We Were Fine…

by james mathias / 2006 / personal

until I got adventurous behind the big and tall.

Alright, so here in Portland, it is not common place to see snow, or even sub-zero conditions, thus the purity of my naive surprise when this morning my wife and sons and I left the house for our daily one and a half mile walk, only to discover a half an inch layer of solid ice covering the entire parking lot of our apartment building, additionally this shimmering layer of hiding death and dismemberment is literally covering each and every car and truck in said lot.

What ever shall we do? Now for a little necessary back story on our walks, We-my family and I—made a pact to walk one and a half miles as a family each and every day-this is both healthy exercise and cleverly hidden family quality time-now until today we have not yet failed to take the promised blood oath walk each and every day. We’ve braved rain, icy winds, rabid dogs, and even a Nazi hate march (please, don’t ask) to take these valuable and fun filled trips, each and every day.

Well, longer side story long, we decided that we would hold out until noon and see if a walk was possible at that time. Noon creeps around, and we decide that even though it is high noon and the sun is out and the ice has gotten even worse, we are not going to go to our normal place and walk, and instead go to a couple of very large stores—where items of personal consumption are anxiously awaiting purchase—using the indoor conditions to take our walk, we can accomplish the cold blooded killing of two separate and usually unrelated birds with but one stone. Although this seems odd, to the average manic exerciser it indeed shows how very committed we are to walking the talk, Strangely enough not quite as committed as the gentlemen running up the hill past my home earlier in the day whom responded with “Yes, but I’m wearing cleats” to the yelled question “Is it icy out on that road, too?” but still committed.

First stop is Fred Meyers, a very big grocery/general store in the Pacific Northwest (can I get a what, what?) we need only a few things here, and it is large enough to get at least half our walk done, if we just lap it once. Driving there is pretty smooth-the main roads have been salted heavily—getting a parking space is fairly quick and simple, getting into the store is without incident, sans of course the average amount of stress two young boys cause any parent, and the pseudo walk and necessary purchases go very smoothly, 1 store down 3 to go, half a walk down one half to go.

Next stop, Target. Target is quite bit further from the homestead than Fred’s but still on major roads that have been salted and used extensively through out the day. We arrive at Target, drive in, park very close by (which attests to the utter omega-man-ness of it all) we get out, begin walking towards the store, when Amy and Liam almost slip and fall by sidestepping a lake of a puddle onto a frozen solid curb, but catch themselves by sliding into the dirt and bushes in the adjoining planter. Inside we slowly shuffle apparently still weary of frozen patches in our direct path, and with some not so necessary purchases made—including two tiny unscheduled but highly desired purchases—back out into the truck and alls good 2 stores down 2 stores to go. Walk complete? Check.

Ok, so we still had Costco and Winco to go. These stores are next to each other and again on major well driven and salted roads, should be no problem at all. Famous last words I tell you.

I’m 6’ 7” and weigh about 370lbs; needless to say I am both big and tall. In desperate need of a new winter jacket for our chilly morning walks and other errands that happen to involve the great out of doors, and beyond the computer screen where one is vulnerable to the ravages of the wintry months. So you see where this is going I know. Next to the Target is a Casual Male Big and Tall shop, it is within a tiny one way labyrinth of a parking court, closed in from the main roads and a major freeway (I-5). From the main road, I could see that they were closed for the day, the lights were off, even though their hours indicated they should be open, I have a feeling that it was closed due to the inclement weather, and the less than outwardly courageous drivers that worked in this Mecca of the fat and long, but against my better judgment I decided to brave the unknown and venture to the far side of the lot where the door to giant sweater heaven lay. As my absolutely asinine thought process lead me to believe that the lights on the far, close to main road, side of the shop must have just burnt out and not been replaced by the lazy, underpaid employees in service of the grande and the alto, as clearly no sane business owner would close such a high traffic sales shop such as a big and tall. Yes you may slap me now, please make it hard.

As we descend the first of many small slopes to the front of the shop we begin to slide sideways, SIDEWAYS. Now in my brief but vast knowledge of tires and their design I am of the belief that they are not supposed to go sideways. No sir, not at all. They are supposed to go front ways and back ways but never, ever sideways. It is very difficult to drive sideways, try it, no wait, don’t try it, it most definitely sucks. I of course nervously laugh this off, as the car is filled with frail women and even frailer children and as society has taught me, men folk are to be the strong and brave, but just between you and me, I was quite scared. Again, I must stress that driving sideways, yeah not much fun or control there.

Quickly it is discovered that driving back the way we came in will only result in driving the brand new 2004 Dodge Dakota-having less miles than the owners manual says requires an oil change—directly into a brick wall protecting the vulnerable insides of the computer school in the same lot as the Big and Tall. At this point I have a very bright and completely dumb ass idea! Move forward, farther into the great and vast-ok very tight and small-unknown simply being referred to as the parking lot.

