The junkyard was my home for about a year. It wasn’t the kind of job that suited me. I did it because I was able to stay there for free.
I lived inside the tire pile. It was more beautiful than it sounds. I can imagine what you must conjure when I say that. What I did, was find a little cave of sorts that I could enter from a crevice around the back. From the outside, it appeared as any other typical junkyard tire pile, but once you crawled inside, you saw that I had the place furnished rather nicely.
In my defense, it was nicer than many of the real “homes” that people I’ve known have lived in. It could have been worse.
One time when I was listening to the radio, I heard about someone who lived in the rafters of a bridge. It was comfortable. He liked it there. Until one day, the bridge started to lift up. Before he knew what was going on, he was vertical. His bed pointed at the sky. His books and shoes falling down into the river. He’d been living there a few days, never considered it could be drawbridge. That’s how those things go. Every house has it’s downside.
My tire pile was tolerable. It never moved up into the sky, dangling above the river while I gripped on a rafter to save my own life.
I had a living room with a small TV. A fridge, a fake potted plant, a couch. There was no running water, but I did have a cord running underground which gave me electricity. I even had a bookcase with some discarded library books and magazines from the dentist across the highway. The receptionist in there liked me. She gave me all the magazines when they were going to throw them away.
It was good for me. It didn’t bother me to not have a lawn or a telephone or a mailbox. I didn’t mind not having to shovel the driveway when it snowed or paint the shed when it needed painting. Actually, the roof I ‘d constructed for myself within my mole hole was known to leak when the tires above shifted. So I got my handyman fix just fine by managing that battle with caulk and spray foam insulation and tarps I’d weave artfully in and out.
The only real downside to living there, was that it was hard to bring girls home.
They never seemed too impressed with me when they found out that I lived inside a pile of old discarded tires. They’d complain about the overbearing odor of the rubber. About the occasional insect. About the sounds of the trucks dumping the tires up above us.
“Just pretend like this is the bottom of the ocean and that is the sound of the waves…”
“I’m pretty sure that the roof is gonna collapse on us!”
“Nobody ever got buried alive in a tire pile, take it easy.”
Sure enough, the girls one by one would get up off of my couch and climb out what you’d call my door except it wasn’t much of one. It was a sliding glass door that I’d installed vertically because the track always seemed to get chunks of tire tread wedged in it the other way. I kept vowing I was gonna put in a real door, but never got around to it.
The worst part was that I had a real thing for the receptionist in the dentist’s office. She was really beautiful and would bat her eyes at me as if putting out a fire with her lashes . She had great teeth too (of course). I couldn’t bring myself to invite her over to my place, even though she seemed very receptive to the idea. I couldn’t tell if it was just because she was a receptionist or not.
The best part about her was that she drove a shitty car.
That’s my thing. I like a girl with a receptionist job who drives a total piece of shit car. Some people like legs, or tits, or ass- don’t get me wrong, I like all of those things, all of those qualities are welcome bonuses. Mostly, I want a girl who I can talk to, who can type 1000 words a minute and drives a car that may or may not catch on fire.
A friend of mine got me the junkyard job because I was known as an ace forklift driver. The junkyard needed somebody to load cars into the car crushing robot. They had the equipment. I had the talent.
Truth be told, driving a forklift used to be one of my major talents. I’ve given it up now. It’s no longer a passion of mine.
A lot of us Americans used to be quite good at forklifting. Now we don’t really have much to load or unload. It’s just how things go. Waxing and waning, except it might be that we used all of our wax up with Manifest Destiny. After that it was all just wane.
Regardless, back then, I took a lot of pride in my forklift driving abilities. I used to be known as “the man who could move any pallet”. That was a big deal where I was from. A small factory town, our main export- elastic rubber bands for undergarments. All good things come to pass. The rubber factory closed, became just another empty haunted shell. Apparently, Pakistan has cornered the new undergarment elastic band territory.
So be it.
Those factory men and women didn’t seem to enjoy their perspective places on the assembly line anyway. They all seemed to have dreams they wished to pursue but couldn’t because they were chained to the job.
One guy wanted to be a professional swordfisherman in Costa Rica. Another wanted to open his own hot dog cart. He talked about it all the time, “I’ll make my own sauerkraut…that’s where the money is, people don’t realize that.”
I remember a guy wanted to sail around the world in a stainless steel submarine that he planned to build himself (he’d been picking up scrap for a decade off the side of the road and kept asking me, “Are you sure you don’t know how to weld? I could really use some help with my pet project…I had the prints professionally engineered”).
When the factory shut down, we all became faces in the crowd hanging at the unemployment office. Where Roy the janitor says to me for the thousandth time, “You think I wanted to mop up elastic band residue for the rest of my goddamn life?”
“What do you want to do then?”
“I want my cable TV back. I had a wire running from my neighbor’s house to mine. He lost his job too. They shut his cable off, now I don’t have it either.”
Perhaps that’s why I liked the tire pile. It reminded me of my time at the factory. Both of those places smelled the same. Rubber. Funny how you can grow to miss anything.