Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Updates From The Heartland: The Move Pt. 8

(Now it's more like "War & Peace" and "Crime And Punishment", lengthwise I mean.)

It was now 3:00 p.m. Packing up the truck had taken longer than planned, and now I had to drive back to U-Haul, and get them to hitch the trailer, load the car onto the then-hitched trailer and start the actual drive. Now that the truck was full it drove a bit less agilely than it had on the way to the apartment, and needed more distance between me and the drivers ahead of me when I had to hit the brakes.

I pulled into U-Haul fifteen minutes later with no further incident, drove up to the main office and stepped out of the cabin. It had been blisteringly hot all day, and this had not changed though it was getting into the late afternoon. The weather had been nice and balmy all summer and spring, but we were currently in the middle of the summer's first real heat wave. This made everything more complicated, especially as I was to travel with live animals, which was constantly on my mind. (No matter what I did, or how careful I was I couldn't get the stories of poodles basically baking to death in locked cars out of my mind. I wouldn't be that guy!)

I locked the truck (even though, realistically what could actually happen in U-Haul's parking lot?), but cracked the windows as much as I could so the cats could get some fresh air. Then I hit the ground, and walked to the office.

Once again the loitering day laborers all flocked to me to ask if I needed any additional help? I had to tell them no thanks once again. They looked at me with disappointment and, I believe, some anger.

Once inside I waited in line once more. It moved along with Soviet-style alacrity, better befitting a bread line or the Motor Vehicles Department. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Eventually it was my turn, though, and I thrust my reservation, once more, at the woman behind the counter. As before she showed no surprise, or interest, as she took my papers.

After a few moments she told me that I would need to grab someone named Antoine (not his real name) and he would take over from there. "He's out front," she said as she handed me back my various receipts.

I went out front and in a rare turn of events Antoine was actually where she said he would be. He was a clean cut Latino guy in his mid-20s, and was both professional and friendly. I told him about how I would need help loading the car onto the dolly once it was hooked up. Apparently it was against company policy to help customers actually load the dolly ("for insurance reasons," he said) but he saw the desperate look in my eyes and said he would try.

"Where's your car?" he asked. Right near the U-Haul offices I said. Okay, he told me, get it, drive it into the lot out back and then back the truck into the lot. I thought the latter might be hard to do, but said okay.

After I pulled the car into the lot it was time to get the truck in. I walked back to the main lot in front of U-Haul's offices, suffering the stares, once more, of the loitering day laborers and started up the truck. The cats meowed non-stop, of course, and this did not exactly help my already frayed nerves as I pulled the truck out of the front parking lot's side entrance, and drove down the narrow side street to the lot out back. When I say narrow I mean it, it was perhaps 20 feet wide. Backing in the truck would be quite the challenge.

A challenge, it turns out, I was not up to. I tried, but it was impossible to get the clearance necessary to drive out past the narrow parking lot entryway, cut the wheel and back in. For starters cars lined both sides of the street and made it even narrower still. In fact right in front of the entryway on the other side of the street was a parked limousine. How he managed to get that spot is an eternal mystery. If he hadn't been there I might have been able to do it, but it was a no go as is.

I had no choice, I would have to drive around the block again. This took longer than you might think it would because it was Brooklyn, and traffic was everywhere. Once around the block I once again stopped the truck -- risking the ire of the drivers behind me -- in front of the entryway and told Antoine that I just couldn't do it.

"That's okay," he said, "I just thought it would make it easier." To my relief he got into the cabin and drove the truck in nose wise, and then did an 80-point turn so that it was finally turned around and the front of the truck faced the street.

Then Antoine got out, and I climbed back in. Once in I had to move the seat up, of course. This guy looked my height, I don't get it. Anyway, then he grabbed a large car trailer and wheeled it around and around until its front was at the back of the truck. From there he commenced to hook it up. It's a more complicated operation than you might think, one that I am grateful U-Haul does for its customers. It took about 15 minutes, tick-tock.

From there we moved onto the part of the job that he shouldn't have helped me with but did, the loading of the car. I started up the Honda (the insides of which were already like 120 degrees) and slowly nosed it up to the extended trailer rails. The track was not wide, and there was no room for error. It was also rather steeply inclined so I would have to step on the gas a bit to get it up.

Antoine guided me up, similarly to how the oil change guys do it, telling me to go a little left, a little right, I'm sure you can imagine it. Soon the car was mounted up top, much to my relief. Then I put on the parking break and tried to get down. But I couldn't because I couldn't open the door. You see the trailer had a movable fender that could be raised or lowered, and for now it was raised, meaning that when I tried to open the door it would only open about three inches. Antoine waved at me, and released something that allowed him to lower it so I could open the door and get out. From there he put various straps and chains over the car's front tires (seriously I was supposed to do all this myself?) and soon enough the car was secure.

I was so grateful I didn't know what else to do so I tipped him $7. It wasn't much, I realize, and he had done me quite the solid. Then he said goodbye and walked back up the block to the main office.

Now the trip could FINALLY begin. I climbed back in the cab, adjusted my mirrors, readjusted the seat, and turned the keys in the ignition.


The engine made a gagging sound as it barely started to turn. Then it died again. What? This had to be some kind of weird hallucination, this couldn't be real. I had just driven around the block. I took a moment, gathered my wits and tried again. Again, nothing, the truck just would not start. Oh double shit.

I admit, at this point I started to freak out a bit. What to do, what to do? Thankfully I was actually at the U-Haul headquarters, so I guess this was the best play for this to happen? I guess?

Next Time: Was this the best place for this to happen?

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