Monday, February 22, 2010

The Greatest Story Ever Told (or Why I Was Late for Work)

 For the last couple weeks, I've sort of taken a hiatus from my blog. I did this because of the disappointment I've felt at being unable to attract new readers. Heck, for the most part I can't even get the old readers to leave a comment so I don't really know if anyone is reading any of this anyway. I suppose that's the blogger's ultimate dilemma. Sure, you're talking, but who's listening?

So I've decided to give it one more go with my best effort. Yes, that's right, I'm going to tell my finest story, the best story I have. This is the the most remarkable thing that's ever happened to me. This is a tale I call the Cow Story.

I was living in Weymouth, Massachusetts at the time in a fantastic apartment that sat on the shores of a quiet little pond that was frequented by ducks and geese and swans. Everyone who visited there agreed it was the best apartment a single guy could ever want. The only problem I had with the apartment was it's proximity (or lack thereof) to the office where I worked. I worked in Methuen.

For those of you acquainted with Massachusetts, you'll realize that living in Weymouth and working in Methuen is a bit like living in Anywhere, USA and working in Hell. Not only is it not a nice place to work, but getting there kills you. What's more, once there, not many people get out. Methuen is forty-five miles away from Weymouth, but the path thereunto is intersected by Boston. Yes, a major city with which you'd otherwise have no concourse is neatly nestled smack dab in the middle of your commute. That means you are fighting rush-hour Boston traffic twice each way and you don't even have the benefit of working in Boston.

Each morning I would wiggle my way up Route 3 from the South Shore all the way into Boston, and then have to drag myself back out again, going northwards toward New Hampshire. Then, after a day's work, I'd have to turn around and do it again in reverse. In the summer, Friday evenings coming home were the worst. Then you'd not only be fighting the regular commuters hacking and slashing their way home, but they would be joined by the vacationers who were on their way to the Cape for the weekend. On a good day, this commute would take me an hour and a half of hard, Boston-level driving. Three hours a day in stop and go traffic and I wasn't even in L.A.

I drove a '91 Nissan Maxima. It was my first. I've since had four. Love them. But the first was a real gem. It was the GXE, what Nissan called its luxury model. It had a fantastic Bose stereo system, a sunroof, leather interior, pearl-colored body, a suspension that would rock a baby to sleep, and it was a rocket. It had this little button on the stick that when you pressed it, the manual claimed, it would engage the overdrive. In reality, it revealed a hidden Jamesbondesque exhaust port that would blast flames out the back end and throw you back in your seat as it broke the sound barrier. It would go through schools. Janet hated me for ever getting rid of it.

And so the story begins. (550 words or so later.)

This Methuen office was at the end of a long bumpy road in an industrial park. At the beginning of the street on the right hand side are the offices of Nabisco, the people who make Oreos, Chips Ahoy, and Nilla Wafers (those delightful cookies you used to soak in drool and squish in your fist as a toddler.)

Further up the road is the Shaw's Supermarket warehouse. Every morning, migrant workers from exotic places like Lawrence and Wilmington would line up outside the docks and hope to be chosen that day to work carrying boxes and to be beaten with sticks.

Somewhere along this road, though I did not know it at the time of this story, there is a stockyard where cattle are kept before they are sent off to market.

As I barreled up Rte 93 North, I looked down at the expanse of my high-tech, digital dashboard to check the time. I needed to hurry or I might be late to work. I was the manager of the technical support staff for not only the Methuen office, but also for all of the offices in the northeast. Though my boss was 1,000 miles away in Skokie, Illinois, there were other managers in the office that sometimes had snide comments to make if my morning odyssey ever resulted in me being late. That was annoying. I pressed the accelerator harder. In response, the car's computer intoned, "Approaching Warp Factor 5." I adjusted myself in my seat and ordered the on-board Replicator to fix me another cup of coffee.

Soon, I approached my exit. The retro-jets fired slowing my craft to a manageable velocity to take safely take the turn. I descended the ramp and narrowly made the light at the bottom. That saved me a couple extra minutes, I thought. I turned left onto Pelham Street and proceeded to Danton Drive, the long bumpy road running through the industrial park.

I checked the clock once more, relieved that I had plenty of time to get to the office. I slowed the car down as I continued down the increasingly bumpy road.
Up ahead, an large Ford pickup truck rumbled toward me down Danton Drive. It was one of those three-quarter ton models with with an extended cab that screams, "Why yes, as a matter of fact, I am compensating for something." These trucks never (ever) come in contact with dirt. Their bed is merely a vessel for transporting the owner's ego from one place to another.

