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The "Quiet Cab Ride" Adventure, Part I
November 4, 2020
The “Quiet Ride Cab” Adventure
The leaves of our red maple have almost all fallen now, and it’s about time. The majority decided they’d had enough and tumbled down during the time I was away. There are only a few like tatters of cloth clinging to the branches. But they, like all the trees around my area, were glorious this year. I know, because this year I’ve had the time to marvel at them.
The agency where Notta and I taught has lost funding. Another, larger entity snapped it up, but I decided I had had enough. Close the chapter and move on, so to speak.
Notta and I stay in contact, even in these days of COVID-19 via telephone and Skype (Notta finds the other face-time communication platforms annoying: “I don’t need some machine program hovering over me like my mother with a timer.”) I spoke with her on Skype this week and commented on the leaves. “Yes, they were lovely,” she agreed. “I think even my mother would have loved it, even though she swore the best fall foliage had to be up in New England. She and my dad took trips every year to see it, after they retired.” She paused on that last word, then continued. “So, have you ever seen the leaves up north?”
“Oh yes,” I said. “Fairly recently.”
“It’s a long story,” I dodged.
Notta gave me that stern look she saved for reluctant students who insisted they’d learn about fractions later. Always later. “Are you on a timer?”
“Neither am I. Get on with it.”
First, I should explain that the trip to New England was not to see the leaves. We converged on a small town in Vermont in October to help our younger daughter move.
You may recall my saying that “move” is a four-letter word that sends shivers throughout my body when I hear it. Over nearly forty years of marriage, I’ve moved more times than I care to remember. The process is usually the same:
arrange for a moving truck of appropriate size for your belongings;
get help packing and loading said truck, unless you’re training for “America’s Strongest” and have muscle relaxants to spare;
pack the former life into boxes, transfer the boxes to the truck and drive the filled and unwieldy vehicle to the new life;
finally, empty the truck then boxes (always in that order) and begin again.
Generally, it passed in a blur up to the part where we had boxes to empty and figure out where something would fit in the new place and why in the name of Sanity did we hang on to so much junk.
However, this was not my move and, as I said, I had time now to reflect.
There were several early – say 6:30 a.m. – trips to hardware stores for supplies: boxes of all sizes; bubble wrap the color of blood oranges; dusty, slippery packing paper and rolls of packing tape that seemed perversely intent on sticking more to itself than the boxes. We never seemed to have the right amount of any of it, so we went back several times. As in, at one point, I wondered if we’d spent enough time chatting with the early shift clerks to start exchanging holiday cards.
The packing left me with sticky fingers, an aching back and a lot of questions.
What excursion or celebration did this mug or that decorated wine glass come from and why was there only one of each?
How many cookbooks does one person not running a restaurant need?
Will all those clothes be enough for the number of duffle bags she has?
If we tape them senseless, will the trays of cooking oils or cosmetics not spill all over the other items in the box?
And why does my daughter have so many shoes?
On our nightly phone calls, my husband applauded our efforts. Then he reminded us we needed not only to pack up, but to “stage” the boxes for transferring to the truck. Translation: haul the boxes and arrange them in a packable order in the room closest to the front door. We would do our best, even though I knew he would rearrange anything we did once he arrived on scene.
He and my son flew up from PA and South Carolina respectively the day before we got the truck. They surveyed the work, finished the packing (more glassware, I think) and re-staged our staging. I did what I seem to do best: stay out of the way and watch. In the end, I was struck by the wall of boxes, crates and other carriers. Was this the sum of my daughter’s life in Vermont?
I’ve always had the feeling that the procession from old home to truck needed some kind of ceremony. One life ending, another to begin, but I couldn’t tell you if it should be funerary in theme or a celebration. It simply seems to me something more should be done while the life in boxes parade out and then in. I don’t know, perhaps some chanting or praying, strewing of flower petals and, for those who like such stuff, some incense-waving. But the next morning, the closest we came to that was blue jay caws, fog and wet leaves on the ground.
Our daughter had arranged for the truck. My husband and son went to collect it, so she and I had time to discuss shifting all the boxes, a washer and dryer and other miscellaneous items via hand truck up the ramp and into the trailer, where they would be secured with ties and protected by heavy blankets. Then my husband and I would man the truck and drive the twelve hours back to Pennsylvania, while she finished up and drove her car down a few days later.
Then, with a monstrous growl and what I swear was a mechanical belch, the white moving truck arrived. It was clean enough and in black script on the cab doors, promised a quiet cab ride with room for three adults in the cab, My son jumped down from the passenger side and said they’d been a bit off-schedule because they’d had to stop and buy the ties. He added that they’d had to talk the dealer into providing the hand truck and there were perhaps undersized two blankets. He slammed the passenger door closed; the passenger side rearview mirror spun counter-clockwise like a pinwheel in a stiff breeze.
This did not bode well. Nor did the realization that there was no ramp. We were all going to train for the “Snatch and Lift” trials to get everything in the truck. I assured my husband that I had enough ibuprofen for the night ahead.
So it began. With a friend’s extra pair of hands, the loading took a scant four hours. My daughter had judged well the size of the truck needed and all was strapped in, down or whatever. The two blankets protected the little furniture she was taking. There was perhaps a hand’s breadth between the load and the tailgate when we finished…and discovered the tailgate had no lock.
Nevertheless, my husband decided we would leave immediately to get home the next day. We said our goodbyes – my son would fly back to South Carolina the next day – and climbed into the quiet ride cab.
There were two actual seats in the cab, both intent on improving our posture without adjustment. The dashboard covered the front of the cab like a frowning uni-brow, with the center drawn in between us and covering some part of the engine. The third seat seemed to be a plank (of wood or metal, I don’t remember now) with a covered foam cushion that was held flush with the wall by hooks. If released it would hang suspended by two chains directly over the joining of the dashboard’s “eyebrows.” It occurred to me that, should we have been three instead of two, the third person would have to ride without a seatbelt and, being a normal teenager to adult, in the fetal position.
My husband wet the suction cup to his old Garvin GPS, stuck it to the windshield and entered our home address. He asked me to adjust the rearview mirror on my (the passenger) side. It would not turn clockwise; the thing simply refused, so I finally twisted it counter-clock wise to his preferred angle. The engine roared again. The cab shook a bit, the gears ground, the rearview mirror spun and we were off.