City Paper is not for tourists
Editor’s Note: Earlier this year, Justin wrote Iceland, a blog about his band’s American tour. Justin isn’t on tour anymore, but Iceland continues, twice a week, on City Desk.
“This U-Haul is the ninth U-Haul that I have operated,” the U-Haul franchise-operator declared. This gentleman stood behind the counter at the U-Haul franchise located near North Capitol Street in Northeast Washington. If all went well, this franchise-operator would grant me access to a U-Haul that I had reserved via Internet.
“The bleak façade of this U-Haul franchise hearkens back to the brutal modernism of Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier,” I commented. “I can only wonder how long your store has been open.”
“I have been here for eight years,” the franchise-operator revealed.
“And are you pleased by this location?” I queried.
“This location is terrible,” the gentleman admitted. “Look where we at! Just look!” The man gestured in a southwesterly direction. “Capitol Building right there, but this isn’t really a residential area, you know? It’s like an abandoned industrial area. Greyhound bus terminal right down the street. So, at night, all them homeless people come dragging by my store. All them people gravitate here, you know? These people down here—-I mean, they crazy. These people done lost whatever they had. Done lost they homes. Done lost they minds. And if they think the government’s out to get them, boy! They gonna come write down here and start protesting and writing letters and do whatever they gonna do, living on the street. They crazy!”
“The unblinking eye of the security camera above your desk is trained on me at this moment, underscoring your safety concerns,” I observed.
“Well…” the man said. “Your U-Haul is right out on the lot.”
“It pains me to leave you here, suffering,” I remarked. I left the much-maligned U-Haul franchise and found my U-Haul parked outside. The shiny vehicle steamed in the 100-degree July morning. I climbed in the U-Haul and drove to my home. For three hours, I removed assorted group-house refuse from my basement and loaded it into my U-Haul. Once the U-Haul was full, I drove to the Fort Totten trash-transfer station. There, hidden among acres of strategically-positioned greenery, lives a giant pile of refuse groomed by enormous bulldozers. This pile looks, sounds, and smells like Armageddon. I added my own trash to this noxious pile, including a dubious “mixed-media” canvas abandoned at my home by an unnamed artist. When a bulldozer pulverized this canvas, I cheered. Then I climbed back in my U-Haul and fled south down North Capitol Street to return the vehicle. En route, I contemplated the fate of the suffering U-Haul franchise-operator.
I will vacuum my U-Haul’s interior and make the U-Haul franchise-operator’s day a little easier, albeit in a small way, I thought. I stopped at a filling station, gassed up, and vacuumed the interior of my U-Haul. As I vacuumed, rain fell pitter-patter on the steel roof of my U-Haul. Fall, rain—-fall, I thought. My small act of courtesy will still brighten a suffering U-Haul franchise-operator’s heart—-and I will avoid a $25 cleaning fee.