Tue, 11 Aug 2009 00:32:00 +0000
To: The U-Haul employee
Subject: Thank you
You might remember me. I was the kid with the, uh, broken mirror. So before I tell you what happened, you should know a few things:
I’d never driven in New York City — until last weekend.
And I’d never driven a U-Haul — until last weekend.
I was moving, so I went to the U-Haul company and rented the 10-foot truck from you. I climbed into the elevated seat and I tapped the accelerator, perhaps too gingerly, because the 6,000 lb mammoth didn’t budge.
“Don’t be scared,” you said. “Put some force into it.”
With my manhood questioned, I firmly pressed the pedal. The machine inched forward. I wanted to show you I was a real man, so I pushed harder. It roared onto the New York City pavement.
I am Alvin. I am man.
I contemplated calling my mom and my girlfriend to brag about how easily I was controlling this machine. There’s nothing that makes you feel more like a man than thrusting a huge hunk of metal with the flick of a toe.
When I got to my apartment, I carefully positioned the truck to parallel park. I’d been replaying this moment over and over in my head because, as much as I criticize other people for not being able to parallel park, I’d only successfully done it once in my life. It was during my driver’s ed test. Anyway, I slowly backed into the spot, remembering everything I’d learned about this urban science when…
I kicked the brakes and looked at my rear-view mirror — there was none. U-Haul’s, of course, don’t have rear-view mirrors. “That’s OK,” I thought. “Real men don’t need rear-view mirrors.”
So I looked at my right-hand side mirror. I saw that I’d scraped the trunk of a tree with the corner of the truck. The bark had splintered all over the sidewalk. But, I thought, if a truck hits a tree on an empty street, did it really hit the tree?
I re-parked the truck and waited for my movers and my cousin, Jen, who probably had no idea what she was getting herself into. “You just need to watch the truck,” I’d told her earlier.
My movers showed up, and they quickly shoveled my life’s possessions into the U-Haul. While this was happening, my cousin and I almost got hit by a stray water balloon that seemed to have been dropped by God himself. But, of course, it missed us by a few inches. Luck, probably. A premonition, too.
When my movers were done, I arranged to meet them at my new apartment; my cousin and I jumped into the U-Haul to drive seven miles downtown.
At first, I was cautious driving down the street because I’d been having a recurring nightmare about hitting a small boy who ran into the street chasing an ice cream truck. But I gained more confidence every second I avoided that proverbial little boy — either that, or I’d already hit him and didn’t feel it.
With a surge of bravery pulsating in my veins, I got on the highway. Then, just as quickly, I got off when I hit traffic.
But, oh I was an amateur. I learned that a lot of highway traffic is better than a little local congestion.
Angry with myself, I roared back toward the highway and aimed the U-Haul at the on-ramp. I slammed down the accelerator to merge with the fast moving sports cars zooming on FDR Drive.
Then, moving at 45 mph, I heard a loud bang.
Did I hit the kid?
I looked at my left mirror. I saw nothing behind me. I look at my right mirror. I saw… nothing. It was missing — the mirror, that is. The whole thing has been sliced, clean off.
I kept driving. My first thought: I hope no one saw that — how embarrassing: a man who can’t drive a truck. My second thought: I wonder how much U-Haul mirrors are.
I couldn’t see anything to the right. I couldn’t change to the right lane, I couldn’t make right turns and I didn’t even want to drive to close to the right barrier. In fact, I didn’t even was to be a writer anymore.
Plus, what was I going to tell the U-Haul guys? I tried out a few excuses on my cousin.
Me: “When we got off the highway, the mirror was just missing.”
Me: “The mirror just fell off on the highway.”
Her: More laughter.
Me: “I hit a sign.”
Her: Hilarity ensues.
Eventually, I got to my new apartment. The movers got everything in my room, and then I drove the U-Haul back to the lot.
I looked you, Mr. U-Haul, straight in the face, and with all my might, I squeezed out the most somber sentence I’d ever recited in my life: “I was driving on the highway and the mirror — it, it… just fell off.”
It was, technically, true.
I was on the highway. Truth.
The mirror fell off. Truth.
You looked up, then out the window at the truck. “Hmm.”
You went outside, examined the truck wound and came back in. You looked down at your paper with an amused look on your face, knowing exactly how that mirror was smashed off, and you said, “OK, sounds good. You’re good to go.”
So, Mr. U-Haul, thank you.