Sunday, April 01, 2007

The End

Warning...this last part is LONG.



As traffic backed up behind him, Ben did his best to get his wagon out of the intersection and into the way station that was just down the road. After much prayer, supplication, blood sacrifices, and then the most potent of entreaties (the omnipotent swear words) it was back under way. With much lurching, stuttering, and near deaths, he made it to his "new" destination. A "pop" of the hood showed no glaring problems. Checking the fluids showed everything fine. There was no sign that anything was wrong, and yet, like an aneurism in the brain, Ben's current mode of transportation was dead. He had been given a number to contact in case of breakdown should it ever, God Forbid, occur. After many wasted conversations, he finally got a hold of someone that might be able to help. The good news was that they could not find where he was. The helpful person on the other end searched for his current location. Nowhere to be found.
"Where are you?"
"The intersection of Hwy 59 and Hwy 169, just south of Garnett Kansas."
"I'm not seeing that that intersection. Did you say you were in Colorado?"

Ben was thinking "WTF?"

"NO, Kansas. I am broken down in the middle of KANSAS."
"You sure you're not in Nebraska?"
"Listen lady. I am in Kansas. The south end of Garnett. In Kansas. At the junction of Hwy 59 and Hwy 169"
"Oh, I thought you said..."
"Whatever, just get me a mechanic. Tell him I am at the Conoco gas station at the corner of Hwy 59 and 169"
"Okay sir. We will give you a call in 45 minutes to tell you when to expect some help."

Click.

"What the heck? 45 minutes? It's 3:30 in the afternoon. How the crap am I supposed to get this P.O.S. fixed and on the road if I am supposed to be informed of "When" to expect help at 4:15?"

To add insult to injury, the rain that had been misting all day long was turning to sleet. After an interminable HOUR, Ben called back to the oh-so-helpful moron he had been talking to before.

"Hi, my name is Ben, here is my "service" number. I was wondering when a tow-truck was showing up to help me."
"We aren't showing anything by that number."
"WHAT?"
"No sir. Could I have your name and phone number?"
"Here you go."
"Hmmm...let's see...nope. Nothing under that. You say you are broken down in a U-Haul?"
"Yes."
"Did you call our 800 number?"
"Yes, and they kicked me over to you."
"Okay, what vehicle are you using?"
"This one."
"Ooohh, got it. Yessir, your mechanic should show up in an hour and a half."
"Excuse me? An hour and a half? I am one mile out of Garnett, how is that going to take so long?"
"Well sir, you did call at the end of the business day."
"No, I called mid-day."
"Well, he will get to you." CLICK.

Ben calls back two minutes later.

"Where exactly is this mechanic coming from?"
"Lebo"
"Huh?"
"Lebo Kansas."
"Ookaayyy."

An hour later the mechanic shows up, driving his tow-truck. Ben and he converse a bit, look at the engine, watch and listen to how it runs, and both concur that it is probably a plugged fuel filter. Seems that U-Haul does not maintain worth beans...as is evidenced by the black-as-soot air filter. Once hooked up, Ben is back on the road, riding shot-gun to "knight in shining armour" (if you will). "Hey, could you drop me off at a good hotel in Lebo?"
"Ah, no."
"Why not?"
"There isn't one"
"Isn't one what?"
"Nice hotel. The only one in town is pretty bad."
"Is there one in the area?"
"Yeah, in BETO. It's about 12 miles down the road from Lebo."

After a couple of phone calls to other mechanics, it is worked out that Ben will stay at said hostel in Beto Junction, and will borrow a vehicle from a mechanic there to drive out to Lebo to pick up his wagon after he gets a phone call telling him it is fixed.

