Today’s guest in this week’s “When ‘Always Home’ Leaves His Home” series is the mysterious man from the north, Homemaker Man. He writes the fresh guffaw-fest Musings From The Big Pink, which I highly recommend to everyone in this fair land and points elsewhere.
Like me, Homemaker is an at-home dad with two kids and blog. However, he is cooler than me by miles – literally and figuratively -- as he drives a Zamboni.
Well, he used to drive a Zamboni. I’ll let him explain.
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There is no easy way to put this. The day I met Always Home and Uncool was the day I lost something special.
“Homemaker, I’m gone, it’s all you. Should be a slow night,” my boss yelled as he departed through the throng of arriving hockey parents. Dick.
Zamboni Driver is one part driver, one part night supervisor, one part mechanic and five parts Ice Cowboy. That’s eight parts -- over a whole of seven.
Zamboni driving is hairy. Improper fraction hairy. When I wasn’t whizzing around the ice at top speed, making it possible for youth league skaters to get berated by their lunatic parents, I was cleaning and maintaining the ol’ beauty.
Otherwise, I was (and still am) a stay-at-home-dad. This, of course, is a gateway drug to blogging.
So, I blogged it up a little. No big whoop. Along the way, I met the above mentioned character, A.H.A.U., online.
He’s another stay-at-home-dad. Real amicable, clever sort. Nice wife. Nice kids. Nice guy? Nice try.
He Google Buzzes me late one night, “I’ve always wanted to ride on a Zamboni.”
“Oh yeah?” I type.
“Yeah. I think it’d be awesome!”
“Well, Zambonis are tools, not toys. The things are two tons of moving belts and giant augers. They reach speeds upwards of 10 miles an hour.”
“Yeah, YEAH!” he buzzes back.
“Besides,” I type back, “you’re name is Always Home and blah blah blah. You’ll never come up here.”
“I’ll be there in two hours. Don’t make freakin’ ice with out me.”
“Whoa, watch the language,” I tap in but he never answers back. He’s in the minivan and on the way.
I figured what the hell. I’d take him out to make one ice, he’d be happy, the end. He was pretty amped up. I should’ve known what was coming.
He showed up about 2 hours later. He was wearing baggy cargo shorts, an oversized American Girl T-shirt and a white ball cap. In February. He was shivering, but I don’t think it was the cold. He reeked of hops and barley.
“You ready? “ I said.
“Frickin’ A!” he howled.
“All right, settle down George Carlin.”
We headed out to the Zamboni room. There she stood, silent -- but alert -- like a great cat. A great, rectangular, yellow cat that needs to be charged 3 times a day and runs on hydraulics.
“OmygodOMYGOD,” he said. He immediately stuck his arm in the giant ice-grinding auger and yelled, “Hit it!” I ignored him. I got him safely stowed on board and off we went.
It was on our third loop around the ice. The rink was quiet. All we could hear was the quiet spray of the water, the scraping of the blade against ice, and the 100-decibel growl and whine of two tons of 30-year-old electric ice-making equipment.
“Let’s steal it,” he staged whispered.
“What?” I pretended.
“Let’s steal it!”
Crazy bastard. It can’t be done
“OK!” I agreed.
We careened off the ice and made for the doors, digging up an eight-foot-wide swath of rubber skating rink floor as we went and replacing it with a sweet, sweeeeeet quarter-inch layer of ice.
We hit the doors at a full 10 mph. We stopped dead. Her bulk strained; willing, but not quite able.
He jumped off, got the doors open, and off we went.
It was amazing. The breeze tousled our hair as we opened her up full throttle. The blade ripped sparks from the asphalt and we set off to cover my entire city in a thin, glassy-smooth sheet of ice.
We got further than you might think. The cops came after us, but they couldn’t handle the ice. Even at full throttle that machine laid ice so pure and righteous that cop tires couldn’t stick to it.
They finally caught us. Four blocks later. The Zamboni’s charge had run out.
He was still laughing as the cops dragged him away. “It was frickin’ worth it!” He screamed.
Me. I never made ice again. Crazy son-of-a-bitch cost me that.
God, I miss him.