Monday, October 14 2002
setting: Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York
I spent most of the daylight hours loading things into my Toyota pickup truck, which was parked conveniently across President Street. By evening it was almost completely full of stuff. Even the passenger seat was heaped to the ceiling. I had to leave a little tunnel through it so I could see to the passenger's side rearview mirror.
Driving and parking something as long as a pickup truck is not something I am experienced doing, at least not in the congested conditions of Brooklyn. Before last night, I don't think I'd ever had to parallel park a pickup truck in my entire life. Most of my experiences with driving pickups occurred back in the early 90s when I was building my Shaque, but back then the trickiest parking maneuvers I executed in my Dad's '69 Chevy happened in the vast expanse of a Lowes parking lot.
Things got a little crazier after Gretchen came home from a day of work and we loaded the last things that would fit into our respective vehicles. Then I lashed a few things to their roofs: a bookcase and a thin mattress to the top of the truck and a big comfy chair on top of the Honda. Somewhere in the midst of this, Gretchen discovered her car's battery had died, so we had to jumpstart it using some cables borrowed from Ernie, the neighbor upstairs who has been getting internet through a connection to my network.
We set off in a convoy for upstate soon thereafter, me following Gretchen (and her copilot, Sally the Dog). Everything was going nicely until somewhere around 90th Street on the FDR Drive. Suddenly people in cars on either side of me were leaning on their horns and motioning frantically. I figured that the bad thing that could have happened had actually happened: the stuff tied to my roof had somehow come loose and blown away, possibly causing a huge chain reaction pileup. So I pulled over to investigate.
The thin mattress, which had been part of a couch hide-a-bed, was nowhere in sight. But the remains of the book shelf hung in two separate pieces from the ropes I'd so carefully tied. The shelf had been one of those dowel-and-block Tinker-Toy style shelves, held together merely by friction. I'd been a little dubious about its strength as I'd loaded it, but Gretchen had assured me it would stay together. In the laboratory of real life she'd been proved wrong; all the bouncing around on the rough surface of the FDR had jiggled it apart. And when it had broken into two, the mattress had flown away.
Pulled over on an exit ramp, I was irrational with anxiety about what had just happened. I tried running back to the site of the calamity, but it was too far away. So I returned to my truck, broke the remains of the bookshelf into smaller units, and somehow found more room inside the cab in which to put it. It had gone from six shelves to four.
The ordeal of having to deal with this catastrophe meant that I'd lost Gretchen. At least she had a cell phone, so when I somehow failed to make it onto the Palisades Parkway in New Jersey, I pulled into a gas station and gave her a call. For some reason she didn't answer, and I was forced to leave a message. I told her I'd meet her at the first rest stop on the Thruway.
After I made it up to that rest stop, I searched the entire place on foot looking for her car, which would be easy to spot from a distance since it had a large chair strapped to its roof. But she was nowhere. I was so thorough in my searching that I even climbed up on a concrete wall to survey a mysterious void in the middle of the rest area. Here I beheld a large, completely empty (and entryless) parking lot. Or perhaps it was a secret military airfield.
When I called Gretchen a second time, she told me she'd had her own trouble, but for her it had happened on the Palisades Parkway. She'd pulled over to wait for me and her car had died. She'd had to call roadside assistance for a jumpstart. By the time she rolled into the Thruway rest area, she was afraid to stop for fear her car would stall again. Indeed, further up the Thruway (once our convoy had reconstituted), Gretchen left her car idling as she refueled it, something that one is definitely not supposed to do.
By the time we made it to Katie's place in Saugerties, we were spent from the day's ordeal.
We'd been a little concerned that Gretchen's battery trouble on the road indicated some sort of fundamental electrical problem, but an hour or so after arriving tonight, I went out and started Gretchen's car and it seemed to be working okay.
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