Call 1-800-I’m-driving-a-freaking-Budget-rental-truck.

When you see a rental moving truck on the road, pass it like your life depends on it. Because your life probably depends on it. Here’s who is driving that twenty-four-foot monstrosity: someone who has absolutely no experience driving a truck. Or, maybe they have experience driving an obnoxiously long car—probably a Ford Crown Victoria—and they figured, “how different could this be?”, and they are named Bart. I recently rented a moving truck and while driving it to Chicago, I passed every rental moving truck I saw because I know what kind of maniacs drive those things.

Here’s the secret: no one who is driving a rental moving truck actually has any idea how to drive something that big. You don’t need a special license, you don’t need prior experience, you only need to sign something saying that you’ll empty your pockets if you damage the truck. There’s a warning on the mirror that says, “take wider turns because you’re driving a truck, you idiot.” I figured out how to drive it, but I didn’t trust myself enough to back up without two people behind me, directing me where to go, and I still struck a building. (It wasn’t that bad. There was no damage. (To the truck.))

I thought renting a truck would be a simple task—just explain how much junk I have, and some website tells me exactly what I need. That wasn’t the case. The length options were ten, sixteen, or twenty-four foot trucks. Various rental websites try to help by saying, “If you have a 10’ truck, you’re probably moving into a studio apartment. If you have a 16’ truck, you’re probably moving into a two bedroom apartment. If you have a 24’ truck, divide the length of the truck by two, and then multiply that by how many miles you’re driving, and that’s how many objects you’ll strike.” Gauging how much stuff I had was difficult. It’s not like there are small devices with measurement units on them that you hold up next to things and figure out length and width… Even if they did make these things, what am I, a mathematician? (I’m not a mathematician.) I clicked on the sixteen footer, and crossed my fingers.

We picked up the truck a week later, loaded it up, and drove off. This truck was not nice. Imagine driving a rental truck that people beat the crap out of for 160,000 miles…now imagine that just before you pick it up, a Nascar team with screwdrivers and socket wrenches and battle axes loosens every nut and bolt on the thing. It had the turning radius of a cruise-ship and the acceleration of a barge. At random times on the highway we would hear something slam in the back, which sounded eerily like a human pounding on the walls of the truck. This was disconcerting, as we didn’t have a lock on the rear gate, so it really could have been a human pounding the walls. If it was, he was choosing really annoying times to do it. (Ultimately, the joke would have been on him, because the wind and the overcompensation of some idiot driving it made the truck jerk violently.)

I kept checking my mirrors on the highway, and I was doing a pretty good job of staying in the lanes. Or so I thought. I started to notice a pattern: cars crept up to me, and then floored it past me, leaving more than enough width for another car. I could just imagine the conversation. “Oh NO HONEY! It’s another damn BUDGET RENTAL TRUCK! GET AROUND HIM! DRIVE ON THE RUMBLE STRIP!” The Budget actually stands for Beware: Unskilled Dumb Guy Exploring Traffic. Right before I picked up the sixteen footer, I saw a very petite lady hop into a twenty-four footer and drive off. I watched her jump in with confidence and I figured, if that little lady can do it, then dang it, so can I! That’s not a dig on women; relax people. It’s a dig on small women.

Whenever I got into a sticky situation—and let me assure you, driving this truck in downtown Chicago presented me with a few of these—I would say to myself and Tony in the front seat, “Don’t these people know that I’m driving a freaking BUDGET RENTAL TRUCK? I’m not going to be able to move past that guy! I’m in a FREAKING BUDGET RENTAL TRUCK. I need more space than that! Let me merge! I’m driving a BUDGET RENTAL TRUCK! I CAN’T FIT ANYWHERE ELSE AND I’M NOT SKILLED ENOUGH TO MAKE THIS WORK ON MY OWN.”

It’s hard to admit that you aren’t good at something. I hit (more like tapped, or lightly slammed) a building, dominated countless curbs, and nearly smoked a dumpster, and I’m still not prepared to  admit that I’m not good at driving the thing. I prefer to say that it was a challenge. This is with a sixteen foot automatic transmission truck—I can only imagine how people drive massive eighteen wheelers through cities. Respect.

We finally arrived at my apartment, unloaded, and then returned the truck. In the words of Mortal Kombat, this was a “Flawless Victory.” Next on the to-do list: get an Illinois license. Going to the DMV is like roasting a marshmallow with your fingers instead of a stick: it takes longer than you thought, hurts more, and someone always yells at you.

5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Oh Bart. I sympathize. We moved from Michigan to New Jersey in 1989 driving a huge rental truck, and I have still not completely recovered. That horrible day (and it sent on for a lot longer than 24 hours) would easily make my list of “top ten most stressful days of my life.” Keep in mind I’ve raised three children since then. I bow in honor of your bravery and wish you well in your new home.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      That’s WENT on. Sorry.

      Reply
  2. Elaine Schnabel

    Moral of the story: small women have excellent spatial awareness.

    Reply
  3. Avatar

    I laughed so hard while reading this, especially because I just moved with a BUDGET RENTAL TRUCK (although my dad did all the driving AND towed my car behind it). The DMV is the worst, especially in the South on a 104 degree day with what must have been 50+ people waiting and the air conditioning wasn’t working well. Just went the other day. Glad you made it safely to your new place, despite being behind the wheel of a Budget truck. Good luck at the DMV 🙂

    Reply
  4. Bart Tocci

    Misery loves company — glad you can all relate. The night terrors brought on by this move have just stopped.

    Reply

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