Time to work out your own funny bone! This week, write about whatever topic you’d like, but go for laughs…Write about a comedy of errors—a time when things kept going very, hilariously, wrong. (Go fictional if you’d like!). —Weekly Writing Challenge: The Best Medicine
I don’t want a pickle.
I just wanna ride my motorsickle…
The on-duty bridge electrician answered the phone on the second ring, “Electric Shop, Zed speaking.”
“Z, my man! I hate to bother you, but the collector in Lane 5 needs receipt printer paper,” said Sergeant Pepper.
“No problem, gimme a red light over the lane and ask them to throw the gate. I will be right out there.”
Zed checked the time on the wall clock, 17:15 hours (5:15 PM). In order to close the lane for maintenance he would have to walk out among oncoming traffic and divert the cars to adjacent lanes. He sighed and took a moment to slow his breathing and to heighten his senses for the upcoming Detroit Ballet.
This fictional event takes place
at the site of a well-known bridge
in Northern California. Names
have been changed to protect
Zed grabbed a shoulder bag and put 3 rolls of receipt paper and a portable bridge radio inside. It was best to have extra rolls in case someone in another lane “suddenly needed” a roll of paper (and a break from collecting toll). It was also standard procedure to leave a roll or two of spare paper behind in the lane for the next “outage”.
Heading out of the Powerhouse garage, Zed noticed a California Highway Patrol motorcycle parked, and running, in front of the closed door to the Tow Shack. He thought to himself, “Hmmmmph, that’s weird. The Chippie must be in the head (restroom) and in a hurry if he left his bike unattended and running.”
The collector had not closed the gate in Lane 5 due to the large volume of backed-up traffic in the Plaza. Zed made his way across the Toll Lanes, stepped off the curb between Lanes 4 and 5 and walked out into oncoming traffic and his Date with Detroit.
Zed spied a break between two cars and made eye-contact with the driver of the vehicle. He stepped into the space in front of that car while walking backwards and repeatedly raising both arms overhead vertically and lowering them to the horizontal position, pointing to the lanes adjacent to Lane 5.
“That’s it, move aside; That’s right, I mean you; Don’t change lanes into this one; You’re gonna have to move, asshole.” He kept these thoughts to himself as he smiled at the people in the cars around him.
After closing the gate to Lane 5 and greeting the collector, Zed changed the roll of paper, called Sgt. Pepper for a green light overhead. He opened the gate for traffic to resume using the lane. Returning to the Powerhouse he noticed that the CHP motorcycle was still parked and running.
Following a quick knock on the Tow Shack door, Zed opened it and stepped inside to find Officer Paul Taule (a.k.a. Tall Paul) sitting at the table with two of the Tow Service men.
“Hey, man, I noticed your bike running when I went out to Lane 5, are you preparing for a quick getaway?”
Tall Paul said, “Naw, the battery voltage is a bit low and I am just letting it charge awhile. Thanks for checking on me, though.”
“I’m glad that you are OK. If you need anything from the EShop just holler.”
Zed headed back to the shop to put away the unused rolls of receipt paper and enter into the daily logbook the time and circumstance of the work in Lane 5.
At 21:35 hours, Sgt. Pepper buzzed Zed through the locked door to the Bridge Security Office. “I need to clean your touchscreen monitors and change some air filters on your CPUs. Is this a good time?”
Sgt. Pepper turned around to look out the expansive bay window and slowly looked from his left to his right, surveying the bridge, roadway and Toll Plaza before him. He glanced down at the monitor with the Northbound axle counts. He looked again to his right, checking on the traffic south of the Plaza. He finally said, “Traffic is light and the Diversion crew just finished the lane configuration for the night. Go ahead and do your thing, I have nothing planned until 22:00 when the Collectors’ Graveyard shift takes over.”
“Good deal,” said Zed. It was a routine played out by different electricians and Sergeants every Saturday at this hour when the EShop schedule said that it was time to perform this routine maintenance item. Over time, Zed found that the key to success was having a polite, respectful attitude with those in charge and being able to stop at a moment’s notice and get out of the way if a “situation” arose.
Zed began his weekly maintenance on the Security Console, “On the way up here I noticed that Paul’s bike is parked and not running. I guess he got his battery charged.”
“He just thought he got his battery charged. He turned off the motorcycle and couldn’t get it to start again.”
Lt. Louis Louie entered the office and joined the conversation, “Are you guys talking about Tall Paul? The poor guy looks like his horse just died. I just left him sitting at the southbound bus stop waiting for a State flat-bed tow truck that’s coming to pick up his ride.”
