M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Tuesday, January 28, 2003  

Moving Right Along

Trash’s mom and stepfather are moving to Iowa this week. Their beautiful new house is in a town called Lacona, which is a Plains Indian word for “you can see frickin’ Omaha from here.” With all the friends and relatives who assembled to unload their two U-Haul 26-footers into the house, the town’s population temporarily doubled on Sunday morning.

But before that, we had to get their stuff packed into the U-Hauls up here in Minnesota. When we arrived at their house in the northern suburbs on Saturday morning, stepfather-in-law had begun packing the first truck’s cavernous cargo bay. Since he had spread everything out horizontally, nothing was above waist-height. An eagle could have flown in there, done an immelman, and flown back out without touching anything. Stepfather-in-law said that he had the house half packed. Which would have been correct, if the house had only had one room. When we took into account the remaining boxes, tables, beds, dressers, love seats, garage stuff, laundry, dishes, lamps, bicycles, and concrete statuary (I am not kidding), the situation looked pretty different. Stepfather-in-law would keep saying, “this is about it,” but stuff just kept coming. In short order, stepfather-in-law was fired from loading the truck and assigned to full-time carrying. Meanwhile, our friend Bitter, who we’d dragooned into helping; my sister-in-law’s friend, who she’d dragooned into helping; and later my brother-in-law completely repacked each truck twice, maximizing every cubic micron of space all the way to the ceiling. By the time they were finished, Truck One was packed tighter than a can of hairspray and BIL was standing on the tailgate of Truck Two saying, “Hey, mom, if you don’t want to drive, we have room for one car up in here.”

Which brings us to the caravan. Stepfather-in-law drove one truck. Sister-in-law and friend drove stepmother-in-law’s car. Mother-in-law drove stepfather-in-law’s car. Trash and Bitter drove my car, one of them ready to take over for mother-in-law if her feet gave out. Brother-in-law-drove his own car. Got all that? Actually, none of that matters because at the end of the day, these are stories about me.

I drove the other truck. At about two-thirty p.m., when it became clear that Truck One didn’t have room for so much as another styrofoam peanut, I popped my altitude-sickness pills, clambered up into the driver’s seat, and lumbered out onto the road. Although nobody else was quite ready to go, I figured they’d catch up with me at some point during the next 260 miles. Because while I have been known to cover the distance between the Des Moines and Twin Cities metropolitan areas in three hours flat, I wasn’t going to manage that feat behind the wheel of a vehicle that spanned an entire freeway lane and handled like a capsizing innertube.

This was easily the largest vehicle I’d ever driven. It was the first time I’d ever stepped on a brake pedal and heard a noise louder than my car’s engine. As disappointed as I was that I hadn’t been allowed to drive BuenaOnda and Astroboy’s moving truck last summer, I now know that threading that beast down that single functioning lane of the Kennedy Expressway would have killed me. More accurately, failing to thread that beast down that lane of the Kennedy Expressway would have killed me. And probably a dozen others. I-35, threading through the wasteland of southern Minnesota and northern Iowa, is a much more suitable route down which to wrestle an aircraft carrier with wheels. It also meant I had plenty of room to pull over when the truck’s engine died here.

I should have known something was up when I heard that my in-laws had been able to pick up the trucks they’d reserved with no delays or headaches of any kind. U-Haul stories always seem to contain the words “no truck” or “broken truck,” and here I was in the latter, turning a key that didn’t seem to activate anything but a colorful array of mysterious dashboard lights and being rocked by vehicular slipstreams screaming past me at seventy-five miles per hour. On top of which, it was getting cold enough outside to turn the nitrogen in the air to liquid. My only hope of survival was to wait until another driver in our party caught up with me so I could at least have someone to eat.

I whipped out my brand-new cellphone (less than twenty-four hours old, in fact, and that’s another entry) and called Trash first. She was on the road about thirty miles behind me, dealing with a traffic jam that had reduced her driving options to high-speed parking. She had me call her brother, who had been the first to leave after me. He’d be along shortly. In the meantime, I laid out my warning triangles and built a small bonfire in the passenger seat. I wouldn’t have to wait long. In a half hour, I’d be either rescued or dead.

I dialed the U-Haul 800 number on the sun visor, then disconnected before anyone answered; was I supposed to be driving this truck in the first place? I’d certainly never given my information to U-Haul. As far as they knew, I was a legally blind, narcoleptic member of Al Qaeda with four DUI convictions and I’d stolen the damn truck. I decided to wait until the in-laws arrived.

But when they did, then what? The problem of their stuff remained. Specifically, it remained on the icy shoulder of a rural Minnesota highway, in the form of two thousand cubic feet of crap springloaded into fifteen hundred cubic feet of cargo space behind a ton of inert metal. What if U-Haul couldn’t get a replacement truck out to us right away? And what if they could? Even given that best-case scenario, where would that leave us? I’m pretty sure you can’t just disconnect the cab from the cargo box and swap it out like a team of horses. So we’d be stuck hauling furniture and boxes out of the dead truck, stacking them between the road flares, and trying to get it all into the new truck in the same configuration. And all this with nowhere to warm up or pee, losing a race against the sunset, knowing the whole time that any second, any one of us could be reduced to a chunky paste in some inattentive motorist’s front grille.

With these happy thoughts in mind, I gave the ignition key one more desperate twist.

The engine turned over. Better yet, the truck moved. I gathered up the warning triangles from the shoulder and went for it all. The truck accelerated to 65 mph in a matter of minutes, which, for a vehicle of that size, approximates the performace of a Ferrari..

I made a couple of phone calls and let everyone know I was mobile again. A few minutes later, brother-in-law caught up with me and acted as my escort for the next couple of hours, just in case there was a recurrence. I not only got to his house outside Des Moines without incident, I also made it to the in-laws new place an hour away the next morning. I can only assume that the truck’s engine pitched a brief diva hissyfit for reasons known only to itself.

Unless the reason is that I kind of sort of hit eighty miles an hour coming down a hill just before I lost power. Anything’s possible, I guess.

posted by M. Giant 4:01 PM 0 comments


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