she ended up not being able to leave the city for another two days. Not to mention the small army she’d drafted whose once-eager recruits were left standing around helplessly in her kitchen.

“Maybe we should all go down to the rental place and threaten to crack some skulls,” someone suggested.

We looked around the room at each other, a physically unimposing assortment of English majors and graduate students.

“Maybe at least one of us should take off our glasses first,” someone else pointed out.

Obviously, no skulls were cracked that day. Equally obviously, BuenaOnda has been calling the rental place to re-confirm her reservation ten times a day since she made it. They love her over there.

But I think the most useful knowledge will be something I learned during an experience about six months ago, when I wasn’t even driving the truck.

We were helping our other friends Dirt and Banana move into their new house. At some point during the afternoon, Dirt had to drive the U-Haul they were using out to one of the southern suburbs and pick up a table that somebody was giving them. Since the table was constructed of marble and cast iron, Dirt brought me and another guy along to help hoist it into the truck.

This was the first time Dirt had driven the truck on the freeway, and it wasn't what you might call the ultimate driving experience. Apparently, someone at the rental office had put a "governor" under the truck's hood, making it impossible to drive over fifty miles per hour. We figured this was something they do when the renter is moving within town and thus shouldn't be on the freeway much anyway. Not that Dirt was at all happy about this. After having to pay ten more dollars for the truck than the original quote, his feelings toward U-Haul were not rendered any warmer or fuzzier by virtue of the fact that other cars were passing us so fast that we saw them visibly redshift, while Dirt made helplessly apologetic gestures and the engine screamed like Jennifer Tilly on helium with her foot in a garbage disposal.

At one point he had to switch feet on the gas pedal, because his right leg had gone numb attempting to push the pedal through the floorboard. He was seriously talking about getting a cinderblock for the return trip.

After almost an hour, we finally arrived. We heaved The Heaviest Four-Person Table In The World up into the truck, which now rode so low we wondered if we should take off the muffler before it got scraped off. I'm serious, this was a round table maybe five feet in diameter, but some bright spark at the factory had decided it wasn't heavy enough and had therefore affixed a singularity to its underside or something.
So the table was loaded, doubling the weight of the otherwise empty truck. Dirt put the truck in reverse and we backed down the driveway. But then the truck stopped. Dirt gave it more gas, but the truck just revved ineffectually, with the back tires stubbornly settled in the gutter between the driveway and the street.

I'm like, "Dude, how heavy is that table?"

At this point, Dirt figured out that while the needle on the transmission indicator thingy clearly told him he was in reverse, he was in fact in neutral. Reverse was actually somewhere between park and reverse. Dirt put the truck in reverse--or more accurately, "perverse" (Ha! I kill me!), and finished backing into the street.

The bonus of this situation was that we also figured out that what looked like "neutral" was in fact "drive." Which meant, in turn, that we had driven all the way from the city in second gear.

Needless to say, even with The Table That Nearly Fell Through The Crust Of The Earth in back, the return trip was much quicker.

I’m hoping I get a chance to take BuenaOnda and Astroboy’s truck for a little test drive before we hit the road. I’d hate to get halfway to the Wisconsin Dells and suddenly find out some kind of unpleasant factoid, like maybe that the engine only works when you change the oil every fifty miles, or the wiper fluid reservoir is filled with ink.

posted by M. Giant 3:43 PM 0 comments


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