One thing I like is macaroni and cheese. Out of the box. Generic, name-brand, I don’t care. Enough milk and butter, it all tastes pretty awesome. One thing I’ve always really liked about it is that it’s like cooking without cooking. Water in a pan, on the stove, and go off to do whatever it is you were doing. Come back in a while and dump in noodles. Stir. Go do something else. You have to know you’re stove settings, here, though, because you don’t want your noodles boiling over, and you have to make sure you come back every five minutes or so and stir.
When they’re soft enough, strain, dump in the cheese packet, a bunch of milk and butter. Done. You don’t even need a bowl, really. Eat it out of the pan; whatever you don’t eat, throw the lid on the pan, throw it in the fridge until it gets so rotten that it evolves into a sentient being and goes out to get a job. Clean up is a breeze!
In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m making macaroni and cheese as we speak. So I wonder how your day was. Because mine was half-part shitty and half surreal. It stayed just odd enough that it kept me from blowing up about how mind-bogglingly awful it was.
For instance, I’m loading up all these extra pallets, pulling them onto my truck, and the pallet jack slips, catching the wheel and making it impossible for me to load everything into the truck. If you don’t know what a pallet jack is, don’t even worry about it—if you’re old enough to be reading the shit on this site and still don’t know what a pallet jack is, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll never need to know. So I’m going through the process of stabilizing the stack of pallets so they don't fall off and hit someone, because I need to lower the ramp and fix everything, and this guy pulls up, outta nowhere, and is all, “Your back wheel is caught.”
“Yeah, I know—I’m trying to lower the ramp so I can fix it.”
He says something, some sort of exclamation like “Do it!” or “Go!” I can’t remember. And he shoves the pallets up into the truck. Then he gets back into his car and drives away.
I pull out of the parking lot, still marveling about how weird and friendly that was, and get pulled over. I mean, like, instantly.
Here’s how it goes: I have to make a left turn to get out of that particular parking lot each Wednesday. To put it mildly, it’s a bitch and a half. To hear it in a way that is far form mildly, you would have to be in the truck with me each week as I try to make that turn.
What I have to do is, I turn out into the turning lane and then I wait until there’s no traffic, and I pull over to the right lane. I don’t think it’s exactly legal, but there is no other way to do it—it’s right where a freeway ends and turns into a regular street, so there’s never a break in traffic on both sides. There are ill-timed street lights, however, so it’s possible to make it to the turning lane, which is what I do. It’s sort of like playing that old Frogger game, but doing it in a giant truck that’s almost completely unresponsive, and without any of the fun.
Usually, when you’re trying to pull into the far lane, someone will finally cut you a break and let you in. Today, it was a green SUV. I make sure there’s enough room, and I scoot over. I hear a siren immediately. I scoot over as much as possible, wondering if maybe the guy wasn’t being cool to let me in but was maybe moving out of the way of an ambulance or something. Cop in my mirror, waving me over.
I pull to the side of the road, trying to figure out what I’ve done to draw the attention of this cop in the middle of the road hazard that is Austin, Texas. Quick side note about Austin cops—I have never, ever, ever heard a good thing about any of them. Never. I’ve heard countless stories about how terrible they are, and it seems like you can’t turn on the local news without hearing about how they’ve killed another black man with their stun guns or whatever.
Before today, I never really had any experience with them. I turned off my loud-ass truck, set the brake, and waited for him to climb from his little motorcycle and come up to my window. The thing is, I’m in this pretty big truck, so I didn’t know if I was supposed to get out or just make him look up at me. Since I didn’t want him to claim I had no seatbelt, I waited.
“How’s it going?” He asked when he arrived.
“Can I see you license and insurance and all that?”
I grab a huge wad of papers out of the glove compartment and hand it to him—I figure he knows better than I do what he wants. I also hand him my license that lists my home address as the place I lived a couple lifetimes ago.
“Did you not see that car?”
“The car you almost ran into. You not see him? Are your mirrors adjusted properly?”
“Yeah, I uh, I think they are—I can see. Are you talking about that green car?”
“I don’t know what color it was.”
“I don’t know. The one you almost hit. He had to slam on his brakes.”
I didn’t mention that the guy in the green SUV had seemed to be letting me in, which actually would require braking.
“Just wait right here,” he said, and walked back to his motorcycle. I should mention now that it is unbelievably hard to resist saying “Say—that’s a nice bike,” to a motorcycle cop, Terminator 2-style.
He stands back there talking on his shoulder radio, I’m just sitting there melting and shit. I should mention that there’s actually another truck pulled over about fifty yards behind me—some other truck that got stopped by some other cop. That other truck, he got a cop that had a real car and everything. So the motorcycle cop, I see him walking back there. He goes back and talks to that car cop for a long time about something, I don’t know what. And then he comes walking back, hangs out next to his motorcycle for a while, I don’t know what the hell he’s doing. Just chilling.
As we’re sitting there like that, I’m just sort of watching the traffic. This is traffic with two cops sitting right there on the side of the road, mind you. While I’m sitting there, I see this kid in a Jeep come to a literal screeching halt, veering off into the ditch to avoid hitting the car in front of him. I see a car that tries to run the yellow and doesn’t make it, ending up stopped in the middle of the intersection, blocking cross-traffic for a good minute, at least. And I see a school bus blatantly run a red light. I’ve seen this happen before, but back then, I thought it was because the guy couldn’t stop in time, so just had to run it. This guy, he just didn’t want to stop. It wasn’t yellow, it hadn’t been yellow, nothin’. Red. Light. Bus—vroom! Right through it, packed full of little kids.
The cop, he starts checking out my license again. It is a good photo, I admit, but damn.
Then he starts walking around my truck, like checking it out. This is when I realize that I’m going to jail, because this truck is an absolute piece of shit. Maybe it has to actually be running before you can appreciate what a health violation it is, though, because he acted like everything was fine, except for the out-of-date registration sticker.
“You have one of these that’s current?” He asks.
“Yes.” I pull it out form under a stack of papers and hand it to him. I think that caught him by surprise, actually. Who carries their sticker around with them, I guess.
Finally the other cop—the car cop—lets his truck driver go, and comes up to where I’m at. The two of them sit back there and talk about some stuff—probably about my huge muscles, but I’m just guessing. Then the car cop comes walking up to the window, and grabs my door handle. Shit, man, I know what comes next:
“Could you step out of the vehicle, please? Just have a seat on the curb right there? So where you headed? How much you had to drink?” Blah blah blah, jail.
Except I haven’t been drinking, and he just looks at the side of the door. “Need your V I N number,” he explains.
“Ah.” I think he probably just wanted to see my giant muscles for himself.
Motorcycle cop comes back up a couple minutes later, gives me a warning, let’s me go. “This is just a warning, because of an unsafe movement to the right.”
“Try to drive more carefully in the future.”
And then I’m gone.
Bittersweet, baby. I’m grateful that I didn’t get a ticket, let me just leave it at that. You know what? I’m not leaving it at that.
Out of all the totally insane drivers, I get picked out for “unsafe movement to the right?” I am one of the most cautious drivers in this city, I shit you not. When other Austin drivers ride with me, they laugh at me because I’m so careful. They make lame-ass jokes at my expense and at the expense of my cautious driving. I didn’t cut that guy off, cop. You know it.
Let’s just quit playing games—this was about my enormous muscles, wasn’t it?