Thursday, August 18, 2011

Breakdown In Bloomfield 

The cop was somewhere back there behind his sunglasses but I couldn't see him. He had led with the angry cop voice and the cop uniform, and the cop paraphernalia, of course. They come with more cop paraphernalia every year. It's as if someone somewhere has a cop tailor's dummy and keeps strapping more and more cop paraphernalia around its waist. Periodically a shipment and an invoice show up at all the city governments in the country. Cops all line up. Paraphernalia gets passed out.

"You've gotta get this thing out of the road right now," the cop snarled from his hiding place behind his sunglasses.

I had no response for him. He had me on that one. The engine was dead. The truck outweighed me five hundred to one. Should I begin at the beginning? The truck was broke down for the third time that day. Early that morning I'd sat beside the highway for three hours just south of Naschite waiting for the kid who came up from Gallup, who put his tester on it, drove back to Gallup for something, came back, couldn't get it running, then had me help him drain the air out of the fuel lines. 

It had run until Farmington where it stopped again. Two guys this time. A bigger tester. The engine was running, but not smoothly. Consultations via cellphone to International, the truck's maker.

"You gotta take it to International," was the final verdict. I did, was checked in and shown the driver's lounge and since I was usually back in Albuquerque by then and home sleeping, I dozed in the driver's lounge. A couple hours later I went to get a cigarette from the truck, which was still in a bay with the hood up,  and met the mechanic, who was surprised to see me. Apparently he hadn't known I was in the driver's lounge waiting for him to fix the truck.

"Oh yea, uh, it's got a bad high pressure oil pump."

The pump he referred to operates the fuel injectors. It should put out 130 pounds of pressure but was putting out just 50.

"We close at five," he said.

My options were to leave it there until tomorrow or try to drive it.

"It might make it back to Albuquerque and it might not," he said. The service manager put in his opinion, too. "You won't make it to Albuquerque with it like that."

Staying there was a bad option, as far as logistics. I had to make it back to do the next night's run. The company has a same day delivery contract with some of our customers, but I just didn't want to stay there, either. I wanted to chance it. Consultations with the boss back in Albuquerque. The boss said he could pick up another truck from the truck rental place for that night, and he'd sleep with his cell phone next to his ear and come get me if I didn't make it. I headed out, and made it only as far as Bloomfield, ten miles out of the 185. It had simply run worse and worse, and gone slower and slower, down to five miles an hour, until finally it just stopped, right there in the construction zone, where there was no place to pull it over, and right at rush hour.

"You've gotta get this thing out of the road right now," the cop snarled, again.

Suddenly I knew what to do. I knew what the cop wanted. I knew what he needed. I jumped up in the cab and turned the key to crank the motor.

I have met men like the cop before. In the army, an officer who asks you a question but doesn't want an answer. He wants to hear, "Yes, sir." You meet men like that everywhere. Have a seat, he'll be right with you. Women, too. You hand them your money and stand there with your hand out and they look you in the eye and set the change down on the counter.

The engine was not going to start. I had just spent the last 15 minutes cranking the engine, trying to restart it. I knew it wouldn't start.

The cop stood there for a few moments, listening to the sound of the engine cranking. The sound of the engine cranking seemed to soothe him. The engine turned over, and over, and over. Finally, out of concern that the brushes in the starter motor would get so hot that they would melt to the rotor and I'd have two problems instead of one, I stopped cranking the engine.

The cop stood there a moment, behind his sunglasses and his uniform and his paraphernalia. The truck still sat in the traffic lane.

"I'm going to call a tow truck," he announced, as he turned on his heel and headed back to his cop car. 


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