How to Spend 35 Minutes to Leave Your Own Driveway

June 18, 2008

We were away from home all of this past weekend, and when we returned, the refrigerator and freezer were hotter than a June bride in a featherbed (phrase courtesy of this collection of old geezer expressions). So I spent a couple of hours Sunday evening throwing out spoiled food, eyeballing the "sort of cool" items for mold, and wiping up the red juice that flows out of warm ground beef, followed by hauling the refrigerator to the curb.

Monday morning, I walked out the front door at about 7:45. My driveway was completely blocked by a pickup truck parked across its width, while its driver struggled to shove the broken refrigerator up into its bed. I walked up, offering a hand with the thought that it would get me out of there a couple minutes sooner.

The guy introduced himself with a statement of the obvious. "I'm just an old black man, having trouble getting this up in there."

He was clearly a professional salvager, decked out in a hard hat and work gloves. His size (roughly that of a brick shit house, another old geezer saying that isn't on that web page) suggests that he wasn't always incapable of lifting a refrigerator. I bet that he could have carried the thing on his back 20 years ago. But on top of the weight of the refrigerator, he was struggling with limited truck bed space, due to the rusted out barbecue pit and flimsy metal shelving that he had also picked up. I've been wondering why he felt the need to highlight his age and race, and why we trivialized the statement with the "just" in "I'm just an old black man." Irrational as it is, I'm guessing that there are a lot of people who get angry with other people taking their trash, and the old geezer has learned a way to defuse that initial reaction.

Although it amuses me to think of a more unlikely scenario:

"Honey, get the shotgun! There are a bunch of frat boys stealing our broken refrigerator!" "Wait.... Never mind. It's just an old black man. No harm done."

Anyway, I told him he was welcome to it, and bent over to help him lift his prize into the truck. The handle from the rusted barbecue put up a formidable block, and then, the fridge hit the wheel hump. We then pivoted the refrigerator upright, and the old man found a way to fit a huge metal pipe in the bed too.

I was covered in all of the dirt stuck to the bottom of a 13-year-old refrigerator in a pet-filled kitchen, so I went in for a washcloth wipe-down. When I came out, the truck was still there, but I got in my driver's seat and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

I finally got out and walked back to the truck. His battery was dead, and he was asking the passing vehicles for jumper cables.

I didn't have any cables either, so I asked if we could push his truck out of my driveway. He was agreeable, and so after that one additional chore, I was able to go to work.

I noticed the time as I left the driveway. 8:20.