“Bummer. What a way to wind up a shift,” Zed said as he worked his way around the office cleaning the glass faces of the monitors.
Lt. Louie said, “I am going back to the kitchen for my dinner break.”
“10-4, LT,” said Sgt. Pepper, who was panning a roof-top camera in the direction of the southbound bus stop.
Zed looked up from his work and said, “There he is, looking as lonely as can be.”
Officer Taule was standing on the sidewalk, watching traffic go by, surveying the vehicles that were traveling southbound through Lane #1. Occasionally, drivers honked their horn and waved at the CHP officer who smiled and returned the gesture.
“He’s in a great mood for a guy with battery problems. Wanna have some fun?” Sgt Pepper whispered and glanced back at the door to the kitchen.
“What do you have in mind?”
“Let’s move his motorcycle.”
“Sweet, what do you have in mind?”
“Let’s move it behind a truck so that he doesn’t see it right away when the flat-bed arrives to pick it up.”
“Who’s going to cover for you? We can’t involve the LT.”
“Hello, Z,” said Sgt. Bee as he entered the room. “I see that you have cleaned the germs off our touchscreens, thankyouverymuuuuch.”
“You have good eyes, Bee, and now that you are here I’m gonna have to start all over again.”
The three men laughed at the folly of the exchange. Their personal and professional relationships with each other were at a comfortable level, more like that of brothers-from-other-mothers.
Glancing again at the kitchen, Sgt. Pepper lowered his voice and said to Sgt. Bee, “We’re going to play a joke on Tall Paul. The plan is to hide his bike across the lot from where it is parked.”
“Oohh, he will shit a brick if he can’t find his motorcycle,” said Sgt. Bee. He laughed, “You guys are bad.”
‘Will you cover the Plaza for me while we do this?” said Sgt. Pepper.
“Yeah, consider it as taking your break early. I’ll call you on your cellphone, not the radio, if he leaves the bus stop.”
Lt. Louie was eating his meal at the kitchen table as the co-conspirators left the office through the back door. They approached the large BMW motorcycle as if they were in a petting zoo. It was an impressive bit of engineering and design that weighed about 600 pounds.
Zed looked around the parking lot (the Yard) and said, “Where are we going to stash it? It can’t be a place that is too easy to find, or he won’t appreciate the joke.”
Sgt. Pepper surveyed the Yard, pointed and said, “How about over there between Vehicle 59 and the Powerhouse rollup door?”
It was the perfect combination of a semi-dark and semi-close location. “You got it, let’s go,” said Zed.
The two men tugged, maneuvered and pushed the heavy motorcycle across the Yard between vehicles and parked it in the dark shadow of the pickup truck. Stepping back they surveyed their practical joke. TP was going to have a fit when he returned for his bike.
“Do you think that he will spot it too easily over here?” Zed asked.
“It may take him a minute, but he will find it for sure.”
The light bulb in Zed’s head turned on and he said, “Let’s put it in the Powerhouse. I can open this roll-up door and we can stash it inside. He will never find it.”
Zed and Pepper returned to the Security Office. Sgt. Bee was standing at the bank of security camera monitors looking at the one for the roof-top camera pointed at the southbound bus stop.
“What’s he doing?” Sgt. Pepper asked.
“Oh, he is walking along, talking with some of the Swing shift collectors.” Sgt. Bee pushed buttons on the Camera Controller and activated a security camera that would allow them to follow the movement of the CHP officer and his friends.
The three men watched as Tall Paul walked through shadowed areas toward the upper parking lot with a group of female collectors. Sgt. Pepper said, “That’s nice, he’s going to escort them to their vehicles.”
After the last of the off-duty collectors drove out of the parking lot, Tall Paul walked down a service alley that lead to the Yard. “Watch for it, he’s gonna be missing his bike sooner rather than later,” said Sgt. Pepper. The three jokers focused their attention on the 8-inch security monitor screen. Oh, what they wouldn’t give to have a big-screen TV for this show.
Sgt. Bee pushed more buttons on the Camera Controller and activated another security camera. Bee adjusted the angle of view of the new camera wide enough to see the former parking spot of the purloined motorcycle.
“You are like a director of a Hollywood movie, man,” said Zed.
“And guess who’s the star of the movie,” said Sgt. Bee, pointing at the new monitor with Tall Paul, frozen like a statue, 20 yards away from where he originally parked his motorcycle.