Beto turns out to be nothing. It is not a town. Not a village. Not even a cluster of huts. It's sole reason for existence is to provide a rest point for people such as Ben. Three restaurants, one garage, two gas stations, and said hostel. It's name doesn't really exist either, since Beto is the first letter from each of the four towns in the surround area. The hostel was at least clean, and Ben was able to be sated from hunger at one of the restaurants. Since he was getting everything reimbursed by U-haul, he was extravagant with payment for food. Normally a good tipper, he went above board and tipped the price of the meal. He knew that in the end, he would have worked out to paying for the meal and not leaving a tip. The next morning was the same thing. After eating, he called the mechanic and found out that: yes, it was a clogged fuel filter, and no he would not need to borrow the arranged truck. The wagon was being brought out to him. Finally...things were turning around.

The rain that had turned to sleet the previous day had deteriorated even further and had dropped an inch of snow at Ben's location. This made his next stage of driving rather slow. Actually, it was beyond slow at first. Creeping down the road at a third of his previous speed, Ben was cursing the heavens that a 3 hour trip was going to take him all day. Luckily, the road cleared out more and more so that after just a short stint he was able to pick up his pace to equal that of the day before. All went well for many hours. Boring hours. There is no radio coverage in that part of the US. None. Finally, he entered Iowa...and the roads got terrible. Seems that that area had received almost a foot of snow and after 14 hours of non-stop work, the roads were only just becoming passable. So, once again, it was a crawl.

"Welcome to Nebraska: Home of Arbor Day"

No other sign was as beautiful as that. Ben was almost home. He could "taste" it. And then he almost died.

The road conditions at this time were marginal at best. One lane fully cleared, the other mostly so. Every once in a while you would encounter a drifting of snow that had escaped plowing. As Ben powered past a slow moving line of cars and tractor trailers, he noticed that up in the distance, his lane was no longer clear...but in fact completely drifted over. He sped up. So did the trailer rig. He sped up more, so did the rig. The jackass driver in the rig that was now racing Ben had been going 45 mph before. He and Ben were now neck and neck entering Turn 8 getting ready for the race down the long home stretch to the checkered flag at Turn 9, that was the snow drift, and nearing 80 mph. Ben realized finally, that passing in time, was not going to happen.

Time

Slowed

Down.

All Ben's previous winter training started running through his mind. Scenarios played out in the IMAX of his brain. Everything pointed to one thing. Only one plan would result in Ben NOT being strewn all over the surrounding countryside. His path was shown to him. He was riding a razor's edge of control. Even the slightest deviation would result in his friends and family getting the dreaded message, "Your son/brother/friend was in a serious accident." His one hope was to coast through the snow, trying to stay straight, while making the turn. An oxymoron? Perhaps, but he had to do the best he could, even if he was an ox...and a moron.

Foot off the gas, hands at 10 and 2 for maximum control, seat belt snugged as tight as it would go, center of lane, wheels straight...and impact.


As the saying goes, a plan is what you have until you meet the enemy. The snow was NOT as he expected. One side of the rather long stretch of snow was firmly packed down, the other side...well; let's say it was a skier’s dream, the most beautiful powder on the planet. No-sir, you are NOT going to stay in a straight line if you keep the wheels straight.

Everyone has seen the movies were a small, light souped up car kicks out the back tires going around a corner. Always there is a lot of room for that to happen. Ben got to see how that looked/felt when you are driving a 27 foot, under loaded boat, and you have only 9 feet to play with before you contact the rather immovable vehicle right next to you.

Stay off the gas, don't even THINK about touching that brake, steer into the slide, don't over steer, watch your exit point, and straighten out the wheels just before you get back to asphalt. Time stops. An eternity between hear-beats. Whole solar systems are born and die in the time and space it takes for the front tires to transition for snow to dry ground. All plans, hopes, and dreams hinge on the next split instant.

Is...he...straight? If so, there is a happily ever after. If not...well, nobody likes to think about that possibility too much.

THUMP...BA-THUMP...BADDA-THUMP...Squeak. With one little chirp of tortured rubber, one little tail-wiggle, one last shake, Ben is once again on the gas, going down the road, passing the trucker, and giving him the middle finger the whole while. He is alive. Heart hammering to beat the band, blood pressure through the roof, adrenaline pouring through his veins by the gallon, Ben vows to not pass another vehicle until he gets home.

