It was the summer of 1998. I can still remember it like it was yesterday, even though it was pre-Todd, pre-Rollie and Tiller, Pre-Quint and Simon, and Scully. Hard to imagine that now.
My sister was my best friend. No one else even came close, except maybe that boy. We were parting ways. He was off to Phoenix. It was an amicable parting, but i think I knew it was over forever. I’m not sure he knew yet. I was headed back to Atlanta, back to the South, back Home. The open road was like the first sheet in a blank book just waiting to be written.
I had me a Ryder truck, and a sister who agreed to follow me, driving my car back. It was the same car that I had in Atlanta the day I crapped in my pants on the connector, caught in the worst traffic jam ever, and just having left Three Dollar Cafe. It wasn’t pretty.
But that is a story for another day.
We left Denver on a sunny, hot, dry day. It was July 31st. We broke down later that day in Victoria, Kansas. You are probably thinking, “they didn’t get very far” and if you are thinking that, then you have never driven across Kansas, because Kansas is a never ending Son of a bitch.
Lisa flagged me down, driving the Acura, and waving frantically. This was in the olden days, when people didn’t have cel phones, unless they were selling drugs, and I didn’t even know what I was missing. I know that is hard to imagine, what with me having my iPhone surgically attached to my hand and all. If I were to do that drive today, without my phone, it would feel just like walking across Kansas naked.
I pulled over at the next stop. Which looked just like the last stop and every other one in Kansas, too. I pulled up next to Lisa and probably said something along the lines of “What the fuck?”
And she probably said something along the lines of, “There are fucking flames coming out from under your truck!”
Okay, they were just sparks. We had a muffler. It wouldn’t stay attached to the fucking truck. I didn’t know it was the muffler until we got down on our stomachs at a truck stop in Kansas and looked under and saw this round tubular thing hanging down.
So, we found the number for Ryder, and we found the payphone, the one around the corner, against the cinder block building wall, in the baking heat. We were on hold forfuckingever.
This is what she looked like when I first handed off the phone after I had been on hold so long that my ear had fallen asleep. I went and got the camera out of boredom. And this is what she looked like another thirty minutes later:
So, when we finally got a hold of Ryder on the FUCKING PAYPHONE, we told them we had a problem with our sparky tubular metal thing under the truck. And they said, “ma’am, you got yourself a muffler problem,” and we said, “Right, the muffler. Isn’t that what I just said? Great, how soon can you be here to fix it?” And he said, “Where are you?” and we said, “Kansas.”
“Uh, where in Kansas?”
Lisa runs in the gas station to figure out where the fuck in Kansas we are.
“We’re in Victoria, Kansas.”
Silence. Then, “Well, we can get someone out to Victoria tomorrow.”
I look around me in dismay, because this is what it looks like where we are.
“Um, okay,” i say, “so, what would you do if you had a muffler problem like this and y’all couldn’t get here til tomorrow?”
“Well, Ma’am, I’d find some baling wire and tie it back up.”
And that’s what we did.
We walked around a gas station in Victoria, KS, begging a piece of bailing wire from men in trucks. Turns out it’s not that hard to find baling wire in Kansas. And then I got my ass down on the hot pavement, and climbed under that truck, just like the T-Birds in Grease, and I used that wire and I tied that muffler to the truck so tight it was never gonna come off!
At least, not until East St. Louis.
To be continued, in A Tale of Two Sisters in Overalls, Part II.