When your daughter gets married, it’s hard not to think about all the things you should have done and said over all those years. I like to think I did the best I could, but still….
So, when my New Yorker daughter called and said she wanted some of my dear departed mother’s antique furniture for her new house, I eagerly volunteered to rent a truck and drive it all up there over the three-day July 4th weekend.
She also asked for her car. “No problemo,” I replied airily. “I’ll rent a car trailer and pull it behind the truck.”
I hung up and googled the distance from Corpus Christi: 1,900 miles, a mere 29-hour drive in three days. I gulped and wondered what kind of MPG those big ol’ trucks get?
At the truck rental place, I quickly signed the usual reams of incomprehensible paperwork. Then, without looking up, the salesclerk offhandedly told me how to secure the car to the trailer.
“I can’t do that,” I replied.
Perplexed, she looked up and asked, “Why not?”
I explained I was so inept that if I fastened the car to the trailer, it would wait for the single most inopportune moment to free itself and turn I-95 into a bowling alley.
After she finished securing the car, I climbed up into the cab. I’d always dreamt of being a truckdriver and beamed as I started it up and shifted into gear.
There was an empty trailer in my path that I turned to avoid. But as I drove past it, I heard a loud crack. I looked in the mirror and saw that my car trailer had somehow hit the empty trailer. I put it in reverse and whacked it again. As the salesclerk came running out of the building yelling, “Stop!” it occurred to me there may be more to truck driving than I thought.
She lifted the front of the dented trailer and rolled it out of my way. Then she pantomimed turning a big steering wheel and shouted, “Turn wide!” I gave her a thumbs up and drove toward the exit.
“We’re not even out of the parking lot,” my long-suffering wife moaned, “and you’ve already managed to hit two things.”
“It was one thing twice,” I snapped.
Except for the time I nearly took out a gas pump outside of Baltimore, there were no further calamities until we got to New Jersey. I would, however, like to report that there are long stretches of our interstate system that are rough enough to churn butter, at least in a rental truck.
While barreling down the New Jersey Turnpike on our last night, both headlights suddenly failed. I exited and pulled into the parking lot of the only hotel around.
It was so rundown and filthy that my freaked-out wife slept in her clothes on top of the blanket. Bone-tired, I climbed in bed and immediately fell asleep.
About midnight, a wild party broke out in the adjacent room. The loudest of the partiers became so rowdy that the others threw her out. She pounded on the door and screamed profane threats until they finally let her in.
My wife opened one eye and glared at me. She didn’t have to say a word.
At 2AM the same thing happened. When it happened again at 6, we made a break for the truck.
There was a tollbooth at the end of the turnpike. It was our first on the trip, and I pondered what the toll would be for our rig.
The toll taker gaped at us like he’d never seen a truck and trailer before. Then, with furrowed brow, he grabbed a pencil and made meticulous calculations until finally pronouncing, “$89.35, and I can’t give you a receipt because the printer’s broken.”
“Welcome to New Jersey,” I whispered to my wife as she rifled her purse.
The next tollbooth was less than five minutes away.
“That’ll be $92.75,” the toll taker said cheerily.
“But I just paid $89.36 a few minutes ago,” I whined.
“Oh, that’s New Jersey. This is New York.”
We finally arrived at my daughter’s house around noon. Her neighbors and my new in-laws also greeted us. They said the Long Island Sound was only a block away and invited us to walk there with them.
Completely exhausted and permanently frazzled, I stared out at the shimmering water, kicked off my shoes, and, without a word, walked fully clothed into the sound.
“As far as my daughter’s concerned,” I mused while backstroking, “we’re even.”