Tall Paul’s first move was to quickly stride to the spot where last saw his bike. He looked down at the asphalt parking lot and put his hands on his hips, shaking his head from side-to-side as the reality of the surreal scene registered in his head.
“Now he knows what he doesn’t know,” said Sgt. Pepper.
“What are you, a philosopher?”
“I’m just sayin’.”
Zed eyed the monitor and said, “He’s on the move. Where do you think he will go first in search of the scoot?”
Pepper said, “If it was me, I would head over to the Lane Shack area and maybe even check in with the Coneheads (Lane Workers)—you know, see if I could intimidate a confession out of one of them.”
Sgt. Bee said, “Good call. Hah! Look at him searching between vehicles in front of the Shack.”
Abandoning his search, Tall Paul walked up to the door of the Lane Shack, knocked twice, paused for a few seconds and then opened the door and walked inside.
“I wish your movie had a soundtrack.”
“Me, too,” Bee replied.
Minutes passed and then the door to the Lane Shack opened and Tall Paul exited along with three of the Lane Workers. The four men fanned out and searched the Yard and the surrounding buildings, anyplace big enough to park a motorcycle.
Tall Paul took an object out of his pocket and proceeded to operate it in his hands as he walked, pausing now and then to hold still as if listening for a sound.
“It’s a locating device!”
“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” stammered Sgt. Pepper. “I have heard stories about these, but didn’t believe they were true. He can press a button on that thing and his motorcycle will emit an audible sound. If he is within range he will be able to hear it, and NO—I don’t now how close he has to be to hear it.”
“That would depend a great deal on how loud it was.”
“And the quality of his hearing.”
“The invitation to dine is still open.”
Tall Paul approached the roll-up door to the Powerhouse, paused and pushed a button on the locator. He took two more steps forward, stopped and pushed a button again.
“We might be busted.”
Tall Paul took three steps back, stopped and pushed the button on his locator again. He looked behind himself, in the opposite direction of the Powerhouse.
“Why is he moving away from the door? Is he trying to act like he doesn’t know where it is?”
Zed laughed and cracked a smile, “I bet the air compressors on the other side of that metal door have cycled on. If he thought he heard a signal from his bike it is truly drowned out now.”
Sgt. Bee said, “Those compressors are the size of an SUV and nearly as loud as a jet engine. How do you stand the noise in there?”
“Just as I thought.”
Sgt. Bee operated the Camera Controller the way a concert pianist played a piano, switching between cameras for the best angle, zooming in and out for the best view.
“Too bad that there is not an ‘America’s Funniest Security Camera Videos’ show on TV. You could be up for an award with your camera work here tonight.”
“Thanks, Z,” said Sgt. Bee, “but I have to ask you one question.”
“Did either one of you Masterminds figure out how to get the bike back to Paul?”
Zed and Sgt. Pepper looked at each other with the blank look that is reserved for the Reality-challenged among us. Seconds ticked away, no one spoke.
“I, I, I, th-th-thought that, that…”
“Well, you see in my mind..”
“That’s what I thought,” said Sgt. Bee, “I am dealing with a couple of hammerheads here.”
The three men focused their attention on the monitors in front of them. “Where did he go? Do you see him?”
Sgt. Bee returned to his role as Maestro of the Controller. Bee switched cameras, panned from side-to-side, and zoomed in and out searching for the elusive CHP officer. “There, there he is in the Administration Parking Lot.”
“What is he doing there?”
“Well, to his credit, he has looked most everywhere else…”
Tall Paul was was now using a humorous approach in his attempt to find his missing bike. TP walked with exaggerated steps, lifting his knees chest high and stopping every once in awhile to look from side-to-side. His arms were bent at the elbow and projected forward, wrists bent downward ninety degrees, fingers pointing at the ground.
“He looks like the freaking Pink Panther,” said Zed.
“He knows it’s us and that we are watching him,” said Sgt. Pepper. “How can we get the bike back to him without actually admitting that it was us who took it?”
Zed was the first to speak, “Let’s move it back while he is out there in the Admin Lot.”
“OK, but we better do it soon, I think Paul is running low on patience.”
They looked at the monitor and saw a definite change in Tall Paul’s body language and demeanor. Gone was the slightly miffed, but happy, soul; Present was a man who was in a jam, someone who would have to explain the whereabouts of his expensive State-issued motorcycle. Tall Paul paced back and forth on the sidewalk by the parking lot, head down, thinking.
“He is going to be super pissed off if he catches us returning his bike,” said Pepper.
“Do you mean more than he is already?”
