Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Driver

I used to love playing with big, big trucks (I called them "gee-gee-cucks," I'm told), so it was a thrill for me when I got to operate some real heavy machinery this past Saturday, up in Dennison, Ohio.

I was at a work event with Megan, and one of her foundation's donors is OhioCat, a company that makes mini-bulldozers. They'd brought some of their machines in order to publicize the partnership, and, in what had to be vigorously extra-legal, I was allowed to drive them around town and get them in place in front of the party-venue.

After my blue-collar foray, I got swanked-up in my suit, ate some chocolate-covered strawberries, spoke stutteringly to the former head of the Democratic National Committee, and generally tried to be spousal.

It was in that last guise that I was asked to be a volunteer.

The gala actually had two locations--it began at a train museum before the guests were bussed over to a local elementary school for an awards' show (the foundation was playing host to corporate partners and honoring regional students at the same time).

I was tapped to direct the bus-flow.

As I stood on the corner of the street and loaded up yellow school buses with gussied-up guys and gals, the local constable drove by in his cop-mobile. I waved, he nodded. I thought our relationship had come to a satisfactory end. I felt civic.

A half-an-hour later, a co-worker of Megan's asked if I might be willing to do a little chauffeuring. I figured I'd already taken the bulldozer for a spin; why not make it a day of driving employment?

It turned out I was to escort the V.I.P.'s of the event, former United States Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Kingdom of Norway, John D. Ong, and his wife, Lee. They were being honored by the foundation as Children of Appalachia who'd succeeded in an inspirational way. And, it seemed, they needed a lift.

(Note: Norway and Finland have now been organically mentioned in this forum. Take that Kingdom of Sweden!)

(John Ong)

Since I was representing Megan, I felt I should be on my best behavior, so I smoothed my suit, put on my prep-school manners, and rushed to the car. All of this seemed very urgent. Ong'd been confirmed by the Senate, after all. He needed prompt service.

The car was parked on the right side of the road pointed east, but I needed to go West: I pulled a perfectly safe three-point turn.

So, unfortunately, did that very same cop who'd passed me earlier. I was busted, and at a potentially embarrassing time. I pulled over and got out to talk to him.

"Is that little maneuver legal in Massachusetts?" he asked. Megan still has New England plates and they're sometimes viewed with suspicion here, as if we're elite intruders. (Obviously, he hadn't heard about my blue-collar background.)

I told him I was sorry and that it wouldn't happen again. I told him I was hurrying to pick up a V.I.P. (That may not have helped my down-home cred). The ambassador was waiting, I said. Essentially, I tried to use my diplomatic immunity.

"Well, I don't know if that's legal in Massachusetts," he repeated, "but try to be more careful."

I promised that I would be, went off to pick up the Ongs, and delivered them to their destination.

After the event, I shuttled the Honorable Ongs again and started to clean up, with the rest of the volunteers. Of course, the heavy machinery needed to be moved, too, back to the train-yard from which it had originally come. I was all over that duty.

Nightfall presented some new challenges, but I was ready. Still in my suit, I hopped on the Skid Steer Loader and sped off into the small-town night at 8mph. Linda, the wonderful OhioCat representative, thought this was just the greatest, so she offered me a chance at a larger machine.

At around 9:30pm, on a mostly-abandoned Dennison road, I climbed into The Beast.

Anyone who has ever seen me operate something as complicated as a pencil sharpener should know that having me drive this thing was not the best idea. But I performed admirably, guiding The Beast through stoplights and across railroad tracks.

I did get a few funny looks at four-way stops, though. In fact, before I made my last turn I found myself at an intersection with my old friend, the Dennison constable.

He looked over and saw a young man in a suit--a Massachusetts boy through and through--very slowly driving, unlicensed, through a stop sign, in a hydraulic excavator.

I waved; he nodded.

Apparently that's legal in Ohio.


Joe said...

Sir, your diagramming has reached new levels of exactitude. And I, for one, will vouch unequivocally and to the death for your blue-collar background (and future).

You can now join the club of people who have read the back of their prescription pill bottle and can say, "Yeah, I better not OPERATE any of that HEAVY MACHINERY while I'm on this stuff."


Megan said...

It was a proud day for David. I shared in his pride and excitement with only 50% jealousy mixed in. Some day I will operate a hydraulic excavator and David will walk alongside it in a suit and heels. Someday.

Rob Strong said...

Norge och Finland kan bita svenska k├Âttbullar!

Other than that quibble: fantastic tale.

Emily said...

I've been reading over Joe's shoulder. Oh yes, I've been reading.

Dave said...


Though you are Swedish royalty, please remember that Dr. True's Soup and Read is very big in Helsinki.

(Off the record, though: wonderful culinary-vulgarity!)