If one were keeping score, say Ups versus Downs, even though no players were injured on the field during my move from Kansas to Oregon, the negatives were far outscoring the positives. The Downs made the first point in Topeka when I rented a Jartran truck and the asshole at the agency refused to show me how the towing contraption worked. He claimed that the company’s liability insurance forbade him from doing so. The mechanism looked more like hobbles used to immobilize a cow during branding. It took my friend Dan and me several hours of grief before we were able to hitch my old VW bus to the truck.
The Downs kept scoring with lost keys, getting lost in Denver, mechanical problems with the truck, horrible food, bad motel room, a blowout on the bus, and a tire salesman trying to rip us off in Rock Springs, the Gem of Wyoming.
It was early afternoon, hot and dusty as we drove past Green River in western Wyoming, and neither of us had spoken more than ten words since we left Rock Springs some one hundred miles behind us. Dan was at the wheel and pushing the truck hard as we attempted to make up some of the time we’d lost due to our trail of misfortunes. By the time we crossed the Utah state line, the sun’s late rays were streaming in below the windshield visor. The dry, brown landscape turned a chalky sepia in the fading light. The sagebrush gave off a smoke-musk fragrance. In other circumstances we might have appreciated the beauty of the scene.
Ok, one point for the Ups, the weather had been fantastic.
Aside from a slight dip on the oil pressure gauge, it had been running high anyway, the truck seemed to be running as well as an overworked vehicle of that age and milage could be expected. The fuel consumption was way over what seemed reasonable, but then my only comparison was a VW bus that averaged about 30 mpg and a Rabbit that was getting close to 40 on the highway. The Jartran rental was loaded with my junk and pulling the afore mentioned bus, and great fuel economy was not to be imagined. However, my next credit card bill was something that continued to be of concern.
The western sky turned pink with a few purple clouds when the first billboards started appearing suggesting motels and gas stations near Salt Lake City appeared, and it was full dusk as we pulled onto Interstate 15 heading north. The traffic became heavier, but it was much easier and less confusing than what we’d faced around Denver. There was no diversions through Salt Lake, and we were able put off getting gas until the reading on the fuel gauge suggested we stop in the town of Bountiful. After filling up at the Texaco station, we stopped at a Taco Bell, where we picked up some belly bloating burritos with acidic coffee.
Back on the road, devouring our bean-filled delights and swilling the lukewarm, but jolting coffee, we continued our journey north toward Idaho. With our caffeinated buzz, the darkness did not seem as daunting, and the traffic seemed to be thinning out. The way we felt, it seemed that Oregon was just over the hill, but of course, the Interstate was flat and the distance was going to wear us out.
It was near Ogden that our fine dining began to catch up with us, and the truck cab atmosphere became thick and odiferous. Both windows were quickly rolled down and the dry, cold air of the Utah desert ventilated us, but left us chilled. So we drove several miles with the heater on high, windows down until the next exit with a gas station could be seen.
The truck wheels were still turning when Dan wrenched his door open, jumped out and ran toward the men’s restroom, only to find it locked. He waddled into the station, picked up the key and with very small but fast steps scooted back to the toilet.
I might have laughed at the sight, but I was trying not to fill my own pants. There was no way that I could wait for Dan to finish his business, and I was sure that I was going to have to loosen my load in the parking lot. Then I noticed a woman coming out of the ladies’ john and that she left the door ajar. This was no time for niceties, nor did I look to see if anyone was watching. In the nick of time I was on the throne giving thanks that there was a full roll of toilet paper on the dispenser. I also gave my thanks to St. Christopher that nobody came in to disturb my meditations.
I felt much lighter, even energetic and a bit smug as I washed my hands, but as I opened the door to leave the ladies toilet I met, immediately outside, a rather large, stern looking woman with a key in her hand, ready to insert it into the lock. She wore a pink sweatshirt with a picture of Minnie Mouse and had a shock of brownish hair that looked as if it had been combed with an angry cat. The glare of malevolence through her thick lenses could not been mistaken. She was ready to take me down.
With my quick thinking and wit I said,”Uh, hi. Um, wrong toilet. You might want to wait a few minutes before going in there.”
I stepped around her large person while her head turned like an owl’s, and I waited for a chop to my neck, but I made it back to the truck without harm. I did not look back.
Dan looked rather pale, and rather disquieted. Not angry at all, which was unusual. I asked him if he felt all right, not that I could actually do anything about anything.
“Just let’s get the fuck out of here. Jesus Christ, I don’t know how you always talk me into shit like this.”
I knew right away that he was going to be fine.