Reflections while chaining up

“I’m reminded of the time I took a whizz in a producer’s hat.”

“Film or television?”

“Film, of course. Whizzing into television producers’ hats was just a passing fad. Nobody’s done it in years.”

Along with a couple dozen other foolhardy frontierspeople, we were parked on the shoulder of Interstate 80, just west of Truckee. Freezing winds gusted so fiercely they rocked even the mammoth 18-wheeler in front of us. I could barely make out the figure of the rig’s driver as he struggled to manhandle a huge set of tire chains in the driving blizzard.

“Was it a personal thing?”

“Nope. Contract hit. Nice and clean. Hat, whizz, g’bye.”

“A professional peemeister.”

“You flatter me.”

“OK, then you flat …”

We had to quit stalling. I was the opening act of the 20-30 Club’s annual comedy show, and I wouldn’t get paid unless I was onstage at the Auburn Fair Grounds at 7 sharp. It’s the money, Jack. It’s always the money.

I stared out at the swirling snow. Lessee, 68 miles at 0 miles per hour, that’s—

“Mike, somebody really should go out into that blizzard and fetch the heavy box of brand-new snow cables from the trunk.”

Greg Tidwell turned out to be that somebody, and all it took was a few minutes of whining and sniveling my way through the litany of excuses that I had the foresight to fabricate the night before. One should never travel without sufficient preparation.

Off he went into the battering storm. Good lad.

Moments later, and bearing a strong resemblance to the Abominable Snowplow, Greg returned with the tire cables and enough snow on his stupid Denver Broncos jacket to create an impressive passenger-side lagoon when it melted.

“How can you support a team that hasn’t beat the spread since Michael Bolton had a hit single?”

“I’m from Colorado.”

“I’m from Nevada, but you didn’t see me rooting for those XFL parolees on the Vegas team. Come, join me in hating the Broncos. Let us hate together, as men should.”

“Don’t you have to be somewhere?”

“Oh yeah, right. OK, I’ll keep the ol’ mother ship humming while you slip out and throw those cable thingies onto the front wheels, and then we can—”

“I’m not sure how.”

“Not sure? You’re a factory-trained master mechanic, an automotive virtuoso. It’s how you make your living. You’re a legend along Kietzke Lane. ‘Cars is Me’ is probably tattooed on your ass.”

“I’ve never used snow cables before. My pickup has—”

“Yeah, yeah, four-wheel drive.”

“—four-wheel drive. Besides, it wouldn’t look good for me to be seen doing tires. I’m a specialist.”

“I’ll keep an eye out for the paparazzi.” I opened the box and took out the instructions.

“How hard can it be? Here, read for yourself.”

Si vous avez un véhicule à roues avant motrices d’entraînement …”

“Other side, Einstein.”

“Remove wiseass comic from automobile and place under chassis—”

Long story short, we made it to the gig in time for me to go onstage and trick the audience into thinking they were being entertained.

Heading home to Reno after the show, Greg again did the snow cable installation/removal single-handedly. I would have helped him, but risking the loss of my voice from exposure wouldn’t have been fair to my fans, both of whom are doing fairly well on their work-release programs.

“I shouldn’t tell you this,” Greg muttered, “but you did a good job tonight.”

“I know,” I said modestly. “I was really wonderful, wasn’t I?”

"Tell me more about Peeing For Dollars," he said. "I love war stories."