Hell, I presume, will consist of driving a truck the wrong way on a one-way street through the wholesale meat enclave of New York, but first I call on Margaret Thatcher, that authority on human happiness, to repeat a recent statement she made to this newspaper:
"Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied," she said. "It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing. It's when you've had everything to do, a real challenge, and you've done it."
Before observing she has lost her blue-eyed mind, I confess that newspapers believe the same thing Maggie does; that is, that joy comes from "doing everything," especially when it's impossible. Very likely Mrs. Thatcher is a Presbyterian or something of the sort, and she is entitled to her happiness wherever she finds it. Her happiness is not my happiness, for which I thank God, since the world usually gets into jams through people who hold "lounging around doing nothing" in pure contempt.
Let us then be up and doing, as a wretched poet once suggested, with a heart for any fate. You don't find great poets like Shakespeare saying things like that, and probably grave damage is done by heads of states' reading bad literature instead of "Lear," which might teach them something.
But to get on, I have had my share of "doing everything," and it occurs to me that the Thatcher approach brings almost everything except satisfaction.
Fate, I know not how, recently directed me to New York where a woman of my family was proposing to move to Virginia.
"Right at a thousand bucks," she cried, "that's what those robbers want to move my few clothes and one small chest of drawers and a few odds of ends to Virginia. Can you beat it? But wait, I called this wonderful place that rents little trucks and I can get one for $125. The only thing is, I don't drive in New York, you know, and I wonder if it would be too much trouble for you to--"
"Wait a minute," I cried just at this point. "You know I can't drive a truck."
"Well, I heard you say you had several times driven those Army trucks in the war, and once on the cotton farm you had to drive a truck and--"
"Long ago," I pointed out, "and besides the truck is dead."
This woman assured me, however (thereby earning extra time in the bad place, when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed), that she had rented a truck so tiny it was probably illegal even to call it a truck, and it was just like a station wagon, practically, etc., etc.
Such a project involves buying a train ticket to New York and taking the young woman (and two of her friends) to supper at dear old Luchow's, which is closing its historic old dining room in two weeks and there goes another hundred bucks.
The truck place is on 12th Avenue. The main thing I learned was that I am sufficiently stupid that when I viewed the truck (a regular moving van) I did not have sense or courage enough to say the deal is off.
Enthroned at great height I finally got the machine out of the garage and headed (after minor incidents of the sort you can imagine quite well yourself) into 14th Street, Elysian home of many wholesale lamb, veal and beef houses, pretty well clogged by small trucks from mom and pop stores.
I was three blocks into it before gridlock. There was no way to know I was going wrong on a one-way street since the signs to suggest this were pointing variously towards Charleston, Bermuda and a fine range of cumulus clouds. A red truck the size of the White House finally broke the jam (at what cost in little tricycles one hates to think) and bore down like the wolf on the fold.
I could not believe I was wrong on the one-way street chiefly because nobody was screaming at me, but finally I got the message and backed up three blocks. At what cost in--but no matter.
The New Jersey Turnpike (I say nothing of the New York and Baltimore tunnels) is hell in a truck, but then as my female relative said, it's not all that great in a car. My words and your patience are inadequate to speak further of life on the road, beyond saying it took two hours and a half and 49 miles via the Beltway to return the truck in Washington, once I got back here. All in all, it cost almost precisely half the price of using a regular moving company.
By saving half the cost, I spent Thursday through Monday on the project, and it is terribly good of the paper to let me do this, but of course you pay for it by having to do all manner of donkey work around the office in exchange for your merry little vacation. Friday was spent loading boxes from the fifth-floor apartment and driving to the capital, arriving at night. Saturday was spent unloading the stuff to be stored in Washington and acquiring a new ice box which was loaded with the other stuff. Sunday was spent driving to and from the middle of Virginia and unloading (at some distance from the new lodging) the odds and ends, to the great amusement of bystanders who were taking bets on heart attacks. Monday was spent (until 3 p.m.) returning the truck to the nice Chinese-speaking gas station people who are agents for the truck rental company here.
I have yet to detect the overwhelming satisfaction of which the prime minister speaks. Perhaps you have to be in the Falklands. Or send some guys there. But since then I had one day quietly pulling weeds and very slowly cleaning out a shed, with stupendous assistance from the hound who was overjoyed at the unexpected sight of the master actually spending time in the garden. A day of lounging about, really, with the brain in neutral. Thatcher and I are wired up different. I am on the Eden-hound circuit. She is on Boadicea. She is wired for fuller voltage. Still, in a lounging-about no-account way, I found peace, nay joy, by the fall of the night.