This is the last thread of 5 or 6 good ones that I bashed out when I had control of the @Hamilton_Humans Twitter account for a week in June 2019. The original 63-tweet thread and its threadreader version are, at the time of writing, still alive. I intend to publish them all here with only very minor editing (typo removal etc). Let’s see if that actually happens.
It’s Saturday night – the end of my time on @Hamilton_Humans. I’d written a decent sign-off the night before, but am goaded into telling one more story.
Oh alright then. Have I told you about the time I damaged Brymer Road with the side of a truck?
Don’t worry, it wasn’t my truck.
I am, of course, assuming that if I get to the end of this thread before my time as Hamilton’s nominated Twitter Human finishes at midnight, then @annasmartnz will buy me a coffee some time. Anyway.
Ok, so I’m pretty sure that we’re in January of 1997 here. Maybe 1998. The only thing I know is for sure is that it’s the day before the Big Day Out. Exactly which Big Day Out doesn’t stand out. Maybe it was the one with the really grumpy Sparklehorse set.
The Sparklehorse set was recommended by the friends I drove to the Big Day Out one year. And this one time I had to call up a bunch of friends and say, “heeey, so I crashed a truck pretty badly today, but if you’re still up for a lift to the Big Day Out in my uncrashed car…”
I’m pretty sure that those things all fit together.
Oh and by the way, none of them said, “a two-hour drive with someone still jittery from rolling a truck with no other traffic involved? Fuck. Off.”
Nah, they all strapped in.
Awesome bunch of people, my mates.
Sparklehorse really let them down, but that’s not their fault.
And this story isn’t about Sparkehorse. Or about my friends.
This story is about the time I crashed a truck all by myself.
So my dad used to run a business in Huntly, and I used to get holiday jobs whenever I wanted them.
Yeah, so that’s one of my favourite characters in my life, helping me out whenever I have spare time and want cash.
[Embedded Tweet from a previous thread: “Something you should probably know: Whenever I tell stories about my life, it’s really obvious that two things play a larger role than anything I bring to the table. Those two things are Dumb Luck and Smart Wife.”]
Sometimes I’d work on reception. I’d cover the Credit Control team, who took family holidays together. (Shit, imagine getting a call about an overdue bill from the boss’s teen son. I only just realised how demeaning that would be.) I’d work in the factory. Whatever needed doing.
[Tweet I intend to embed features @annasmartnz promising me coffee. Tweet I actually embed is the Smart Wide/Dumb Luck one above, because Twitter is hard and so is cutting & pasting.]
Maybe my second summer there, a customer missed a delivery. All the trucks were gone, so I took it on. But when there are no trucks and you need to deliver some stuff, what’s the obvious thing to do?
That’s right: The obvious thing to do is have your dad pull rank and commandeer a senior manager’s company car. Station wagon. Good stereo, decent acceleration, and enough boot space for single-customer orders.
First it was local runs – Huntly to Hamilton for big customers on days they really needed it. To Auckland if it was really desperate. Looking back, things were getting out of hand when my entire work day was driving the Sales Manager’s new Hyundai to Whangarei and back.
I don’t know who was calling up the late payers that day, but I was blasting bFM whenever it was in range and wondering if speed cameras can identify faces.
So one day I’m in the factory for some reason, when the factory manager comes running up. “Max, you’ve been doing a bit of driving, right?”
The Factory Manager, by the way, is not in charge of deliveries to customers.
“Ok, cool, look, it’s just around the corner and back. I need a few pallets dropped off.”
No worries. But what will I be driving?
You’ll be driving…
…the shitty old one tonne work truck.
I probably should have asked at this point if I needed to know anything about driving trucks. But fuck it, if the Factory Manager trusts me, then *I* trust me.
So off I go, on a very short trip with a few pallets on the back.
And it all works out fine.
Now, this next detail I didn’t discover until a couple of years later, but at some point Dad hears about his idiot son being put in charge of the shitty old one tonne work truck and he politely (I’m sure) reminds everyone that this is a Bad Idea Not To Be Repeated.
A week or two after the pallet run with absolutely no bad consequences, I see the Factory Manager again.
“Hey, so, you know how you’re alright driving the little truck?”
HE TRUSTS ME SO I TRUST ME.
“I need a few pallets picked up.”
“Oh, from around the corner?”
“No. From […ominous music…] all the way down State Highway One in Hamilton.”
What. Could. Possibly. Go. Wrong.
On the way TO Hamilton, absolutely nothing went wrong.
At the place where they load empty pallets onto trucks, absolutely nothing went wrong.
Starting out back to Huntly, I thought, “hey, Max, you’re a rookie motorist driving a truck for like the second time ever, and there’s more weight on it than last time. How about we go nice and slowly away from the main road, so nothing goes wrong?”
Luckily I know the roads pretty well, because a mate of mine lives on Brymer. So that’s the way I go.
I’m kinda nervous now. Probably shouldn’t have overthought it and changed routes. Ah well. Factory Manager trusts me!
So anyway, Brymer Road has some hills on it.
Coming down one of the hills, I spot a bit of gravel on the left hand side of the road.
I decide to move a bit to the right. I mean, no-one wants to clip a bit of gravel and lose control of a truck, right?
[Embedded tweet: What. Could. Possibly. Go. Wrong.]
I turn slightly to the right, and the truck does something weird, like it wants to keep going that way.
I try to bring it back left, and the same thing happens in mirror image.
Looking up, I see nothing ahead of me.
This whole “I move the truck a little bit, but the truck goes a long way” thing keeps happening. Right. Left. Right. Left.