This particular truck was also towing a large cattle trailer. Quite suddenly, as the track passed me, the heavy door of this cattle trailer swung open, almost crushing the front end of my Maxima.

With a sudden reflexive surge, I grabbed the wheel with both hands and lurched the car to the right, barely avoiding the would-be wrecking ball of the swinging door. The truck rumbled passed, leaving me fighting to regain control of my vehicle. Incredulously, I stared into the rear view mirror realizing that the driver had no idea of the peril he carried behind him.

"Oh, my gosh, he's headed for the highway! He's going to kill someone!"

I spun the car around and gunned the engine in order to pursue -- and intercept -- this fast moving hazard before it reached the highway. My car bounced hard along the road. I was surprised to see how fast the truck was moving. I pushed the pedal harder and leaned into the wheel.

I was getting closer now, the trailer looming ahead in my windshield. The trailer's wide gate continued to swing precariously as the truck bounded along the road. I needed now only to cautiously pass the truck, staying clear of the gate and watching for any on-coming cars.

But then, from the darkness of the cattle trailer, an interesting thing happened. Two large eyes appeared from the shadows. These were subsequently followed by the rest of the cow to which they belonged.

"Holy crap."

The cow stepped forward into the light and seemed to take in it's situation curiously. It stood there for a moment, chewing cud, and remained still.

Then it moved forward a bit. And then again. It was now dangerously close to the trailer's edge.

"No. No! Don't you even think about it!"

The cow's head moved up and down, left and right as it began to ponder this new position in which it found itself. Then, it looked straight forward taking note of the pearl colored Nissan Maxima that held its position just 20 feet away.

Our eyes locked.

The cow and I regarded one another.

For that moment, I would tell you that the cow and I formed a telepathic bond with one another. Words were not exchanged for, as you know, cows do not understand human languages. Yet there was communication. The communication went thusly:

"Don't do it. I know what you're thinking, but don't do it."

"I must."

"No! Please, listen to me! This is a mistake! Don't do it!"

"I'm sorry. I must do this."

At this the cow lifted it's leg and made it's first step forward off the back of the trailer.

Now, it occurred to me at this point that cows are not stupid animals. No cow would willingly behave in such a way as this without some impetus. In my mind, I began to speculate on the events that led up to this pivotal moment.

I imagined that, just a few moments ago, somewhere, up near the front of the trailer, the cows must have been standing about mundanely in the darkness as cows are wont to do. At length, one cow must have spoken up.

"Hey, Bossie?"


"Gate's open."

"Yeah. Yeah, it is." [sounds of cud being chewed]

"I dare ya."


"I double-dog dare ya."

"Screw you. I'm not going out there. Get Bessie to do it."

[two cows in unison] "Hey Bessie..."

It is common knowledge that cow peer pressure, next to only the principle of compounding interest, is perhaps the most powerful force in the universe.

And so, I sat with horror and disbelief as this cow lifted its leg and took its first step out of the trailer. The telepathic connection between the cow and me was quickly broken, but not before the cow sent one final message:

"This was a bad idea."

It was clear to me that the cow had drastically misjudged the height of the trailer from the road. It had also tragically misjudged the speed at which the trailer was traveling. I gathered from what happened next that this particular cow had never stepped out of a moving vehicle going anywhere near the 47 miles per hour at which this truck was currently traveling.

Instantly, the cow stiffened. Its entire body went as rigid as if the cow had been carved from a single block of oak. This had the effect of not only causing the cow to bounce horrifyingly, but also causing it to literally propel into the air some twelve to fifteen feet as the cow tumbled end over end bouncing along the road like a hubcap.

Again, I jerked the wheel veering harshly out of the way of the incoming bovine. The cow flipped past me and continued down the road, still rigid, still in wide-eyed shock. I pulled the car back into my lane and gazed in astonishment in my rear view mirror. At this point something caught my eye in the windshield.

Two more cows appeared at the end of the trailer. (Recall, please, the facts about cow peer pressure.)

With no delay other than to imply, "We're with her," these two cows proceeded to step nonchalantly out of the trailer and into the path of my car. One more cow followed close behind these two. Each seemed completely indifferent about what they were about to do until they realized what a terrible, terrible idea this had been from the start and they found themselves prisoners of inertia, foundering and flipping down the road at 45 miles per hour. Again, each one went rigid in wide-eyed surprise with this new, sudden, and painful awareness of both speed and gravity.

For me, behind the wheel of my '91 Nissan Maxima, I suddenly knew what it felt to be a World War II bomber pilot trying to dodge flack as I roared toward my target. I weaved back and forth, pushing my rack and pinion to its limits as I violently swung the wheel left and right trying to avoid a game ending collision with an on-coming cow.

