Saturday, March 27, 2004

some good news and some bad news

I had the luxury of sleeping in a bit this morning, and when I woke up, it was to the beautiful sight of my son’s sweet little face about nine inches from my own. Jem’s been having trouble sleeping in the bassinet lately, and for the last few nights he’s shared bunk with Holly and I. He was understandably unconscious, as he kept the two of us up pretty late last night, so I got to spend the first twenty minutes or so of my day just staring at him, watching his expression change as he dreamed about whatever two-week-old boys dream about. Nipples, I’m guessing. Just like thirty-year-old boys.

Before long, I heard the front door open and close. Holly came back to the bedroom to say good morning and check on the babe. She had made an early run to Wal-Mart for diapers and wanted to make sure I was awake. It was about ten minutes till eight.

We boys stayed in bed for a while longer. Jem started to wake up, and we chatted quietly about how adorable he is as his tiny fists opened and closed and his eyes worked themselves further open. Perhaps five or six minutes passed before Holly returned.

“Hey, honey? Some lawn truck just backed over our mailbox.”

Aw, crap. So much for lazy Saturday.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know, exactly. I was sitting at the kitchen table and heard an awful noise from the driveway. When I got up and looked out the front window, I noticed that the ChemLawn truck that had been parked across the street was gone, and our mailbox was flattened.”


“Totaled. History. All our mail is blowing around in the middle of the street.”

“Oh, man.”

Holly went out to retrieve our bills and what was left of the mailbox from the roadway, and I pulled myself out of bed and shambled into the living room, still wearing my clothes from the previous night. She came back through the front door, holding up the remains of our mailbox between thumb and forefinger like a dead animal. It was utterly demolished, gone from regulation height to an inch and a half of bent tin with one swift, bumper-scraping miscalculation. Even the flag was crushed and folded like the bellows of an accordion.

“Wow,” I said.

“Yeah,” she said. “What’re we gonna do?”

“I’m gonna make some phone calls.”

I pulled out our telephone book and flipped back to the Yellow Pages, to ‘Lawn Care and Maintenance,’ and found the number for the local ChemLawn office. A customer service representative connected me with Bill, the supervisor, who confirmed that they had a truck dispatched to our subdivision that morning. He was very cooperative and said that he’d send the truck driver back to talk to me. Feeling rather full of myself for having advanced the matter so efficiently, I cracked the top on a Coke and settled down on the sofa to wait for the driver.

It only took him about five minutes to return. He was a younger guy, wearing a long goatee Pharaoh-style and his ChemLawn cap backwards on his head. We talked for a moment, and it didn’t take long before I realized that he wasn’t the one responsible for the destruction of our mailbox. I consider myself a fairly good judge of character, and I could tell that this guy probably wouldn’t have just driven away from the scene of an accident, much less continue to deny the allegation once he’d been called on it. We talked about how it is against ChemLawn’s policy to use driveways to turn around, and he even said he’d considered using our driveway before deciding against it, instead choosing to drive to the cul-de-sac at the end of the street. He also gave me a rundown of the other cars on the street at the time he was there, as well as giving me the tip that any chemical maintenance company of their variety, be it lawn care or pest control, is required by law to put a sign in the treated yard which identifies the treatment and the company, and that I might determine what if any other company had been in the area this morning by trolling the neighborhood for those signs. Thoroughly convinced of his innocence, I thanked him for his trouble and let him go.

Frowning, I walked out to the end of the driveway to think. Holly seemed so sure that his truck had been the one. As I stood there, a tow truck passed me. I turned and followed its progress down the street to where it stopped two houses down. There was a police car there, and an officer was speaking to another resident at the end of his own driveway. A few words of their conversation drifted up the street – ‘not mine’ and ‘over there’ and ‘I don’t know’ – but not enough to determine what the trouble was.

Then I noticed the nondescript white truck that they seemed to be gesturing towards, the one in front of which the tow truck was lining up. It looked from my view to have been backed up into the man’s driveway, but the houses in our neighborhood aren’t particularly close together, and I couldn’t really tell from where I stood. I decided to mind my own business and turned back towards our front door, heading inside to regroup.

Human beings are a funny species. It’s amazingly smug how we think of ourselves as the pinnacle of evolution when our brains are as lazy as they are. Case in point is the following thought process of my very own, a series of torpid connections that I would love to blame on having recently woken from a deep sleep but have trouble honestly doing so. You be the judge.

As I’m walking back up the drive towards the house, I’m looking at Holly’s parked Cavalier. We usually keep her car in the garage, as its back seat holds the base for the baby’s car seat, and parking it in the garage prevents us from having to bring the baby out into the wind when we’re going somewhere. It’s a two-car garage, but there are still so many boxes in it from the move that it only has space for one of our two vehicles right now. So I’m walking up the driveway, looking at her car and wondering to myself, Why’d she park the truck in the garage? I knew she’d taken my pickup to Wal-Mart because I’d needed gas, and she’d planned to fill it up for me.

Then I remembered our conversation from the previous evening. The three of us had driven the mile to her brother’s house to eat grilled, beer-boiled bratwurst (which I love dearly and cannot resist, regardless of the price my digestive tract has to pay for the pleasure of their consumption), and as we were leaving our house, Holly commented that she hadn’t locked the garage because she didn’t know how. We had a short, genial conversation about how approximately 1/3 of everything we own is in that garage and the importance of keeping it locked, after which I promised to teach her how the mechanism worked at some point during the day today.

Recalling this, I thought, Wait. She doesn’t know how to open the garage.

Then where the hell is my truck?

I had stopped there in the driveway, still staring at Holly’s car, and my gaze turned slowly from her back bumper to the police car and tow truck in front of the neighbor’s house two doors down. The police car, and the tow truck, and my white pickup truck.

Oh, shit.

I literally slapped my own forehead with the flat of my palm as all the seemingly disparate pieces of the puzzle suddenly flew together, and I turned and ran across the front yard towards the cop.

When I finished filling out the police report and retrieving my fortunately undamaged pickup from where it had come to rest against a fortunately undamaged Jackson County power box, I went back in the house to tell Holly the story.

“I’ve got some good news and some bad news,” I said. “The good news is I figured out who backed over our mailbox. The bad news is it was you.”


“Do you happen to remember engaging the parking brake on my truck when you got back from the store this morning?”

“Oh, no.”

“Oh, yeah.”

After we managed to stop laughing, her first comment was, “Dude, I told you having this baby made me stupid,” followed shortly thereafter by, “We really need a flatter driveway, you know?”

“Would you settle for a flatter mailbox?”

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