She's proved herself enough. It's not like she's looked at as a female on track. She's just another driver and a very good one at that.
-- Dan Wheldon
I reluctantly shed the warm comforter and dashed across the soft citrus-green carpet to the closet, where I wasted no time stepping into a pair of blue jeans and pulling a bright orange sweater over my head. Six-thirty on a Friday morning in December is pretty damn cold, even in San Diego. I was only out of bed because I had promised David I'd drive him and Ollie to the truck-rental place off of Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, about 15 minutes away. Since I was just going to drop them off and then return to my comforter cocoon, I didn't bother with vanity -- I used my fingers to comb through my sleep-tousled hair and captured what I could of the dark frizzy mess into a queue with a black scrunchy. The night before, I'd asked David if I could ride along. He said there were only two bucket seats in the cab of the truck and that if I wanted to go, I'd have to sit in the back -- in a cold, empty, 20-foot long box with no windows. He was joking, but I considered the option for more than a minute before deciding I had other ways to amuse myself for a day.
At the rental office, I waited in my heated car and watched David talk to the woman behind the counter. After looking down for a period of time, David jerked his head up; reading the surprise and panic in his expression, I yanked my keys from the ignition and ran inside to find out what had happened.
"I can't believe it! It must be at the bank. I gave it to that woman so she could make a copy. Ollie, you're going to have to drive," David said.
"What is it?" I asked him.
"Sorry," said Ollie. "I can't."
"What's going on?" I waved my hands in front of David and, with a forlorn look on his face and tone in his voice, he explained that he couldn't find his driver's license and that he thought it was probably still at the bank, where he'd been the previous afternoon to get a cashier's check for the big transaction for which he'd so carefully planned. The bank wouldn't be open until 9 a.m., but to make his appointment, David was supposed to be halfway to Burbank by then. Having expected to offer only his strength and time, Ollie, too, was unprepared to take the wheel.
"Well, from the looks of it, I'm not only going to ride along with you boys, I'm going to drive! " I did not try to hide my delight at this turn of events. Smiling, I followed the woman to our truck and discovered that, though the driver's seat was indeed a bucket style, the longer, flatter passenger seat was equipped with two seatbelts.
"Are you sure you can drive this?" asked David. He looked concerned.
"If I can drive my sister's minivan, I can handle this thing," I said. "You need to get there, right?" David nodded. "All right, then. Hop in!"
Everything about the truck felt BIG. I lifted my left foot onto the little step thing, and, with my left hand, I grabbed the handle provided at the top of the door frame and hoisted myself up and onto the coffee-stained seat behind the huge steering wheel. David slid in next to me with Ollie right behind him. It was impossible not to slam the heavy doors as we pulled them closed.
I turned the key in the ignition and the brief roar of the engine was replaced with the echoing noise of the truck, a reverberating sound of metal and wood.
"This is great!" I shouted over the racket. Then, deepening my voice and forcing my words out in a gravelly, affected Midwestern accent, I said, "If they ask you, boys, tell 'em Large Marge sent ya!" David and Ollie shared a "What's with her?" sort of look, I kicked the beast into gear, and within minutes, we were heading north on the 805.
All this for a television , I thought. "It's not just any television," David said, as though reading my mind. "It's the best TV in the world . "
Ollie suggested that it was, most probably, the best TV in the galaxy. When David took this one step further and proposed it was the best TV in the universe , Ollie, unwilling to go out that far on a cosmological limb, said he was only 50 percent sure. After all, there was a good chance that, somewhere in the universe, a higher intelligence was enjoying a better television than the one we were currently driving to Burbank to collect.
David never just buys something. He researches for weeks, sometimes months, until he is convinced he has selected the finest product, the most beloved and hailed by happy consumers, and reviewed by only those experts in the niche field pertaining to said item.
It was during such research (on a message forum for owners to discuss this particular Sony gem) that David stumbled upon Mark, a sound-mixer and fellow videophile. Due to extensive eye surgery and his sudden need for a television smaller than the 70-inch screen, Mark was selling his brand new beauty. According to the geeks who write forSound & Vision Magazine , Widescreen Review , The Perfect Vision , and a handful of other publications, David was about to purchase, hardly used, the "best television in the world"...for only half of the going price.
My beh-beh was the first to jump at the opportunity, much to the disappointment of several drooling fanatics also lurking on the Web in hopes of finding such a deal. "This may be the first TV of its kind ever sold used," David excitedly told me. "I mean, this technology just came out a year ago! No one, barring a medical emergency, would ever sell it." Hence the big-ass truck I now found myself driving.
David had tried to rent something more compact but all the smaller trucks were unavailable, so we were stuck in this gigantic white monster. And I was in the driver's seat. David and Ollie looked uncomfortable bouncing up and down as the tires transmitted each bump in the road to our seats. I smiled to myself, giving in to the prurient enjoyment of these bounces and their pleasantly vibrating result -- the same vibrations that caused the two empty cans of Diet Coke to rattle in the plastic cup holder.
I felt a surge of power in the simple act of directing such a mammoth machine. Is this how it is for all truck drivers? I was accepted by my fellow high-riding road kin, like I had figured out the secret handshake and thus been allowed into their ol' boys' club. I never knew this before, but trucks watch out for each other on the road. I really felt like these guys had my back.
After driving through the weigh station at the immigration checkpoint near San Onofre, a grocery-store truck sidled up next to me. Behind the wheel sat a man, his face and hands dirty with road dust and nicotine, his cab filled with fast-food wrappers, colorful business forms, and a duffle bag. He was wearing a bright vest the same shade of orange as my sweater. After a sideways glance in my direction, he quickly turned his full attention to me -- perhaps surprised to see a smiling, sloppy-haired, Ralph Lauren--wearing female version of himself.
The grocery store truck driver shot me a wide grin and waved his hand. I interpreted this to mean, "Hello, my strong, truck-driving sister. That's a nice orange sweater you have on."
I waved back, hoping he got the message from my face and hand loud and clear: "Ten-four, good buddy. Ten-four."