The truck was starting to pull away from me now as the driver continued obliviously along his way. He was taking the right onto Pelham Street and would be shortly be entering the on-ramp to the highway.

I recovered from my evasive action and spurred the Maxima forward with everything she had. Seizing the opening, I swung my car around the trailer's gate as it continued to flail wildly, and zoomed down the opposite lane barely getting in front of the truck before it reached the on-ramp. I waved, blew my horn, and forced him to a stop. Startled by this, he rolled down his window and stared at me. I leaned out of my window and shouted at the top of my lungs, "Dude! Your gate flopped open and all your cows fell out!" (To this day, I still don't know why I worded that sentence the way I did.)

The absurdity of this statement, and my delivery thereof was only mitigated by his response. It was as though he was channeling Scooby-Doo; his eyes widened and he replied in a cartoon voice, "Aahrreeeallry?"

We turned our vehicles around drove back to the scene of the carnage. I fully thought there would be puddles of hamburger all over the road, but, to my amazement, the cows, all of them, were standing around on the lawn of the Nabisco building, grazing as if nothing unusual whatsoever had happened.

"What are you going to do? Can you get them back in the trailer?"

"No. We'll have to drive them down the street back to the stockyard."


"Yes. I'll need you to use your car to help me drive them forward along the road and into the pens. Stay behind them, blow your horn, and try to keep them together."

The rest of the story is less clear in my mind. I suppose the adrenaline was wearing off at this point. I know it took us some time to get them off the grass and into the road. After that, I can recall slowly driving along behind the cows blowing my horn and leaning out the window and yelling "Gyah! Gyah cow!" as I herded them up Danton Drive, past the Shaw's warehouse, and back into the stockyard. As you would expect, this took no little time.

When we reached the stockyards, the man gave me nary a thank you. He was more concerned with getting the cows back onto the truck and getting on his way. I asked him if the cows would be okay. He told me it didn't really matter -- they were headed to the slaughterhouse anyway. This bummed me out a bit, but I figured that, well, at least the meat would be tender.

I walked into the office and to my desk. One of the managers saw me walk by and felt compelled to say, "Hey, you're late."

"Yes," I said, "Yes I am."


Anonymous said...

Why don't you publish Glen? Find some magazine that would take short stories like this. Readers Digest perhaps. This is hysterical.

And hey, I blog all the time, and people rarely read or comment. ahem.

Donzo said...

As you know, I love this story. And, I do read your blog. Do you read mine?

Anonymous said...

The funnier part of the story is that it is a true story!

Genie of the Shell said...

Dude. You should write a memoir in short stories. This is hilarious and truly stranger than fiction.

rythter said...

I liked Necco wafers!

rythter said...

Wait, I still do...

rythter said...

well, except the black ones. (and no that is not racist, they are licorice and not the good (red) kind)

Glenn said...

I would like to agree with all of the comments that said the following:
1. This blog entry was hysterical.
2. This story (pretty much) happened just as he described.
3. Gleno should write a collection of very short stories.
4. Necco wafers are very good, except for the black ones. I never understood the black ones. They are gross.

sara star said...

Very good!

Anonymous said...

And now that you've gotten our attention, how are you going to top this?

Anonymous said...

New reader here!

Gleno said...

I have no idea what to do next.I can't just go back to grumbling about politics or criticing random people who aren't here to defend themselves. Maybe I'll try my hand at restaurent reviews?

Anonymous said...

Yes try restaraunt reviews - where are we going first?

Anonymous said...

You gotta keep it fresh!!!

Anonymous said...

Cow, like house guest, get stale after three day.

DanKeniley said...

Awesome story Glen. We've been friend for a dozen years and this is the first time I've heard this tale.

Have you ever contemplated that the cows were aware of thier fate and attempted an elaborate escape plan? First prying open the gate at the perfect moment and then employing the tuck & roll method off the speeding truck?

Anonymous said...

I only come here to read the comments....

tess said...

glen, this story always kills me. It gets better and better...

Gleno said...

It dawned on me just today, and I was able to verify this on the Internet, that it was not "Necco" that occupied the building at the end of Pelham Street, but rather "Nabisco". My apologies to the vaunted and revered maker of the Oreo and the Fig Newton.

Elsewhere said...

AHAHAHA! This is hilarious! Also very well written. Glib, with enough imagery and internal thought (i.e - the bit about what the cows were thinking) to keep the viewpoints interesting and varied. You really ought to send this for publishing!