When I went to pick up the truck, they handed me a small piece of paper that featured a diagram of the truck and told me to inspect the truck, marking the location of any pre-existing dents or scratches. After circling the truck and making all of the proper notations, you could barely make out the outline of the truck underneath all the ink.
That, along with the 129,000 miles on the odometer, should have been my first clues that this was not going to be a quality moving experience, but I ignored the warning signs, signed the contract, hopped in, and started driving to our old house to pick up the first load.
There were two things emblazoned on the side of the truck. First, it stated:
Gross Vehicle Weight: 18,000 lbs. Max
Second was the assertion that the truck featured a:
They got it half right because, while it was indeed a “gross vehicle,” the ride was anything but gentle. In fact, the vibration inside the cab was so bad that two-inch gaps kept appearing between the doors and the door frames. I was sure that the doors were going to pop off at any moment, but when I tried express this fear to my friend Dan who was riding with me, the engine noise was so deafening that he couldn’t hear me.
The ride was so unpleasant that after making one trip to the new house in the truck, my wife refused to make the return trip in our “Gentle-Ride Van.” I think she was also a little embarrassed because as we drove down the street with doors rattling, engine whining, gears grinding, and chassis creaking, passersby would reel around in horror thinking that a cargo plane carrying malfunctioning band instruments was bearing down on them.
Another problem was that second gear didn’t exist. OK, to be fair, second gear existed, but it was easier to shift from first to third rather than spend the five minutes it took to find the magic combination of clutch position, engine speed, and expletives necessary to get the beast into second. (To accomplish this yourself, simply put the truck into first, let out the clutch, wait until the engine gets to about 162,000 RPMs, and then kick it into third.)
The emergency brake didn’t work, either. It was more like a “suggestion” brake, suggesting to the truck that it would be really nice if it didn’t roll down the hill, but it wasn’t going to insist on it. And once you got the loading ramp out, someone would have to climb underneath the truck and put it back on track before you could push it back in again. The air coming out of the air conditioner was hotter than than the air outside. Even the AM/FM radio was DOA. (Not that you would have been able to hear anything anyway, but still…)
All of this wouldn’t have been nearly so bad if, two weeks after our U-Hell fiasco, my brother-in-law hadn’t pulled up in a gleaming Penske moving truck that he had just driven out from the Bay Area. As I stroked the unblemished paint, listened to the purring engine, and eyed the spotless interior, he talked about how great his moving experience had been.
I hate him.