The power of many

| December 07, 2005

About the Author
Laura Tuite of Danbury, Conn., has had two articles published in parenting magazines and is a member of a writing group. She is a 44-year-old trucker’s wife, who rides along in the summers with her two step-children and her husband Peter, a driver for Atlas Van Lines. They’ve traveled all over the lower 48 but now stick mostly to the East Coast.

Household movers never have just one story to tell. They want you to hear about the lady with a hundred wall clocks or the family whose entire garage was filled with food. They can recall the dirtiest house they’ve been in or tell you about the baby grand piano falling through the stairs. Those bed-buggers sure can tell a tale, but the story I heard about Jake and Maggie was the best one ever.

Jake and his wife Maggie had been hauling household for as long as I could remember. At first, he promised her she’d only be doing a little bit of paperwork and carrying the occasional lampshade. It wasn’t long before she was doing all the paperwork and carrying one end of the customer’s dining room hutch.

When they were on the road, they looked out for each other. Maggie had what Jake called a “magnetism for lonely souls.” Whenever she was in the truckstop, strangers would strike up a conversation and talk to her for hours. In the laundry room, the movie room and even at the salad bar, Maggie always found new friends. She had a certain knack for listening and sometimes slipped a few bucks to desperate travelers. Jake trusted Maggie’s instinct but worried about her anyway.

Their nightmare began when they were stuck in that Atlanta truckstop for four days straight. Their dispatcher gave them the wrong dates for starting the next job. Far from home, they just had to wait.

By the third day of their exile, they’d each fallen into their own routine. Jake preferred the movie room and an afternoon nap. Maggie enjoyed reading in the truck and browsing in the travel store, but she also had laundry to do. They agreed to meet for dinner around 6:30 p.m., although the menu had little new to offer after three days.

Around 5 p.m., Maggie went inside the truckstop to use the restroom. A tour bus had arrived, and the ladies’ room was noisy and chaotic. She hated crowds but patiently stood behind several women waiting to use the sink.

A young woman holding a baby approached Maggie in line. The woman looked agitated and tired, and her child had been crying. Appearing helpless, she asked Maggie to hold the baby for a moment while she used the bathroom. Maggie agreed as she rinsed her hands but asked the woman to meet her just outside the restroom, where it was quieter.

As Maggie stood waiting, she came face to face with two cops in uniform. Before she could manage to say hello, they grabbed the baby and forcefully shoved Maggie into the wall face first. She cried out loudly in pain before shouting, “Hey, what are you doing?” Handcuffs were slapped on her wrists and tightened as she grit her teeth.

Between frantic breaths she managed to whimper, “That’s not my baby.” The cop dug an elbow into her ribs as he began reciting her Miranda rights. The baby wailed as customers and employees stared in disbelief. Drivers left the restaurant counter to see what was happening, but Maggie was placed in the patrol car before they could object. All anyone could see was her stunned stare as she peered out from the back seat. A second patrol car had arrived to collect the baby, and with sirens blaring, they left the onlookers behind.

Oblivious to his wife’s predicament, Jake arrived at the restaurant almost an hour later. He sat at the counter in the drivers’ area and ordered a coffee. His rumbling stomach reminded him that Maggie was late.

He spoke to the waitress as she filled his mug, “I’m looking for my wife. She’s short with red hair, and she’s wearing the same sweatshirt as mine. Have you seen her?” The waitress’ smile disappeared. She took a step back from the counter as if Jake had tried to bite her.

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