A little bit further every time.
I’m crossing the centre line with every swerve. Still nothing ahead of me.
But don’t worry, things are going to get worse before they get worse.
[Embedded tweet: What. Could. Possibly. Go. Wrong]
The hill goes up to my left, and down on the right. The right-hand side is fenced.
There’s not a lot of time to make decisions, what with me totally losing control of a fish-tailing Shitty Old Work Truck, but I click that going through a fence and down a hill would be very bad.
It’s rocking pretty badly by now. I’m going up off two wheels every time.
ohmygoditnearlytippedphewbacklevelohmygoditnearlytippedphewbacklevelohmygoditnearlytippedphewbacklevelSHIT THE HILL TO THE RIGHT
So I pull a final, last-ditch tug on the wheel to the left.
The whole thing turns to a right angle. The wheels on the drivers’ side go up.
Way, way up.
And that’s how a truck can fall over, all by itself.
It can slide along a bit, too.
Now I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a truck that tipped over all by itself or not, but it’s funny what you realise first.
My first thought was, “shit, my glasses just fell off.”
So I look around for my glasses, and I see them on the floor. But it’s not really the floor, because things aren’t really the right way up. No, my glasses have fallen onto the passenger door. The view through the passenger window, meanwhile, is a close up of Brymer Road.
I can also see my feet, but not the rest of me.
This is because I’m dangling from the seat belt. Imagine someone folded in half, suspended in midair, except it’s the cab of a truck.
DUMB LUCK strikes again!
So I climb down from my seatbelt and stand on firm ground or door or whatever. I pick up my glasses and look around.
I need to get out of here, and the only way is up.
I don’t know if you’ve ever climbed up towards the driver’s door of a truck, but it’s a bit further than you might imagine.
Here’s the really stupid thing: I thought twice about using the gear lever as a foot hold, in case I damaged work’s vehicle.
Also, truck doors are kind of heavy. You don’t think about these things until you need to push one up to get out of a truck that fell over all by itself.
But I climb out, and realise that the back of the truck makes a nice seat with my feet on the side of the cab. I look around and realise that I’ve never seen this part of town from so high up. City meets country. It’s nice.
So I look around and the next thing I think is, “well, the delivery’s fucked. I wonder if my mate who lives near here is home? We could have coffee.”
I honestly considered just walking away from the sideways, tipped-over truck and popping in on a buddy for a cuppa.
That would have been a bad idea though. I mean, anyone who could read the side of the truck could have worked out which company it belonged to.
But before I could wander off, the guy from the car behind comes running up.
“Oh my god, I saw the whole thing! You just started swerving like crazy! You must have blown a tyre!”
“Um, actually, I was just trying to avoid some gravel.”
Because this is the ’90s, not everyone has a phone with them. Luckily for me, the guy who saw it all does have a phone. So I climb down for the truck to get it.
Then it hits me.
I have to call work and tell them what I did.
And work = dad.
And I’m a dumb teen, so as much as I don’t want to have this conversation with anyone, I really REALLY don’t want to have it with dad.
I take a deep breath, and start dialling.
…shit, what’s my work phone number?
Phone Guy asks what’s wrong. I tell him I don’t know the number of the company I work for. He’s smart, though, and asks if I have it written down.
Hey, yeah! It’s written on the side of the truck!
I turn around and find myself looking at the bottom of the truck.
So I climb back onto the truck, take a seat on the back of it with my feet on the door, and look at the nice view. It’s nice.
Then I call work.
“This is Max’s work’s reception.”
“Hi Reception. Look, I’ve kind of rolled the Shitty Truck a little bit, so Factory Manager’s pallets are going to be late. Do you think I should talk to him about that, or will you put me through to Purchasing so they know to buy a new truck?”
“What? No! I’ll put you through to your Boss Dad, you dipshit.”
“NO no no no no oh hiii, Dad…”
Teenage brains are completely useless. Dad was, of course, great.
Are you okay? Where are you? Why the hell are you on that road? Ok, fair enough. Who sent you in the Shitty Old Truck?
And have you called your mother yet?
I’m sitting on top of a sideways truck with no excuse for why it fell over and starting to feel bad about how my first instinct was to just fuck off for a coffee. So NO. No, I haven’t called my mother.
Mum was on the other side of the river with things to do all day, so of course she was there in about 16 seconds flat.
And man, she was so so so calm. She walks up all like, “look at the view here, city meets country. Don’t you have a friend who lives near here? Anyway, how about we start directing the traffic a little bit?”
I honestly don’t remember what happened to the truck. I have no memory of where I went next, or how Factory Manager got on without his pallets.
What I do remember – Very Frickin’ Clearly – is when one of the regular drivers asked me how I’d tied the load in. Because the pallets are a bit narrower than the truck, you see, which means that if you turn too sharply they can move, which, if there were enough of them…
…WOULD SHIFT THE WHOLE BLOODY TRUCK SIDEWAYS.
Yeah, no-one had told me that bit.
Anyway, that night I’m calling friends about the Big Day Out tomorrow. I ask one of them if there are any road cones or traffic works or cop cars a block or two from his place. He hangs up and goes to check.
Then he calls back. “Nah, but there’s a big, like, gouge or a scar or something in the road, a couple of metres long. How did you know?”
“Ha, I did that, with the top-left corner of my dad’s truck. Now, do you still want me to drive you to Auckland tomorrow?”
“Uh, yeah man, Sparklehorse!”
And that’s the story of the time I damaged Brymer Road with the side of a truck.