Many years ago I worked in a produce warehouse. Basic stuff really, restaurants and smaller, independent grocery stores would order wholesale produce and we would ship it out to them. I was 18 and it was the first job that I’d ever gotten through a connection that I myself had made. My boss was a guy named Rich who looked like what you’d get if you took Bruce Willis and Michael Chiklis and mashed them together. He was in his mid-30’s and we played in the same senior men’s baseball league. He was funny and relaxed but rode me enough to teach me how to actually work. After a few months I was able to get my buddy Klinger a job at the warehouse. Despite making minimum wage, it was actually an enjoyable job. I was working with one of my best friends and for a boss who was really easy to get along with. The only downside was that we started work at 5am and didn’t really have an established quitting time. We would just kinda work until all the work was done. Sure the night crew would come in around 1pm but us morning guys would then switch from loading trucks to sorting through rotting tomatoes or bell peppers, picking out the bad ones and re-boxing the good ones.
So one day Klinger calls me up and says that he’s had his licence suspended for drunk driving. He proceeds to tell me the following story:
He lived way out of town, down some country roads. It was a heavily wooded area with few street lights. So he was driving home down these back roads one night and he comes across a guy who has somehow gotten his Ford Explorer stuck in a ditch. Being a good Samaritan, he pulls over and offers to help. The guy in the Explorer says he has a tow-rope and asks if Klinger will pull him out of the ditch. Klinger’s dad was a car guy and had taught his son a fair bit about cars and how they’re built. Kling (yes, we gave him a nickname for his nickname because his nickname was too long apparently) immediately knows that his ’84 Monte Carlo cannot pull this Explorer out. He doesn’t have a trailer hitch and doesn’t feel like ripping his rear bumper off in the middle of the woods at 2am. All of a sudden another dude in an SUV pulls up. He asks what’s going on and they bring him up to speed.
“Pffft. You don’t need a trailer hitch. Just tie your tow-rope around my bumper. I done it before.”
Klinger is sceptical and removes himself from the situation. He stands clear and watches the two guys hook up the cars. The 2nd guy then jumps in his SUV and starts trying to pull the 1st SUV driver out of the ditch. While all this is happening another car drives by, slows down to look at what’s going on, and drives off. The guys spend the next few minutes trying to ease the SUV out of the ditch. To use one of Klinger’s favourite sayings, things were going “nowhere slowly” so the guy doing the pulling decides to step up his game. All of a sudden he shoots forward then quickly screeches to a halt. There’s a loud crash as his freshly torn off bumper lands on the road. He gets out to assess the damage. It was right around then that a cop, which the passer-by had called a few minutes earlier, shows up. Questions are asked and tickets are written. Everyone is told to blow, Klinger blows over. End of story.
So not only do I start work at 5am but I now have to get up at 4am so I can drive out to Klinger’s house in the middle of nowhere, pick him up and get us both to work on time. At the time I actually lived about 5 minutes from the warehouse and used to get up at 4:50am. I just lost almost an hour of sleep which sucks but hey, you gotta take care of your boys. A man who doesn’t take care of his friends, well there aint much to say for him. So I’m driving out to get him one morning in my 1974 Dodge Dart custom. Before you ask… Yes, it looked as awesome as it sounds.
So I’m driving down these windy, un-lit back roads and I’m half asleep. I come around a blind corner and there’s an owl standing in the middle of my lane. At first he’s looking the other way. He slowly does that 360 degree owl-head-turn move and looks me straight in the eye. He doesn’t even flinch. Instinctively I slam on the brakes. The car starts skidding right. I crank the wheel back to the left. TOO MUCH! I crank the wheel back to the right. Now I’m heading straight for a tree! I crank it back to the left but the car just keeps going straight! BANG!!! Straight into a massive tree.
I do a quick self diagnostic, like the Terminator did when he had that steel pole shoved through him by that other Terminator. I didn’t hit my head, no broken bones, nothing. The car didn’t even stall. I look around for the steely-nerved owl who just kicked my ass in a game of chicken but he’s long gone. I reverse back on to the road. Hitting the massive tree actually turned out to be a good thing. If I hadn’t hit it the car would have gone over a steep, 30 foot, 30 degree embankment. I drive to Klinger’s house and tell him the story as we drive to a gas station to get coffee. He can’t believe it. Neither can I, to be honest. Under the lights of the gas station we inspect the damage. The right side of the bumper is completely pressed in. Not bent, but pressed in so that it now sits at an angle across the front of the car. The right, front quarter panel is all bowed out over the wheel well. Klinger kicks it back to straight, sort of. A proclamation was made that my car was “In-dart-structible”. We then proceeded to drive to work like it was any other day.