Sunday, September 25, 2011

This is my job...beating up vehicles

I currently drive a Oldsmobile Bravada. Her name is Daisy and she is the most wonderful SUV/rolling prop shop I could ask for. I've had her for a little over a year and half, and if I don't beat her up too badly (she gets a lot of abuse) I plan on keeping her for a good long while.
Before I got Daisy though, I was driving a 1994 Chrysler Lebaron convertible. I loved that car, it was super cute, and it was fun to drive around in the summer with the top down. It was the perfect car for me when I needed it to just be my car. When I was working in Pennsylvania and there was a company pickup available to me when I needed it, everything was fine.
When I moved to Chicago things changed. The little storefront theatres in the city rarely have even a drill or a chop saw of their own, a company truck or van was out of the question. I rolled with the punches though and decided I would do what I had to do to get the job done. More and more I started using my convertible as if it was a pickup truck. I would put the top down and tie things into the back seat as best I could. I discovered that if I slid a ten foot board down between the front seats to the floorboard on the passenger's side, it only hung out the back of the car a few inches. I loved the looks on the faces of the old men in the home depot parking lot as they watched me walk towards my car with a stack of lumber. I loved watching the smile of realization on their face as I turned the car on, unhooked the roof and lowered the top to load everything into the back seat.
It wasn't always ideal though. Multiple times I got caught driving to the theatre with a full load right as it started to rain. As it got colder I would bundle up with hat and gloves and scarf as I would drive through the city with a desk hanging out the back and the heat blasting on my toes to try to keep warm.
One night, in early February I was moving some benches and a bookshelf I had purchased to drop them off at rehearsal. The top went down, I wedged the pieces in, and I headed downtown. I moved the pieces into the theatre and everything was fine until I went back to my car to put the top up. Apparently the heavy benches had bent or twisted or wedged some part of the mechanism the moves the convertible top up and down. The roof would start to go up, but then would stop at totally vertical and wouldn't go any further. I was standing on the front seat of the car, pushing the roof motor button with my toe and yanking on the part of the top I could reach to try to pull it down, with no luck. On top of all of this, I was already running late to pick up a friend from St Louis at the train station.
The look on her face, a perfect combination of pity, confusion, and amusement, when I pulled up in below freezing weather still makes me smile. She stood there on the curb with her bags and stared at me. All I could say was "It won't go up." She laughed at me, we got into the car and decided to head home to figure out what to do next. On the way home, because we both needed food, and because we had reached our limitations for cold, we pulled off into a Wendy's. Before going inside to order food, we decided to try again. We had been working on the top for about five minutes, me standing on the front seat pulling and Megan crouched on the trunk of the car throwing her weight against it, when two sixty-year-old women walked up and asked us if we might need some help. We told them we did. With the extra two sets of hands standing on the sides of the car pulling down, the twisted or wedged piece finally popped loose and the top closed. We thanked the women, went into Wendy's and got some much deserved dinner.
I can only imagine what those women (and those people who passed the two of us on the highway between the train station and Wendy's) must have thought of us.

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