Defending Dads

You're doing your jobs. You and your kids deserve better.

Voyage to Manheim II: Dead Weight

So there were Joss and I sitting in our U-Haul just outside the redemption lot gate. The car we were there to move is a Saturn Outlook, a mid-size SUV with a curb weight of 4,700 lbs. It doesn’t even run and some sadistic creep dropped the thing 200 feet into the lot.

Joss had her tablet. She showed only casual interest in the difficulties we now faced, but I was consumed with them. It was now 2:00 PM, which made it unlikely we would be on time to pick Juice up from school. Of no less concern was just how I was going to get the blue behemoth from the back of the lot, out of the gate and then, up onto the transport. With the understanding that God looks out for babies and fools, one of each being seated in that truck, I jumped down from the cab and approached the lot attendant.

He was a big kid and, fortunately, had a bigger heart. When I told him that the car doesn’t run, he offered to push it all the way up onto the transport. I was skeptical but I loved his spirit. We walked back to the Saturn. I threw open the driver’s door ready to push and steer. That’s when it occurred to me that the power steering went out over a year ago. Once we got started, turning that wheel proved to be like pushing a car inside of the car we were already pushing!

Generally, I feel pretty spry, but then and there, I felt every day of 48-years old…and maybe 10 years plus.

Between the flashes of white light I saw with every labored breath I took, I thought of my Joss sitting in the U-Haul and what she would do without her daddy, whose heart was sure to burst through his ribcage at any moment.

Once we got a little momentum going, the kid told me I should just hop in and steer. Either delirium brought on by the stress of exertion or some misbegotten sense of comradery caused me to grunt through clenched teeth “Nah, bro. We’re gonna do this together.”

At last, we got the thing to the gate. After pausing to catch our breath and wipe our foreheads, the kid and I shared that “we knew we had this” look guys do after accomplishing something exceedingly difficult (or foolish) without an occurrence of accidental death or dismemberment.

Suddenly feeling very macho — and happy to be alive — I tossed out to the kid “You play football?” He replied that he did.

“Line?” I threw back. The kid nodded and added “D”.

“Nose tackle?” Another nod.

You just know we were all pumped up. See, a guy’s vocabulary shrinks in direct proportion to any surge in his sense of virility at a given moment. Had we done anything more, we would have been reduced to grunting at each other until someone walked away.

After our tender moment of reflection, a glance at the waiting truck snapped me back to reality. I would now need to line the transport up with the wheels of the Saturn, drop the ramps, push the Saturn up onto the transport, then secure it. All in a day’s work.

I had no experience maneuvering trailers at this point. I would learn with some difficulty that steering a trailer in reverse is counter-intuitive. As Joss watched a dozen of the inscrutable videos posted to YouTube for the consumption of modern children, I made a dozen attempts to line up the transport.

I was trembling with frustration when Joss had the nerve to ask “Daddy, why do you keep going back and forth?” Only my love for my baby killed the knee-jerk response that nearly escaped my chapped lips. She’s only 8, after all. Now had she been 9…

Another yard employee was now on the scene. This was a lady and she guided me as I steered the trailer. I began to feel uneasy. Two human subjects simultaneously exhibiting compassion? At an auto yard, no less? Were they trying to gain our trust before attempting to abduct us? Would Joss and I be the main course at some macabre Memorial Day barbecue in the wilds of central New Jersey? I blinked away the paranoia. This was no time for a panic attack. The trailer was finally in position. I jumped out of the truck and dropped the ramps.

The kid and I got behind the Outlook and resumed pushing. The yard lady continued to direct our efforts. Then, against all odds, a third person showed up, another burly guy. We worked out that the kid and the burly guy would push the Outlook while I steered the front wheels onto the ramps with the yard lady’s guidance. The two guys weren’t enough to get the truck up the ramps. I jumped out of the Outlook to push with the guys; yard lady took my place at the wheel.

After several tries, we got the Outlook onto the transport — to a point. There was one last hump we just could not get over and we were all gassed. While we were trying to figure our next move, what should happen but yet a fourth person showed up, this one behind the wheel of a…tow truck!

The wrecker was just the type you want to see when your car is in a ditch on some obscure state route between towns at 2:30 AM on a Tuesday morning. He was cheerfully brusque and looked at the other yard workers incredulously as if to ask “why didn’t you call me sooner?” Clearly, he was ready to resolve this non-issue and move on to rescue other, more deserving motorists in distress. To me, he might as well have been Christ resurrected.

In what seemed like seconds, he had the Outlook hooked up to a tow line. With the pull of a lever, 4,700 lbs. lurched forward into place on the transport. We affixed the straps of the transport to the tires of the Outlook as the wrecker barked out for me the rudiments of auto transport safety. Joss remained in the cab of the U-Haul all this time, doubtless drawn into a hypnotic state by the arcane content of those freakish YouTube videos.

Suddenly, the ordeal was over. Joss and I were homeward bound.

Before I jumped into the cab to take off, I shook hands with each of my four saviors and made sure to get their names. Thanks to them, this impossible task was getting done and no one expected a thing for her/his trouble.

Kill that noise.

I had to return the U-Haul equipment and pick up my functioning car the next day. I couldn’t do much for these wonderful people, but I made sure to stop at the local Denny’s where I bought a gift card for each.

Mission accomplished.



Voyage to Manheim


Damned Good Sense


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