Whenever being a film critic gets me down, say after watching Jason Bateman in “Bad Words,” I remind myself: At least it isn’t 2 a.m. on a sweltering August night with two more truckloads of 400-pound industrial sewing machines to be carried up to the fourth floor.
For years I was a mover. My father was a mover, and his father was a mover. The company, Keough’s Express, founded in 1916, consisted of, as my father put it, a “fleet of truck.” I spent summers moving every crazy person in the Back Bay, and winter weekends waiting for the truck to warm up, hoping it would break down and we could all go home.
But I did learn a marketable skill. And in the fallow days between getting a BA in English and going to graduate school at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I applied for a job at a moving company called Marakesh Express.
On my first day I was giving directions to a truck backing up on a crowded stretch of Beacon Street in Brookline. Unbeknownst to me, no one was driving; the brake had slipped and the tailgate sliced off the roof of someone’s car. Marakesh’s owner, Lee Gailzaid, shrugged it off. He had insurance. Marakesh Express was a laid-back place.
Trucks were definitely not my strength. My first time driving one, a 16-footer we called the “Brown Truck,” I was doing fine until I shifted into third gear while cruising down Mt. Auburn Street outside Harvard Square. The gear shift came off in my hand. It was like “The Three Stooges” bit in which Moe says “Give me the wheel!” and Curly rips it off and hands it to him. Amusing in retrospect, but I remember staring at the useless lever in horror as the truck picked up speed in heavy traffic.
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