Sometimes, you do something stupid. It just happens. You do something stupid, you learn a lesson and you go on with life – and hopefully never do the stupid thing again.
We were hauling the flatbed load for the circus. It had been a really long time since George hauled flatbed, so he was super-careful to make sure everything was hooked up right and all the straps and chains were secure. He finished up and threw the chucks for the landing gear in the side box and jumped in the truck.
It was slow going out of the park; as I mentioned before, Rhode Island wasn’t made for big trucks. It’s a teeny state with teeny roads. It’s really pretty, though, and I was enjoying the views of little inlets and boat slips here and there. About 30 miles into the trip, I started smelling something weird, but attributed it to the fact that we were coming into some pretty industrial areas, and ignored it.
It was a quick trip, just up to the Fingerlakes, and the equipment we had was necessary for the other equipment already on the way to be unloaded, so George was hammering down a little. When we got out on the highway and started pulling uphill, I noticed the smell getting worse.
“What’s that smell? It’s not going away.”
“I thought I smelled unburnt fuel a ways back, but it went away. Can you smell it again?”
“Yes, it’s really bad. It’s not exhaust is it? It’s coming out of the air conditioner vents.”
“I smell it now. It’s not exhaust. It’s some kind of petroleum.”
He pulled over at the next rest area and went through all the hoses and couplings, checked the fuel tanks and caps. Nothing. No codes on the dash, no obvious reasons for the smell. By the time he got back in and started the truck, it had pretty much dissipated, but we turned the A/C off and opened the windows anyway.
We rode along for a while. The smell was still lingering but didn’t seem as bad. Then we got to the mountains. And every time we’d pull uphill, the smell would be so bad I couldn’t stand it.
“Oh my God, something is wrong. The smell is so strong.”
“It’s weird how it comes and goes. It definitely has something to do with accelerating. Are you OK?”
“If by OK you mean on the verge of asphyxia, then yes, I’m fine.”
“Hang your head out the window. I can’t smell it now. Is it worse on your side?”
“I think I should call the children and tell them which dress I want to be buried in.”
“Seriously, if it’s that bad I’ll pull over. We’re 40 miles out. Can you stand it?”
“I think I can refrain from going towards the light for a little while longer. Look at the beautiful butterflies…”
By the time we pulled into the lot, the smell had dissipated again. We had to go through a bunch of potholes and rough dirt road to get the trailer back to where it was needed, and going over the bumps seemed to increase the smell a thousand times again. It was driving George crazy. “What the hell is it? I’m going to drop the trailer and see if they’ll let us park here for a while so I can look at everything again.”
“When I was a little kid, I used to call dust motes ‘flufferballs’.”
“Get out of the truck and stand over there to wait for me. Take some deep breaths.”
He put the trailer where they wanted it and went to grab the chucks out of the sidebox. I was regaining consciousness and raptly attentive to a bale of hay. When I heard someone shouting expletives, I thought I had gravely insulted the bale of hay, and walked over to George, who was also yelling expletives.
“I found it. I found the smell. Dammit. That was so damn stupid.”
“That bale of hay is pissed.”
“I know, but I was kind of enjoying it.”
“I found the smell. When I threw those chucks in the sidebox, they knocked the top off the Break Fast and the blocks were sitting on top of the spray nozzle. Every time we went over a bump or pulled uphill, it sprayed that shit all over the inside of my sidebox! The air return for the cab is right beside it!”
“So we’re not going to die?”
“No. We’re not going to die. But the sidebox is ruined.”
“Well that’s good, right?”
“No. It’s not good. All my tools are in the sidebox. I have to pull everything out and clean it. We’re going to be here a while.”
“Good, because I need to go apologize to that bale of hay.”