Zed and Sgts. Pepper and Bee stood still, quietly watching a practical joke that was no longer funny. Paul stopped his pacing and put his right hand behind his neck as he closed he eyes and angled his head straight up at the night sky, perhaps offering a prayer of supplication or swearing an oath of retribution. It was time to stop this juvenile torture.
“Are you guys done picking the wings off this fly?” Lt. Louie asked.
“Whoa!…How?…You!…I can explain, Loo,” said Sgt. Bee.
“There is no need to, I have been following this escapade from the beginning.”
“He’s good,” said Zed to the other two, “You are really good, Loo.”
“It’s why I get the big bucks. Let’s end this right now, and FYI: by this time tomorrow YOU THREE will have apologized to Paul for this stunt. Questions?”
“Now here is what you are going to do…”
A diversion was needed to allow Zed and Pepper to put the motorcycle back where it belonged, and none was better than the personality of Bridge Officer (Collector) Ms. Annette Sherman. A single mother of three grown daughters, Annette had seen a lot and took no prisoners in the form of fools. She did, however, enjoy a sly sense of humor and was continuously amused at the nightly antics encountered on Graveyard shift.
“Okay, Loo Lou, I will take care of that for you,” Annette said into the microphone inside her booth in Lane #1.
A quick look North confirmed that there was no traffic headed her way at the moment, and a quick look South confirmed that Tall Paul was within earshot of her location.
“Haaay, Babycakes, what are you doing here so late?” Annette said with her best Southern accent.
Paul was distracted and did a double-take, startled at the sound of another human being. “I, I am trying to find my motorcyle,” he said.
“Now Aahh have heard of people misplacing their keys, and Aahh have even heard of people misplacing their wallets and eyeglasses. But you mean to stand there and tell me that a grown-ass man caaan’t find his motorsickle?”
“It’s a long story.”
“Aahh just bet it is. Why don’t you come closer and tell me aaall about it while Aahh stand here and take money from strangers?”
During this conversation, Zed and Pepper once more slipped out the back door of the office and hurried to the Powerhouse roll-up door. Zed inserted his key into the outside door switch and turned it counterclockwise, starting the electric motor that operated the door. When the bottom of the door was high enough to walk under, Zed reached in and pushed the Stop button halting the upward progress of the door.
“Go, go, go.”
“I’m whichya, brother,” Zed said as he and Sgt. Pepper maneuvered Paul’s motorcycle back to where it once belonged.
“Let’s point it in the opposite direction when we park it.”
“Just to let him know that we know he knows?”
“You got it.”
The two jokers parked the bike, lowered the door and returned to the office in time to see a State of California flat-bed wrecker pull into Lane #1. Tall Paul waved to Annette, stepped off of the curb and got into the cab of the truck. He was actively engaged in conversation with the driver as the truck drove off in the direction of the Yard.
Lt. Louie pressed the switch for the intercom inside the booth in Lane #1. “Thank you, Annette, once more you saved the hides of some fellow employees.”
“Do Aahh want to know any details about what just happened?”
“Not really. I am sure that the details will come out as time goes on—just like Watergate.”
“The good news is that you now have three men who owe you big time, so savor the possibilities.”
“Aahh heard that! Tell me, are any of ’em any good at making dessert?”
“I’m out,” said Lt. Louie as he turned off the intercom switch. He looked at the three conspirators and quietly said, “I hope that you guys have learned a lesson here tonight.”
“We did, sir.”
‘Yes, and thanks for your help.”
“Tell me what you learned. I want to hear it from at least one of you.”
Zed, Pepper and Bee looked at each other, the floor and then at the LT.
Zed spoke up, “I learned that what can be funny from afar can be far from funny.”
“Good lesson. You guys make it right by tomorrow night with Paul.”
Apologies were made and accepted. The incident entered into Bridge Lore, spoken of in the quiet solitude of dark nights while at work on the Northern California coast.
Four good things occurred as a direct result of this fictional event:
- Tall Paul’s patience and sense of humor secured a place in his adopted Bridge Family.
- Zed, Bee and Pepper religiously obeyed posted speed limits, lest an overzealous Motorcycle Enforcement Officer stopped them.
- Zed learned to cook desserts and Annette was treated to Ancho Chile Pepper Sage Walnut Brownies every time he was on Graveyard shift with her.
- No more practical jokes were perpetrated by the Three Amigos.
As my treat to you for reading this far, please enjoy this video of Arlo Guthrie singing his famous song about riding his motorsickle.