Sunday, May 7, 2017

My brother, Joe's truck, and the fog

Grandpa Joe done a lot of things. Some were understandable, and some were not. One of the things which was not understandable was that he liked to, every now and then, pour a quart of motor oil into the gas tanks of his cars and trucks. I believe he thought it would help keep the engine valves and pistons moving freely. But I have no idea why he thought that and it still doesn't makes sense to me. All I could see was that it made the vehicles belch out thick blue smoke for days afterwards.

Needless to say that produced fun memories.

For his welder rental business Joe had large flatbed trucks for deliveries and pickups. These trucks had manual transmissions, stick shifts. When my brother Phil was brought in to work, Grandpa saw that Phil needed to learn to drive a stick. Joe would teach him the only way he knew how: by tossing Phil the keys and have him back the truck up and down the alley outside his shop, to learn in a baptism of fire how to get the old flatbed in gear. Naturally this was right after Joe had tossed a quart of oil in the tank.

Like many first trying to learn to handle a stick, Phil tended to race the engine far more than necessary to engage the clutch. This put out copious amounts of smoke, until the alley was covered in a cloud of blue as though a very, very dense fog.

He had begun at the far end of the alley, either creeping or lurching towards the Shop as he tried to find first gear. The cloud developed and followed him, intensifying as he drew near the Shop. Soon enough you could not see to the end of the alley. When close enough to the old barn he would stop, and seek reverse gear to back up and start the process again. Slowly Phil would ease backwards and the cloud would gently swallow him and truck both until they could be seen but not heard.

A few minutes later there'd be grinding gears and a racing engine and that old Chevy flatbed would explode out of the cloud, sending wafts of smoke in all directions. This of course intensified the fog. It seemed that the entire block was becoming shrouded in blue; you couldn't see the garages which lined that alleyway.

This went on for about an hour, as me and one of Joe's other employees (I'll call him Cloyce just to give him a name) stood by the large truck doors in the Shop and watched, laughing our heads off every time Phil exploded through the fog. To this day I don't know why someone didn't call the cops or the fire department. I've never seen so much smoke without a fire. But Phil learned to drive a stick, and Joe never thought twice about putting more oil in more gas tanks.

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