Letterpress List No. 71: Downhill from Here

Can’t say I wasn’t warned …

About the dark side of owning a pickup truck.

And women.

I mean, it feels good to be helpful. And Shop Boy likes being nice.

True story: Shop Boy was walking across a blocked intersection in Washington, D.C., the other day. You know how it is. Drivers! Can’t stand the thought of being inconvenienced for a single minute. So they inconvenience all the rest of us for four or five minutes by “blocking the box” — driving through the yellow/red light even though there’s no room for their cars on the other side. They get stuck, blocking the traffic that now has the green light and, yes, making the crosswalk unusable. And they look at pedestrians like we’re the jerks for shimmying between the bumpers to get to the other side.

Anyway, Shop Boy began across the street, approaching a suitable gap. A woman on the other side was headed to the same bumper gap. Though Shop Boy would have reached it first, I noticed her and did the gentlemanly thing, stopping to let her pass through first. A tiny gesture, really.

That’s when I heard it:

“Well done, honey. You were raised right.”

A woman behind me had been watching and, having seen the usual rude dance once too often, I guess, was moved to speak up.

Shop Boy was moved to blush uncontrollably. And to be so courteous to everyone I crossed paths with afterward that soon I was blocking traffic.

My mom did raise me right that way. I like being gentle and polite. It’s nice. Sue me.

So who is Shop Boy to say no to a damsel in distress who needs a piece of furniture moved in a jiffy because the owner’s leaving town and the buyers (the aforementioned damsel, Edit Barry, and her spouse, John) are headed on a ski trip? Would Shop Boy and the truck be available?

I mean, when a woman asks you that nicely — OK, Mary would tell you Edit is also quite, um, attractive … Shop Boy had not noticed — of course I said yes.

I did not say this: “How heavy is it?”

Oh, my. It was an armoire. Huge, and built of oak or cherry or … whatever. Even in two large pieces, the sucker weighed a ton. And there were no good places to really grip the thing. Just hang on, brace it with your face — honest — and pray.

Another question I’ll ask next time: “Where is it?”

What’s that you say? A skinny, rickety Baltimore rowhouse with a low ceiling, narrow doorways and metal back steps made slick with rain? (Did I mention the weather?) All that was missing was a vicious dog.

It took two trips. Shop Boy and Edit — she’s an editor … isn’t that cool? — rode up front; John — a writer — sat in the bed of the truck. (Every time I started feeling bad for myself, I shot a look in the rearview mirror. Poor guy.)

At one point, as I counted the steps out loud — couldn’t see them with my face pressed against the wood — to keep track of my footing as we went up Edit and John’s porch, I lost my grip a little bit, the armoire section tilted and I panicked, throwing my bare arm between the furniture and the door frame. It did the trick … the armoire was unscratched.

Shop Boy’s arm? Oh, it’ll grow back. The most important thing is I did not drop it.

Another true story: Our friends Tim Smith and Robert Leininger are huge, huge, huge film fans. Well, the mammoth TV in their home theater was on the fritz. They’d decided to haul this old one to the repair shop, get it fixed, maybe sell it or give it to someone needing, like, a 68-inch screen or something. Meanwhile, they’d buy a bigger one.

Shop Boy did not hesitate to say yes when the idea of hauling the TV out of their house and onto my truck came up. But I nearly had a heart attack when the entertainment system was pulled away to expose the TV’s full size. You know: If it’s 68 inches across, it’s at least that deep as well. And so heavy that the parts of the plastic base that you could grab became like razor blades in your hands.

It was quickly clear: Robert and Shop Boy could not carry this bad boy. So I started thinking … the room had rugs. The hallway and stairs were carpeted. Maybe we could turn the TV on its head and simply slide it down the stairs to the foyer. Shop Boy even volunteered to stand beneath this monster and, um, break its fall.

Look, Shop Boy once moved an ancient refrigerator down four flights of stairs — solo — using this method. If it’ll slide, why lift it.

So, in two seconds flat, the TV was in the foyer. Now all we had to do was, gulp, somehow lug it out the door, down the path and then a long set of cement stairs, across the sidewalk and to my truck.

No way.

Ah, but Shop Boy, flush with the success of the slide method, had a brainstorm. If the TV slid down the carpet, surely it would slide down the lush green hillside beside the steps.


Except that I lost my footing or something and the load got loose, tearing a toupee out of Robert’s beautiful lawn and, before we could corral it — crack — brushing the cement stairs, destroying the TV screen. No good … to nobody … no more.

Suddenly Shop Boy felt as though he’d swallowed a thousand sharp objects. Which is why, ever since, I say a silent prayer and then lift, don’t think. And I knock on wood, in the case of the armoire with my facial features.

And, as we hefted the top half one more time onto the base and slid the armoire into position in Edit and John’s home, all the grunting, sweat, fustration, fear, exhaustion and pain just … disappeared.


About two weeks later, Shop Boy was crossing Union Station on the way home from work when I saw a woman wave. It was Edit. She and John were back from vacation and doing … something in D.C. I really didn’t ask what, because John spoke first:

“We’re not sure we like the armoire where it is. Will you be around …?”

“Nice to see you. Keep in touch,” Shop Boy said, walking quickly past Edit and John.

I’m polite, not crazy.


Letterpress List No. 71

For the record, Edit and John were incredibly appreciative. And it is an amazing piece of furniture … that is lovely right where it is. On that note, how about an hour’s worth of music to sit idly, drink a beer, or just be nice by. Most of these tunes should be available in the usual places. Weird or wacky videos are from YouTube.

Stop!Jane’s Addiction (No … Go!)
Nice Guys Finish Last Green Day (We’ll see about that.)
Goody Two ShoesAdam Ant (Nyah.)
Across the Avenue Freedy Johnston (Pedestrian on the wrong end of a bumper.)
I’m Finding It Harder to Be a GentlemanWhite Stripes (But I’m trying …)
Block Rockin’ BeatsChemical Brothers (Dancing across the intersection.)
Roll Away the Stone Mott the Hoople (Two-ton TVs: a Sisyphean task.)
City Womenthe Grass Roots (The lawn grew back. My self-confidence will never be the same.)
On the Dark SideJohn Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band (Springsteen ripoffs who weren’t half bad.)
The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)
Missy Elliott (Why today?)
Fall on Me R.E.M. (Timber!)
Slip Slidin’ Away Paul Simon (So near, so far.)
Long Line of Cars Cake (All because of you.)
Nails for Breakfast, Tacks for SnacksPanic! At the Disco (Oh, please … after you.)
Landslide Smashing Pumpkins (Anybody need a massive, slightly used TV … as is?)
Drive AwayHalfcocked (Great even while going nowhere.)
Crosstown TrafficJimi Hendrix (Inconvenient.)
My Name is Mud Primus (“6-foot-2 and rude as hell” — stepping on the wrong guy’s shiny shoes.)

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One Response to “Letterpress List No. 71: Downhill from Here”

  1. Lou Says:

    That’ll teach you for being so polite. Although the world really does need a lot more people like that.

    As for things going wrong while being moved, have you come across this sad sight?: http://www.briarpress.org/15398

    What a nightmare.

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