Friday, June 13, 2008

In retrospect, the man in the middle of the road with a chainsaw might have been an omen of bad things to come

Last night The Omnivore picked me up in his Bio-Diesel powered Suburban and we headed off to Portland to pick up his couch, which had been sleeping over at a friend's house. As we entered the highway, there was a truck stopped on the farthest right lane of the road, and then, lying a few feet away from the truck, a chainsaw. The man from the truck picked up the chainsaw as we moved into another lane and passed him. We made several jokes about not stopping for hitchhikers with chainsaws.

We've both been reading Cormac McCarthy's novel "The Road" this week... I just finished and the Omnivore is about fifty pages from the end. It's the story of a father and son walking through a shattered earth after what appears to be nuclear winter sets in. It's spare, disturbing, full of a strange sort of hope and great reading. We talked about that for a while. There are a lot of scenes of pushing your cart along abandoned highways. Many of the events of our evening would remind us of The Road.

We picked up the couch, which was longer than the Suburban. It's a couch that's big enough to fit a man, his wife and five children comfortably, with room to grow. Which means it has to be moved in and out of houses that have no corners.

Anyway, we got the couch moved in to their new place, packed up his wife and kids and they went to drop me off again in Vancouver. We drove down 84 west for a couple of miles and then stopped. The traffic wasn't moving at all. A fire truck and ambulance came zipping by on the shoulder. An hour passed and still no movement. A few people got out of their cars and hiked ahead to see what was going on. After a long, long, time a soccer coach came running back along the highway, telling people, "Everyone is turning around." People started to turn their cars around and drive east on the shoulder of the highway. So we turned the Suburban around, only to discover that the eastbound "shoulder lane" was now gridlocked as well. We were in one of those rare situations where the westbound freeway is gridlocked going both west and east.

Eventually things cleared up and we managed to get off the highway. A cop had blocked a highway entrance so we could exit the highway.

Our thirty minute drive to drop me off became a two-and-a-half hour time of living in a Suburban together.

All in all, it wasn't terrible. I learned some new games for the car, and we told a lot of terrible jokes. And how often do you see a man with a chainsaw on the highway and then get to drive down a highway the wrong direction? For me, it was a once in a lifetime event.