Lead Parachute

by Howard Faxon

Tags: Slow, Transformation,

Desc: : My boss fired me in a fit of pique. I was about as un-prepared as I could be. I took advantage of my environment to get ready for a great retirement

Imgine that you're sitting at your desk at work. You're working through your list of 'attention items'. Some you can't do right off because you'd screw up someone else's work. One department was frantically busy getting ready for a big multi-venue day of seminars that Friday, so you were holding yourself on-call for any disasters that struck. You had six things you were juggling, including filing the returns from fingerprint investigations done for background checks. All the public and private schools had to do them for new hires or returning staff with no previous record of having a background check done.

That's where I was, trying to keep the lid on a frantic Monday. The boss must have been closer to the end of his rope than what showed. He stuck his head in the office, looked at me and said, "That's it. You're out of here."

"What? Fired? Just like that? No HR? No warnings? Nothing???"

"I could see his upper lip trembling. "That's right. You're an at-will employee. You're terminated as of now." He spun around and slammed the door to his office.

Well. Well, shit. I sat there wondering whether to shit or wind my watch. He did not make jokes like that. The first thing I did was to drop my I-phone in the trash can. I picked through the contents of my desk drawers to separate out my stuff and put it all in a box. I changed my password on the network and the mail server, installed an out-of-office message on my email account saying that I had been fired, go piss off someone else. Then I turned off my computer. I looked over at a little HP netbook in a slip-case leaning against a filing cabinet. That mysteriously found its way into the bottom of my box. I then picked up my tool kit, a bottle of gorilla glue from the supply cabinet, a USB-3 half-gig drive that I'd bought for the company (and never been paid for) and my box of stuff. That drive had the image for all the office machines on it, but tough shit. He could work out his own solution. (my ex-boss) I carted everything out to the car then went back upstairs for my coat, jacket and gloves. On the way out I said my good-byes. I was glad to see that at least some people were sad to see me go. I gave accounting the news. I was fully vested in the county-wide teacher's retirement fund so I got them busy getting me started on that. They agreed to hold my last check instead of direct depositing it. I remembered to pick up my drop-light and a three-headed contractors three-foot-long extension cord from the server room. I spotted a standard sized flatscreen sitting in the corner. I was just pissed enough to stick it under my arm. I left my keys in there as I headed out the door. What a slap in the face with a dead fish!

I had been paying over a thousand a month for my apartment rent. I couldn't afford that now. I had to find another place to live, fast. And cheap. I looked over at my old jeep. It was fourteen years old. I'd just put in all new brakes and lines, had the rear differential rebuilt, a new battery installed and all the high-voltage system replaced. It should be good for another thirty thousand miles or more, but it wouldn't tow a trailer, and that's what kept swimming up in the back of my mind.

I'd seen some trucks for sale last fall out near a sod farm a bit east of town. I took a trip to see if they were still there. I found a Ford F250 crew cab with a replaced driver's door and a primer grey paint job. There was no CD player, no tape player no radio, no nothing. It did have a frame hitch installed and what looked like a standard trailer light harness. I was in luck! It was sitting in holes under the tires where it must have sat all winter. I knocked on the office door. A woman answered. I asked about the truck. It must have been a sore spot with her, because twenty minutes later I gave her a check for eight hundred bucks, as is. She agreed to help me get it to town. She got on a coat and boots, found the keys in a desk drawer and took a ride out to the road with me. A jump got it going. It was a little doggy, probably because it had sat with that fuel in it all winter. Still, it ran. I followed her to town where we got it parked in front of Walmart and behind an automotive battery and parts place. I drove her back to the farm and shook her hand. She was smiling fit to beat the band. She must have REALLY wanted to get rid of that thing.

I drove back to town and tried the keys in the truck. Click. The battery was a crap. I paid a hundred and a half for a new one, installed. It had less than a quarter tank of gas. I hit Walmart for a can of Stabile gas treatment, wiper blades, wiper fluid, plugs, plug wires and a fresh tank of fuel. I also picked up a little pocket notebook and a pen--I'd be changing addresses and accounts furiously for the next week or so. I went home for a deep-well socket set, installed the plugs and wires and put on the wiper blades. It seemed to drive okay. The tires had tread, the brakes worked and all the lights did too. The front end didn't shimmy any that I could detect. It got a cheap oil change and filter. I had a road warrior. Not bad for a morning's work!

