By H.G. Miller
The guy at the Uhaul place didn’t act surprised.
To be honest, he hadn’t shown much emotion that morning when I gave him my credit card and signed about fourteen different forms promising not to steal the truck, damage the truck, or actually use the truck for its intended purpose in any way at all.
He was the kind of guy you could tell didn’t want this job. Manning the desk at a Uhaul rental center at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Maybe his education had stopped somewhere after high school and before the welding certificate. He’d grown his hair out and let it do the dreadlock thing, eliminating even the most liberal of food-service jobs.
He’d cornered himself into this career path, and I didn’t feel sorry for him. I just wanted the truck so I could move my stuff and get on with my life.
“Fill it with gas,” he told me as I left his counter.
“I need to return it full?” I asked, having been trained to do so by the rental car industry.
“No,” he told me in that deadpan way of his, “the gas gauge is broken. I don’t know how much is in there. So, just to be safe, you might want to put some gas in.”
“Will it make it off the lot?” I asked, trying to be funny so early in the morning.
“I hope so.”
I would like to think that his hope was for my well-being as a fellow traveler on planet earth, but I think he was just hoping he wouldn’t have to actually get out from behind that counter and exert any more energy than the minimal amount required.
So, an hour later, we were pulling into the gas station to put in a few bucks for the sake of security. I put the truck into reverse to get a little closer to the gas pump and waited for the lurch that usually accompanies such a task.
“What is it?” my friend asked.
“We’re not moving.”
“Are we supposed to be?”
“Since I put the gear shift in to reverse,” I said, “I was thinking we might go backwards.”
“Sounds logical. Try putting it in park and starting over.”
That seemed like a pretty simple solution. Reset the machine. Start clean. So, I shifted into park and lifted my foot of the brake to take a breath.
Only, now the truck lurched backwards.
“Whoa!” we both chimed in.
The truck edged forward. I got to the spot I wanted.
“Park?” I asked.
“Got me,” my friend shrugged. “What kind of demon machine did they rent you?”
I ignored his question and put the gear shift into park. This time the truck settled nicely and idled in place. I turned off the engine and got out to fill up.
After breathing in fumes to the tune of five bucks, I got back into the cab of the truck and engaged the ignition.
“You’re kidding, right?” my friend asked.
I tried a few more times, and then decided it was time to call my directionless friend behind the counter.
“Uhaul. This is Tim. How may I be of service.”
God, no wonder he was so depressed.
“Hey, Tim. I rented a truck from you this morning, and I’m having some troubles.”
Wow, he didn’t even hesitate.
“Um, yeah. But, we’re past that. Now, it won’t start.”
“Have you turned the key in the ignition?”
“Do you think I would have called without trying that first?”
Tim took a breath and asked again.
“Have you turned the key in the ignition.”
The guy really had no sense of humor.
“Yes, of course.”
“Did it make a clicking sound?”
“Jam the gearshift all the way up and try it then.”
I did as I was told and the beast ignited.
“Okay,” I said. “Thanks.”
“Happens all the time. Let me know if it gives you any more trouble.”
“Is there anything else I should be expecting?”
“Nah. It sounds like it’s going pretty good now.”
“So, just out of curiosity,” I wasn’t sure I wanted to ask this… “what should I do if there’s a clicking sound?”
“Just get out and run.”