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Category: The Voyage to Manheim Series

A road trip with my daughter

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

An unfortunate byproduct of my divorce is that I have two cars. Only one runs, but I have notes on both. I keep the note on the functioning car current. The other? Not so much.

The bank knows that the second car doesn’t run, but, as one might expect, they still want their money. I let the note slip for 3 months and that car, disabled as it is, promptly disappeared. After I checked David Blaine’s tour schedule to make sure he wasn’t in town, I called the bank and my worst fear was confirmed; my 4,700 lb. albatross had been repossessed!

After the four year nightmare I’ve been living, I didn’t bat an eyelash. I simply made the calls to learn how I could re-repossess my useless hunk of metal. I’ve about killed myself 3 times over the years pulling my credit out of quicksand. I couldn’t bear the thought of a repo hit against my FICO score…

I value the professionalism of the bank rep who so cheerfully informed me that my car had been transported to a facility some 70 miles from my home. Once I brought the loan current, she chirped, all I had to do was go pick it up. Well, jumpin’ Jehosaphat! Who knew it was that easy?

I paid the bill and made more calls to figure the least expensive way to retrieve the car. The quotes I got from the tow companies hurt my feelings so bad, I cried my way through a whole box of Kleenex. Upon regaining my composure, I tried to make peace with the idea that the car was gone for good. I really did. But my FICO score…

My daughter was a little under the weather last Wednesday, so she stayed home with me. I was cleaning up the breakfast dishes when it hit me…U-Haul! I’d rent a truck and auto transport and drag my lemon on home with my baby girl riding shotgun. We’d be back in time to pick my son up from school, easy-peasy!

Where do I get these cockamamie ideas?

I reserved the equipment at a U-Haul in Bordentown, New Jersey, then my baby girl and I were on the road like Willie Nelson. Once in Bordentown, we stopped at a check cashing place to buy a money order to cover the yard fee. To my disbelief, they didn’t accept debit cards or have an ATM.

What? Do they get their mail via Pony Express?

So I went to a nearby ShopRite. They didn’t have an ATM, either. For my purposes, they were definitely ShopRONG.

Frustrated but undaunted, I figured I’d grab the money order after we stopped at U-Haul. There had to be another check cashing place, Walmart or something nearby that was actually wired for electricity. Off to U-Haul we went…a half-hour behind schedule.

Once at U-Haul, I looked at the equipment and rubbed my jaw thoughtfully. I had never worked with these things before. Easy-peasy? Maybe not. It took the clerk and me 15 minutes to figure out how to get the truck connected to the auto transport. It wasn’t a big deal, but a little nuance was required. Off to the auto yard we went…now, 45 minutes behind schedule.

Google Maps showed that the yard, located in Manheim, New Jersey, wasn’t far. I went straight there figuring I’d see what the process was, find some place close to buy the money order, then seal the deal. Like I wrote, there had to be a place nearby.

The yard was absolutely sprawling. Thank God the streets were broad because I had to make a couple of wide u-turns in my 15-foot truck with trailer in search of the “redemption” lot. This is where they hold cars saved by their respective owners from auction and thus made available for pick up. I spotted my blue hulk sitting way off in the back. I called the yard office to ask where I could find a Walmart or financial institution to buy the doggone money order. “Oh, there’s one about 5 miles down the road, but there are a few banks even closer,” said the nice lady.

Banks overcharge for money orders, plus my baby needed a restroom. Off to Walmart we went…now, an hour and 15 minutes behind schedule.

I don’t know if the lady on the phone measures miles the same as everyone else, but it had to be 10 minutes before we saw so much as a strip mall. By then, Joss was telling me that any gas station would be fine. I saw some Brand-X joint coming up, so I pulled over. Joss climbed out of the cab like a spider down tree bark. I had to run around the front of the truck to track her down! By the time we spotted each other again, we had both figured the probable location of the restroom and made a bee-line toward it. We met near the door and Joss pushed it ajar.

Sunlight may never have revealed such filth confined to such small quarters. Joss and I locked eyes and immediately burst into laughter. “Umm, I think I can wait for Walmart” she giggled and back on the road to Walmart we went…now, 2 hours behind schedule.

At last, we found that fabled Walmart, took care of our business, and beat it back to the redemption lot. Once there, I handed the attendant my ID and the money order to set the stage for our reunion with the world’s biggest Matchbox car. Mission accomplished? Er, we’ll be right back after these messages, ladies and gentlemen.

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