I registered the title at the DMV. The lady didn't want to believe me until I hauled out the receipt. She called the place and talked to the woman I'd delt with. Yup, eight hundred bucks. When she stuck her nose out the window and looked at my bondo baby she didn't argue any more. I got my plates and title for ninety bucks.

I found my Jeep's title and headed back to Walmart. I emptied the Jeep into the pickup then drove it to "Lou's Jeep and Eagle". I showed him the receipts for the work I'd had done, some three thousand bucks worth. He gave me eleven hundred for it, as is. I cadged a ride back to where the Ford sat waiting.

I had a week until my rent was past due. A week after that and the lawyers would start with the paperwork. I had to be out of town before that. I intended to be out much faster than that.

I went to the bank to deposit Lou's check. (well, the owner's check.) Next I hit a Mailboxes Express/UPS store to get a service address. I had a few thousand bucks available on my credit card. It was time to buy a place to stay.

Down near South Chicago Heights was a storage yard that IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation--the tollway authority) hauled all the stuff involved in collisions on Illinois tollways from the Indiana border to the Wisconsin state line. I had an idea that I might find a trailer there. I'd seen camping trailers at junk yards before. I took a little trip, hoping that I'd led the good life and lady luck was feeling generous.

There were cars on one side, trucks in the middle and trailers on the other side. The stuff went back for years. There were a lot of burned out wrecks and some had police tape on them. I found a flat bed trailer full of small campers. I went to work at the office reading through the various files giving the dispositions and availability of the various lots. The paperwork said the trailer and contents that I was after had been sold for the insurance value. A wholesaler had been contracted to recover and sell off any remaining assets. That had been almost a year ago. It looked like the wholesaler had folded and the claim on the shipment got lost. I looked at the guy behind the counter. He looked like he might deal. "Two hundred for one of the campers. Cash."

He smiled and held his hand out. I gave him a Miami handshake. "Got anyway to get it off the trailer?"

"Sure. Fifty bucks. Fork lift."

"Sold." More cash changed hands. I was hooked up in two hours. The keys were with the paperwork. I opened the door to my new home and almost got knocked over by the smell. Jesus! All the foam rubber and the mattress had gone to hell while in storage. I pulled out all the crappy foam and the mattress. It got left on the flat bed. It had a queen-sized bed frame. I had a queen-sized bed at home. It sounded like a match made in heaven. There were tags and booklets everywhere. It was brand new. Why the hell did it have a dish washer but not an oven? It had a heater, air conditioner, mini-tub and a two-burner gas stove. A microwave was mounted above the stove. There were two 12-volt batteries in a lockable low bay accessible from outside. A twenty-pound propane tank was mounted at the front, protected by the frame that extended forward to form the hitch. What a deal! I was the proud owner of a Coleman camper, vintage 2012.

I headed back to Walmart where I picked up a bag of shop towels, a few gallon jugs of water, a bucket and a bottle of Pine-Sol. There was a water inlet for a small tank but no hose. I bought a food-grade water hose from the camping goods department, and a few rolls of biodegradable toilet paper. While I was there I thought that the little blue packets of holding tank deodorizer were a damned good idea. I sat around with the trailer windows open airing the place out while I read all the pamphlets that came with the place. Figuring out how the gray and black water dumps worked was easy. I found out that there was a little bitty hot water heater under the bathroom sink. I wiped everything down with water and Pine-Sol, then dashed the contents of my bucket over the asphalt at the edge of the lot. I didn't flush any waste water that I didn't have to.

I went into the store to find a manager, or at least someone that could say 'yes' or 'no'. I showed him my receipts and asked if I could stay in his lot overnight a few days. He gave me the okay, and signed a form for me to leave in my truck window. I was golden. I bought a stack of dish-washing pans and headed back to my apartment, trailer in tow. I parked it on the street because I wasn't about to get into navigating it around their parking lots.

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Story tagged with:
Slow / Transformation /