A few years ago, my brother Dan, the plumber, came up to Minnesota to help with my home remodeling project. I went to Duluth to pick up an order he had called in for supplies. I decided to take my car as it gets substantially better fuel mileage than the pickup. Besides, I still had the big trailer hitched to the truck and saw no need to disconnect when the car would do just fine. My dog June wanted to ride along but told her she had to stay home this time.
When Mike, the cashier, was totaling the order, he struck up a conversation, "So your brother Dan is a plumber?"
"Yep." I answered, "The funny thing is, I can get him to help plumb the house, but I can't get him to pay for my materials." We laughed about that, then I asked Mike, "Do you have a brother like that?"
"Nope," he said, "I'm an only child."
"I can't even imagine that," I said.
"Can't imagine what?" Mike asked.
"I can't imagine being an only child."
"Is Dan your only brother?" He asked.
"No," I chuckled, "I grew up in a family with sixteen children. I have seven brothers and eight sisters."
"Wow! I can't imagine." He said, "Did you ever have your own bedroom?"
"Are you kidding?" I replied. "I didn't even have my own bed until I started paying rent at my first apartment." We had a good laugh over that.
"That must have been tough," Mike said.
"Not really, it's just the way it was – the way I thought it was for everyone." I explained, "You see, you and I grew up on the opposite ends of the sibling spectrum. As I see it, the problem with being an only child is that your parents already knew who did it whenever something got broken. My parents, on the other hand, had to figure it out. I had a pretty good chance of dodging the blame."
"I never looked at it like that," Mike said, "You're right; they always knew I did it - you can't blame the dog for everything." We shared another good laugh over that. I paid for my order, thanked him for his help, then headed out to put my purchase in the car.
One significant error I make repeatedly is tending to forget my car is just that, a car - not a truck. My order was mainly ten-feet long pieces of PVC pipes and bags of fittings for the drains. To reduce the pipes' bulk, I slid the inch and a half pipes inside the two-inch lines, then slid the two-inch pipes inside the three-inch pipes. There were a lot more pieces than I anticipated.
Out in the parking lot, I discovered the pipes were not going to fit inside the car. "I don't understand; I've had boards that were ten feet long in the car before." Admittedly, they go from the tailgate, almost to the windshield, but they do fit. I failed to consider that the pipes are over three inches, where the lumber was only one and five-eighths thick. I also didn't t take into account how many pipe sections I would be hauling and that they would have to be stacked a few rows high.
With the back seat down and the front passenger seat fully reclined, I managed to get all the three inches pieces in by running them diagonally from the left rear corner to the front right. I closed the tailgate carefully. No problem. Looking through the back window, I had well over an inch to spare. It appeared the next row would go in just fine as well. I smiled, thinking I was pretty clever. "I've got this under control."
I reopened the back hatch and loaded another row of two-inches pipes that had smaller tubes inside. I again closed the gate slowly. It was pretty tight; the pipes barely touched the back of the end gate, keeping it from latching, but it looked like it would close, so I gave it a little extra push. Nope. The tailgate and the windshield both curved inward toward the top of the car, shortening the clearance. The pipes were not going to fit.
"Not a problem," I thought to myself. I would have to put the passenger window down and let the pipes hang out a few inches. It seemed like a redneck way to do it, but it would work. I'd turn the heat up to high for the 65-mile trip home with an open window.
When I went to the front of the car to put the passenger window down, I noticed two new star-shaped cracks in the windshield. You know the kind; they start at a single point, then sprawl out like a spider web. I felt the bottom drop out of my stomach as I looked at my windshield. "Aw crap! That's going to raise the cost of this project." It's a sickening feeling when you do something so stupid.
I immediately began trying to figure out how this could have happened. I know glass will fracture more quickly when it is sweltering hot or bitterly cold, but today it was neither. "There is no way I could have pushed the end gate hard enough to crack the windshield. There's just no way!" It was impossible. What could have caused this?
Well, maybe it was not impossible. Maybe I did push too hard. Maybe I should have tied the pipes to the rack on top of the car. Maybe I should have unhitched the trailer and driven the truck to Duluth rather than using the car as a truck. Maybe I should have...
Maybe, maybe, maybe. None of these maybes mattered now. The fact is the windshield cracked, and I did it. I must have done it - I was the only one there. Not being one to cry (too long) over spilled milk, I started laughing over a silly idea, "Maybe I should have let June ride along."
Then I heard a voice in my head. It was Mike reminding me, "You can't blame the dog for everything."
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