Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Terror at Ten M.P.H.

I love roller coasters. The climb, the drop, the speed – the undercuts and the loops, even the oddball cartoon characters telling you how tall you have to be (the heightist bastards!) to enjoy this essential human right, first codified in the Magna Carta, I believe.

They’re exhilarating. They’re a rush. But they’ve lost the capacity to truly terrify me.

You see, I just took my first drive in a borrowed truck today. Through some accident of fate, a misalignment of the stars to a degree not seen since Lawrence Olivier did a guest-stint on Mama’s Family, Toyota has seen fit to loan me a Tundra, which I may alternately refer to as the Big Ass Truck.

Now, I drive a Chevy Cavalier. Kathy drives a Saturn. So we don’t even have much opportunity to ride in vehicles so tall, let alone drive them.

So for my first trip? I took it to the train station. I had to get to work, you see.

Now, my train station is a popular train station in New Jersey, drawing tons of commuters onto Amtrak and NJ Transit every day. There’s just not enough land available to park all those cars next to each other, so the station did what any station would do in those circumstances: They stack the cars on top of each other, via a parking garage.

Now, I knew height would be an issue. So for the past few days, I’ve looked for Tundras and similar pickups in the garage, and I’ve seen them. So I figured I’d be fine.

Still, when confronted with a sign telling me to the inch what the clearance is, I had to make a quick estimation in my head (I couldn’t find the clearance in the materials I was given). Coming up short (a good thing), I drove on in. But then, on the first turn, a second sign greeted me. Six-eleven, I think – more than a foot lower than my first estimate.

My knees were knocking, but experience had already showed me that the truck would fit, right? Right. Drive. Put your foot down on the pedal. Press the gas.

And slowly, I did. And the truck fit, probably with six inches to spare.* But even knowing it was fitting, and was very unlikely to stop fitting any time soon, I crept up the ramp, at 5 mph, then zooming up to 10 and maybe even 15. No one was behind me, although I was worried I’d miss the train I’d thought I’d left myself more than enough time to catch.

And every single support of the ceiling above me, spaced about five feet apart, looked like it would take my head off. Not the cab roof -- my head. So not only am I driving, I’m ducking as I go. I didn’t want to be found headless in a borrowed truck. The paperwork would be overwhelming.

Finally, upon finding no parking spaces down below, I emerged into the clear blue sky, and a nearly-empty roof deck. I parked the truck, looked at how far it was sticking out, parked it again, and then ran down to catch my train.

My neck and shoulders are cramped and knotted, but at least I’ll remember where I parked.


*Actually, about 5 and a half.


Rob said...

How did you come to be able to borrow a Toyota Tundra in the first place?


Rob S. said...

It was offered to various editors of outdoors magazines. Part of a Toyota outreach program. No obligation (professional or otherwise) on my part, but the first two or three miles have made a good impression so far.

Greg! said...

Yeah, that Tundra probably does ride a fair bit higher than my Ranger.

I used to love going through parking structures in the Jeep with the top down.

Jayananda said...

way cool that you got to borrow a Tundra. I am not a big vehicle fan of any kind (I'm not even a vehicle fan in general), but their commercials are cool.

that said, you're white-knuckle experience driving it is why I don't like them in the first place...