Round the corner and through the back lot past many empty and icy parking spaces, around another slight corner and up a hill, well not so much up the hill as down the hill back-side-ways, ahhhh… back-side-ways now that’s fun times, oh, wait, no that still sucks and perhaps it’s worse because at this point the freeway I-5 is directly behind us at the bottom of the steep, icy slope and the only thing stopping us from sliding into this 5 lanes of instant death is a tiny 6 inch high, rounded curb, which later on in my story does a nice little tap number on my arm, but we will get to that in due time.

At this point we are um, well royally screwed. How to get out of this ice skating rink of doom without wrecking the truck? Here’s and idea—yeah mine again and yes just as dumb—now I am dressed in light army green cargos, a pair of Vans (size 15 ladies), and as we all know, dirt and light colored pants don’t much get along, also black ice and vans—and their oh so stylish flat tread—have a difficult time cooperating. But, me and my amazingly fantastical ideas, and the fully ingrained “Stand back, I can flip burgers with my penis” machismo, won’t allow me to sit idly by whilst my family is in dire need. Oh, Christ I’m an ass.

I leapt to action; it is my every intention to get out of the truck speed to the passenger side and push nay lift the truck and occupants to safety, thereby earning my merit badge in heroism for the day, week, and year.

Instead what happened played out more like this. I slipped out of the truck pulling my groin, hobbled round the back of the truck holding onto the icy bed of the truck for dear life, got round to the passenger side, decided that I could easily walk upon the dirt in the planter bed and approach the passenger side window to instruct my wife in steering as I gently push the truck back into a drivable place—just between you and I, dirt can freeze too—as I took my first unassisted step towards the window, my traitorous legs decide to take a break from support of my massive frame and I tumble, no slammed, no smashed my forearm tucked beneath me right into my new best/worst friend the rounded 6 inch high curb. Good God! It felt like I broke the shit out of my arm, luckily for me and my bank statement I merely bruised the living hell out of it and scrapped a good 31 mm (we measured it) of skin from my elbow to mid forearm, still it really fracking hurt, and that’s when I decided to call for help. Again, that is when I decided to call for help. Sigh…

So Les Schwab (the tire guys, not the broker) is my first call, I thought to myself “I used to work there, they can help me out of this situation”, I call, the Manager is rude to me and treats me like I’m some sort of automobile dumbass, saying he doesn’t think snow chains will help and has no other solutions, but agrees to come out and put them on, then if they don’t work to get us free from our predicament he won’t charge us for the chains but will charge for the service call $30, I say ok let me call you back in a bit. I then call my 100% guaranteed, covered all things ever possible, extra $55 a month, roadside assistance phone number, sit on hold with the melodious tunes of Phil Collins (sussudio) and Culture Club (tumble 4 ya) and other various 80’s “Light Rock” Icons, for a full 35 minutes. When the phone is finally answered, and after a long explanation and disclosure of things not needed to be said, but spilling from my mouth regardless, due to my fear and frustration, he says; “OK, well sir that calls for a ‘Winch out’-I can visualize him doing air quotes—and it is the one thing that is not covered in your roadside assistance Contract”

Long pause and then I say “What?” “You mean of all the things I’d ever have to call you for this is the only one you don’t cover?” “What am I paying the extra $55 bucks for then?”

He replies with the standard customer rep crap “Well sir, blah, blah, blah, ...I’m a dick and I don’t care about you… blah, blah, blah.” He then continues with “You could call your contract holder and get them to maybe ok the ‘winch out’”

I say “What about a tow, can I get a tow?” “That’s free right?”

“Well, yes sir, technically but, you don’t qualify for a tow, as you have said that your car can move and run, so the only service we can give you is a ‘winch out’, and that’s $50 to $100 dollars and hour”.

Oh Christ, so I say “I’m going to shove this… oh never mind, forget it, I’ll figure something out”.

So here’s when my wife the obviously smarter and cooler under pressure of the two of us steps up and says let’s try to get the truck back the way we came and go from there. Together Amy steering, me instructing and using my girth to prevent the truck from skipping over the curb we get the truck turned around and all the way back to the Big and Tall lot, where the inclines are less steep, yet just as icy. Unfortunately, we can’t get it up over the smaller hills either, so we break down and call Les Schwab back and arrange for the delivery and installation of chains. At first the manager said “Oh sir, that is the one size of chains we are out of stock on” After the size of my tires is conveyed, then he says “Let me look around and see what I can come up with and I’ll call you back” I think he heard the desperation in my sigh.

About 5 minutes later he called back and miraculously had one set of chains for my stock, common sized tires, but unfortunately they were the expensive quick install style, and that’s all he has. 45 minutes and $155.95 later, we are in the Shell gas station at the third pump filling the tank with $1.83 per gallon fuel and preparing to get back on the main road for home. Needless to say we arrived at home cold, wet, worn out, and hungry with only minor bruising, abrasions, and a lighter wallet.

What’s the Moral of this tale?

Easy, “Stay home when the ice devil is out. More importantly do not get adventurous behind the Big and Tall”.

I must Create a System, or be enslav’d by another Man’s. I will not Reason & Compare; my business is to Create.

William Blake circa 1820