I’ve now been in my Lancaster apartment for almost a month, and little by little I furnished it. All I was missing was my stuff. That was all in two storage lockers back in New Hyde Park, NY. My brother made a trip here and loaded up his car with some of my stuff, but there was still a mountain of it undisturbed.
It became quite obvious that moving it one carload at a time would take about 200 years. So, I called Allied Van Lines and they gave me a quote of $2200, their absolute rock-bottom minimum. $600 for the truck and $100 per hour for two men for 8 hours. I estimate that the total value of all my stuff was less than $2,200, maybe about $2,000 less, so that did not seem like a good plan.
I called U-Haul and found that I could rent a truck in New York and return it in Lancaster for about $300. That seemed like a much better plan. The only problem is that I don’t have a driver’s license. I have a New York State Non-Driver’s License solely for ID purposes. At the request of everyone who had ever ridden in a car I was driving, I stopped renewing my Driver’s License back when Jimmy Carter was the President. It is a move I have never regretted, until now.
I needed somebody to drive the truck, and most of the people I’ve met in town are barmaids, who would only go to New York, load a truck, and drive it to Lancaster if I held a gun to their head, and even then they might not do it. Besides, the last time I had a gun was when I was in Boot Camp and they were trying to teach me how to defend the country. So, that was out of the question.
The only other person I know in town is Joe Becker, the guy who sold me most of the second-hand furniture that I now possess. They deliver for free, and I noticed he had a lot of different guys working for him. I asked him if any of his employees would like to earn a few bucks by driving a U-Haul from New York to Lancaster. He told me he didn’t have any guys working for him.
“Who are those guys who help you make deliveries?” I asked him.
He told me that whenever he needed help he called the men’s shelter in town and there was always somebody who would deliver a couch, a bed, or any other piece of furniture for a pack of cigarettes.
I asked him to call the shelter for me and see if there was anyone willing to take the trip with me for a carton of cigarettes.
Duane volunteered, but he wanted cash. He didn’t need cigarettes, because he rolled his own. I thought that meant he smoked pot, but he explained that he gets a pouch of tobacco and 200 rolling papers for $7.00. Wow, the head shops sell packs of 25 rolling papers for $2.00, and that doesn’t even include anything to put inside the papers. Far out.
I asked Duane how much he wanted to do the job. Duane wanted $100. Not per hour. $100 for the entire job.
I hired him so quickly, I almost forgot to ask him if he had a license.
So, on Saturday, Duane and I took the Amtrak train to New York. He’s originally from Philadelphia. He’s 42 years old, but when the train went past his old neighborhood, he looked out the window like a kid in a candy store.
From Penn Station we took the LIRR to Jamaica and then hopped in a cab to go to the U-haul place. Paperwork completed we headed for my storage sheds. I had a 10 by 5 shed and a 5 by 5 shed. It took us 3 hours to empty the contents of the big shed. By that time the truck was filled to capacity. So, we left the smaller shed for another day, got some chicken to go at KFC and headed for Lancaster.
We got on the Cross Island Expressway and the sign said “No Commercial Vehicles.” We weren’t sure if our U-Haul was a commercial vehicle but we decided to get on. It was bumper to bumper. We crept forward for the next hour and only managed to cover a few miles. We made it to the Belt Parkway. We had a great view of the traffic jam ahead because we were in a truck and the only other vehicles on the road were cars.
Around this time, we figured that we might be in a commercial vehicle. Since traffic wasn’t moving anyway, we decided to get off the parkway and take the service road. Once there, we pulled up alongside a tow truck and asked his opinion. “Is this a commercial vehicle?”
“Oh yeah,” he responded.
So, we weren’t supposed to be on the Parkway, but that’s how Mapquest had routed our journey. We asked the tow truck driver how we could get this commercial vehicle to the Verrazano Bridge.
He told us that we had to take Linden Blvd, all the way across Brooklyn to the BQE and that would take us to the Verrazano. He even led us to Linden Blvd.
Do you have any idea what it’s like driving a fully loaded truck all the way across Brooklyn on Linden Blvd.? Neither do I, because before we knew it we weren’t on Linden Blvd. anymore. We must have zigged when we should have zagged, and we took a tour of Brooklyn that lasted two hours. Finally, when we asked another motorist for directions to the Verrazano Bridge, she took pity on us and led us to it.
So, we took the Verrazano to the Outerbridge Crossing and were headed to the New Jersey Turnpike. The top row of a sign said, “NJ Turnpike.” The bottom row probably said “Right Lane Only,” but it was obscured by bushes. We missed the turn, and just barely missed the car in the next lane when we tried desperately, but unsuccessfully, to get over to the right.
It was nearly 10 p.m., we were lost again and headed away from the New Jersey Turnpike. I started humming a song by Bruce Springsteen. You know it. It’s the one with the line, “Someday we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny.” Duane didn’t see the humor, and it looked like he wanted to drive off a cliff.
“This hasn’t gone as planned,” I said to him. “So, I think it is only fair that I double what I said I’d pay you. I throw in a pack of real cigarettes, too.”
I think he would have preferred a cliff to the pay raise, but by then he had managed to get us back to the Turnpike, so he was happy again. “You don’t have to do that,” he said.
“Oh, no. I insist.”
We got to the Pennsylvania Turnpike without any problem, and we managed to get to Lancaster without any more problems. Well, we had one problem. By this time the shelter was closed and Duane wouldn’t be able to get in.
“Why don’t you stay at my place, and we’ll unload the truck in the morning?
That worked for him. We got to my place, opened up a box of vintage wine and before too long, we were both able to look back on the day and find it funny. We stayed up until 4 in the morning laughing about our tour of New York and Long Island.
The next morning, neither of us felt like unloading the truck, so we went down to the shelter with a few packs of cigarettes and quickly found plenty of guys willing to unload the truck for us.
So now I have most of my stuff, a story for my web page, and a new friend in town. All’s well that ends well.
Peace & Love, and all of the above,