By the time he makes Lincoln, his heart has finally slowed, his hands no longer shake, the cold-sweat has dried from his brow, and then...he is home. No words can express his gratitude or his thankfulness.

After a couple of days to unpack and run some other moving errands, it is time to drop off the wagon. It is "now" that he finds out the true nature of "re-imbursement."

"Here are my receipts from the breakdown."
"Okay, let's see here. Hotel…good. What are these two?"
"My meals."
"Meals?"
"Yes, I had to buy supper and breakfast because of breaking down."
"We don't reimburse meals."
"Why not?"
"Because you would have eaten anyway."
"I wouldn't have eaten out. The only reason why I ate out was because I wasn't able to make it home that night. Because I broke down. If I hadn't broken down, I would have eaten a nice home-cooked meal for dinner, and then had cereal or eggs and bacon, cooked on my own stove I might add, for breakfast."
"We still won't give you your money."
"Why not?"
"Because you would have eaten anyway."
"WHAT? Did you not just hear me? Forget it, just give me my freakin' bill, and my storage room."

Ben no longer cared. He was home, he was safe, and he still had some coinage in his pocket. Life was good...if only he had a girlfriend. But “That” is a different story.

14 comments:

jonathan l. whitt said...

hey man...U-Haul sucks. One time a U-Haul guy punked off to my wife. I went inside and he proceeded to do the same thing to me. I told him it was probably not a good idea to talk to a guy's wife the way he talked to mine. Long story short I showed him what holy anger looks like and then I showed him what UN-Holy anger looks like. He threatened to have me arrested. I told him that if he'd just get us a vehicle that worked, we'd leave his forsaken town. Stupid U-haul

Indiagirl said...

oh my. great to FINALLY hear the end of the story!!

scottieb said...

wow! nice to know of this history ben. well written, too. if you should ever need to move again, do not use uhaul. i've also had bad experiences with them. glad to hear you're not strewn all over the country side. cheers . . ..

The Chad said...

haha...moving stories....arent' they grand??

aubrey payne said...

moral of the story? uhaul sucks!!!
glad you safe though, dude.

Julia said...

Ben, why are you writing in 3rd person? Is it because it's more fun to talk like you WEREN'T there, or is it because there is a lot of emotion packed into those few hour?
anyway, I second what Aubs said,. I'm glad that you're safe. And I'll remember that Uhaul sucks, or was it God teaching you something maybe? Anyway, How is your new job? Everything that you thought it would be? Or better? It would be soooo nice to live that close to family. Especially with Crystal right there. I miss you all so bad right now, I guess I'm going through a low spot right now.
Take care, Julz

Zhenya, Danyelle & Jaida said...

Finally, the end of your story. Yeah, U-Hual does suck. What's with the use of all those profanities?

thebarefootpoet said...

Man, that is crazy! I feel ashamed for having had good experiences with U Haul. NEVER FEAR...I shan't ever have a good experience with them again! You used much less profanities than I would have: )

Jonathan said...

I would like to bring to your attention a single statement from your AWESOME story... "Is he straight?". Not exactly the best phrasing. Come on now, can you blame me for bringing that to light? You know you couldn't have passed up such an opportunity! :o)

Jonathan said...

Which apparently the answer to the question is yes since it was a happily ever after!

LiteratureLover said...

ROTFL!! I loved your story! You are an incredible writer. I was hooked the entire time. It was hilarious (well, to me, I'm sure it wasn't too funny at the time)!

BTW - My experience with UHAUL has been horrible as well. I despise that company.

Julia said...

Ben, are you going to update us all, and tell us how the end of the move went? I mean, getting to the place is only part of it, what about moving in and getting back in the grove of things. ;)
Julz

Indiagirl said...

Hello, hello! Are we ever going to hear what's happening in your life now!? I'm getting so you never respond to anything except direct phone calls!! What's up with that dude??

scottieb said...

first guy: hey, what's a blog for again?

second guy: for blogging.

first guy: oh yeah.