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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Thinking Ahead

On Sunday, we moved all of the set pieces for "Peter Pan" from our rehearsal space to the performing space.

I was assigned to get the U-Haul.

I'm always assigned to get the U-Haul.

Why? Well, I drove an ambulance for seventeen months, of course!

Of course, my current employers don't know that I've kissed more than my fair share of moving trucks, cars, other ambulances, and hospitals with those big-ass auxiliary side-view mirrors, and they don't know that, on our first day in our new base, I drove the unit 402 straight into the side of the garage bay, while two EMTs and one paramedic were ostensibly "guiding" me. They also don't know that I drove straight into a concrete barrier at a gas station, causing the manager of the station to summon the police. The officer took one look at the truck and the barrier, rolled his eyes and left.

Nevertheless, I am always the one who gets the U-Haul. The other people with whom I work are too scared to drive anything more powerful, bulky, and sinister-looking than a Lexus SUV.

I don't mind. Really, I don't. After all that time working on the street, I became comfortable driving large Ford box-trucks, even when there were people inside them vomiting and squaplarshing themselves all over our stretcher pad. Sure, it took approximately four months for my asshole to cease puckering when I would make a lane change while at the wheel of an ambulance, but it stopped. Eventually, it stopped. Maybe it was five months. I can't remember anymore. My hands never stopped sweating, though, especially when running lights-and-siren. That hard, black plastic steering wheel would get so slippery I'm surprised I never drove us clear off the side of I-95. It's a good thing I watched a lot of "Dukes of Hazzard" episodes as a kid.

Fortunately, U-Haul trucks don't have lights and sirens but, in other ways, they are very similar to ambulances. First of all, they are poorly maintained, just like the ambulances I used to pilot at my old company. The hinges of 402's passenger-side door were held on with twenty-seven-year-old silly putty and coagulated semen. Unit 111 had 321,500 miles on it. 306 had a lovely artistic rendering drawn all over the passenger-side airbag cover, done by an exceptionally talented EMT. It featured a naked woman seductively posing beside a large oak tree, beckoning to a gentleman with an impossibly engorged phallus, who is lying naked in the grass. On 306's headliner is scrawled "PENUS" with the "E" backwards.

U-Haul trucks look like this, too. One of the U-Hauls I saw on Sunday was tagged with graffiti- tres classy. I always dread going to the U-Haul place. You can't be like, "Um, can I have a truck manufactured after 1987?" No, you just get to specify the size, and hope for the best.

You never get the best. And, let's face it, even if you got the best U-Haul on the lot: would you notice?

I definitely did not get the best U-Haul on the lot. There were no airbags in this thing, meaning that it was manufactured at least before 1990 which made me feel, well, special. The fact that the South-America-shaped stain all across the cloth bench seat could have been vomitus from the Bush I administration era humbled me, frankly, and it meant that I was maybe ten years old when some toothless hobo raulphgfed inside this thing. And yet the odor was still as fresh as ever.

When I turned the key in the ignition, the thing shook as if it were in the middle of a riot in Tienanman Square, or perhaps like I had just stuck a quarter in its slot. When I put it into drive, the entire chassis sank at least an inch. As the Queen once said, "We are not amused."

I never gave much thought to dying behind the wheel of a big ugly truck, not even when I was an EMT. Not even when being an unwitting passenger in an aged ambulance in a perilous ice-storm going hot, probably for no reason, and the passenger-side windshield wiper, which had been working furiously and ineptly flew clear off the truck. On Sunday, however, I did ponder briefly about what it would feel like to hurtle towards my death in this fucking behemoth, and the words of the character Calculus Entropy from "Fletch Lives" (which I'm sure you saw) rang in my ears:

"Oh, it runs alright! But, if you want to stop it: you got to think ahead."

This was an especially poignant film reference because of the sticker on the dashboard (there were at least seven stickers on the dashboard-- all of which warned of potential death) that said, in big, red letters, "BRAKE EARLY."

And often?

After the Darling family nursery, complete with pre-hung doors, fireplace, 10-foot bay window & seat, the fucking pirate ship, the underground, Wendy's house, and all the crazy ass props and costumes were loaded and unloaded, I dutifully returned the truck, and I broke early, and often. It all went off without a hitch. I parked the truck, locked the doors, stuck my key in the after-hours return slot, and I sat down on the curb to wait for my beautiful wife to pick me up. And, as I sat there, enjoying the breeze that was descending on southeastern Pennsylvania on Sunday evening, another U-Haul customer at the wheel of another 14-foot truck entered the U-Haul parking lot, and drove right into the back of my truck.

Hey. You got to think ahead.


  1. I had to move from South Jersey to Florida in one of those pieces of crap. I totally feel for you.

  2. I am TERRIFIED of driving trucks. Husband used to roll in a 1969 Chevy Suburban, that thing scared the crap out of me.

    Especially the time when someone shot out the back window as we drove down the freeway. But that was unrelated to the size of the car - NOT!

    Biggest car on the road = Biggest target for freeway snipers.


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