Friday morning. The boxes were packed, the last stuff had been carried down from my room (almost), and my worldly possessions were piled into a rectangular section of floor, waiting to be loaded into the van. My wonderful librarian showed up to drive me to the UHaul place, and we headed off to North Philly. (Yes, I know that there are closer UHaul places. UHaul told me to go to that one.)
We arrived at THRIFT STORE on Luzerne street to find a lot of UHaul signs surrounding an unprepossessing warehouse. It wasn’t open. Okay, they opened at 10am; maybe it wasn’t quite ten yet. Some more people arrived and hung out waiting for the store to open, and eventually a woman came with keys.
The guy in charge of UHaul rentals wasn’t there yet, so we sat in the chilly hallway and shivered and chatted. Presently it became clear that the UHaul guy wasn’t going to show up for a while, and also that there wasn’t a van for me to take; was it all right if they gave me a 10′ truck, instead? I wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of a larger vehicle, but more storage space was not unwelcome, and anyway, what was I going to say, “No, I will sit here until you give me a van”? I had a vehicle to pack and upwards of three hours to drive, and it was already 10:30.
Driving home from North Philly was . . . harrowing. It was not so much that the truck was large and unfamiliar (it was) or that I had no sense of where the right side of the vehicle was (I didn’t), as that North Philly has an interesting approach to rules of the road at the best of times, and any time you are driving a UHaul truck is not the best of times. However, no pedestrians were run over, no bicycles were mowed down, no cars were hit, and no random stuff made contact with the truck. But I perhaps did not arrive home in the best frame of mind to park a truck on a relatively narrow street with no assistance, and caused a minor traffic jam until my family figured out what was going on and came outside to help flag.
Loading the truck went excellently. I had four marvelous people helping to carry stuff, we were done in two hours, and, in fact, if I were to identify problems, the greatest one would be that the assistants could carry boxes faster than I could figure out where to put them (since my oh-so-careful Furniture Tetris plan had been upset by the addition of about a foot of space in several directions). After lunch, I made my last sweeps of the house, we stuck a few more items in the back of the truck, and Isaac and I clambered in and headed off. Truck spacing relative to road width was a lot easier with a passenger to provide feedback, and I got enough of a sense of the mirrors to begin to judge for myself. We took Route 1 north.
One realized exactly how many potholes there are in a road when driving a truck containing everything one owns. It’s also a good way to figure out just exactly how long a road is. It was only 2:30 in the afternoon, but traffic was already pretty dense, and as I commented to Isaac, taking Roosevelt Boulevard out of the city is a really excellent way to be entirely ready to leave.
And that was before we almost had my first serious accident with a crazy driver who’d confused the definitions of “cut in front of” and “sideswipe.” (May I remind you that I was driving a 10′ truck? Admittedly, not the world’s largest truck, but considerably bigger than a compact car.) Apparently he wanted to get to the laundromat. I laid on both brakes and horn, and he lived to do his laundry.
It was with a good deal of relief that we reached the Pennsylvania Turnpike and left the state. New Jersey was uneventful, aside from our foray into a rest area. Since I was, technically, driving a truck, we took the “trucks” section at the divide, and found ourselves in an alternate universe full of absolutely enormous vehicles and very few parking spaces. Eventually we decided that there weren’t enough buses for anyone to mind if we parked at the very end of the line long enough to use the restroom — and realized while walking to the building that the Trucks Universe was distinctly lacking in gas pumps dispensing anything other than diesel. After a bit of investigation, we decided that a small section labeled “do not enter” would allow us to cross over into the cars side, and this was the last rest stop in New Jersey, and I wanted to buy gas before we left.
That worked just fine — until we were pulling out of the rest stop and I realized that the gas tank didn’t seem to be any fuller than when we’d entered. By the time Isaac confirmed that the fellow had only put a gallon of gas in the truck, we were already heading back to the highway, so we made some grumbling comments about mandatory full-service gas stations and headed over the bridge to Manhattan.
Which was . . . nowhere near as bad as I expected, considering that it was now 5pm on a Friday night. The roads were even worse than Philly (the whole trip, we could tell when we entered cities by the way the roads deteriorated), but aside from a few slowish miles, we got out of NYC much faster than I expected to, and spent a very pleasant evening with my friend Octopus Library (not her real name).
And that’s when I realized that my passport was still in Philadelphia.
To be continued . . .