Archive for August, 1996

drive thru liquor stores

5 August 1996 at 11:54 pm
by Jonah

“You want to get the mail?”

“Sure!” I took the huge janitor ring of keys Ken was holding out. Getting the mail is one of the highlights of my workday. Not much of one, but when you have a job with negativestress levelslike I do, any variation in the normal scheme of data entry or book packing is welcome. It’s not like the rest of the day is awful, just… uneventful.

The first day I took a solo trip to the post office, Ken asked me if I wanted to take my reliable (for the most part) automatic sedan or his stall-prone, beatup, stick shift pick up. I chose the truck, of course. I’ll take my thrills any way they come. “Now the gas gauge,” Kencommented on my first expedition, “It’s a little funny. It goes up all the way to full, then comes down to E, but it’s not really empty. It’s on the second time down that you have to start worrying.”

I went out to the truck and cranked it up, watched the gas gauge climb to E, then shifted into reverse and let out the clutch, backed a few feet and performed my first customary stall. When I’d backed out sufficiently, I maneuvered over to first and completed my second obligatory stall. One final crank, let out the clutch, gun the gas, spew gravel, and I was down the driveway. I flipped on the radio to the classical station Ken always listens to. It seems like sacrilege to listen to anything else in that old pick up. Got the mail out of the P.O. Box and stalled a couple of bonus times, not required, on the way back.

I was back at my desk pecking book titles into the computer when Ken came in again with the keys. After my two stalls and gravel-shooting tire spin, I was back out on the road, this time breaking my rule and listening to the alternative station as loud as Ken’s speakers would allow.

First stop was the printers. I asked for Matt and handed him the check Ken had given me. Matt picked up a box of paper and followed me outside. He stopped at the black sports car parked out front, but I continued to the white, beat up truck parked in the lot. “Oh,” he said, realizing his mistake, “I thought that was yours.” I laughed and opened the passenger side door of the pickup for him.

Next stop was the liquor store. I’m becoming a familiar face there, stopping a couple of times a week. I think everyone who works there recognizes me now, the kid who comes in and asks, “You got any boxes?” Then I walk back out and around to the side, where they roll out stacks of empty cardboard vodka containers and I toss them into the bed of the truck. Some days I get less than a dozen, but Monday is a great day. One of the guys brought out stack after stack of boxes, and I kept loading them higher and higher in the truck. “That should do it,” I said as he brought out one last pile. Then I thanked him as he nodded and disappeared behind the closed door.

This was more boxes than I’d ever gotten before. I took the tarp from where I’d brought it inside the cab and tied it down over the boxes as tight as I could. It took extra twine thistime, and I spent as while cutting and tying. A car drove up beside me into the loading area, and a lady walked from it around to the front of the building. I finished up as she came back and knocked on the door. The man’s voice came from the other side. “What?” she said, “That’s all? But I called this morning!” I climbed into the cab and took off (without stalling) before anyone could say anything to me. This seems to happen all the time. I clean out the place just as someone comes up and starts pleading with an apologetic ABC employee. But I don’t want to share my boxes. They’re mine!

I drove back with the window down and the radio up, using the mirrors on either side of the truck to manipulate lane changes, since the center rearview mirror was full of green tarp. I wondered if the needle leaning up against the E was for real or not, then shrugged and gunned my way to fourth. It’s a long drive from Powhatan to Chesterfield, where the nearest liquor store is located, about 20-25 minutes… IF I drive the speed limit, which also seems to be a sacred law of Ken’s truck. It’s also generally a good idea on Route 60, which leads directly from Ken’s driveway to the liquor store and of which most of my drive to work consists. There always seems to be a cop coming or going or parked out to catch speeders. So I just set the cruise in my car to 55 or try to keep there abouts in Ken’s truck. Picked up the home mail at the end of the driveway, spewed more gravel, and reluctantly turned off “Sixth Avenue Heartache.” Then I remembered, turned the key back on, and reset the radio to the classical station.

Tonight, as I sat at the piano after dinner but before coffee, Ken came breathlessly in after popping out to get some anti-itch cream for his poison ivy. “I’m sorry!” he exclaimed, “I should have checked. You were out of gas!”

“I was?”

“Yeah, I thought I had a 16 gallon tank, but when I filled it up just now, it took 16 and a half gallons. You were driving on negative gas!”

Sometimes you never know just how exciting your life really is.