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Miami Breakdown

For Broward-based delivery drivers, the only thing worse than a Miami-Dade dispatch is an M-D dispatch post 2pm.

By Chris ZPublished 8 months ago Updated 8 months ago 9 min read
"I strived to remain calm, despite the sudden appearance of a poison cloud."



6 months ago, I quit my part-time delivery driver job to make room for a full-time collegiate course load. I left on good terms, as evidenced by my former employer asking me to stay on “ad hoc.” Long story short, when my successor’s out sick, or on leave, I score some quick cash by stepping back into my old shoes.


For Broward-based delivery drivers, the only worse curse than a Miami-Dade dispatch is a M-D dispatch post 2pm. The roughly 1.5-hour round trip doubles. Last Friday, I hit the highway at half past 3.

Under South Florida’s summer sun, simply fetching one’s mail can induce dehydration. Before embarking on my southbound jaunt, I drank a 32-oz carbonated corn syrup, and slathered enough sunscreen to pass for a Bukkake starlet.

The heat was profane, the traffic true to form. My cargo, a cache of affidavits, was the day’s last drop. I turned onto Brickell Bay Drive at 4:30 sharp.

I ascended the parking structure’s helices. I claimed a spot not far from a work crew repainting denuded directional icons. In doing so, I entered The Twilight Zone.

I shifted toward “P.” My shifter seized abruptly, hissing loudly as it did. A pungent odor assailed my nostrils. I flashed back 30 years to my sushi joint busboy stint: While shaking detritus from dirty linens, a wasabi bolus sailed up my nostril. A malevolent nebula materialized. I needed to vacate my car’s cabin, but I also needed my keys. To retrieve them, I’d have to put the car in park.

Again, I tried shifting into park. Again, my shifter ramrodded a rampart, hissing like air brakes engaged. The moment an unseen obstruction halted my gear stick’s advance, an amber geyser set sail from its base. What fresh mechanical hell was this?!

Spindletop #2 further fouled the air, heightening olfactory nuisance to paranasal violence. I exhaled hard to bar the airborne bane. Mucus thick as buttermilk flooded my throat. I dropped into neutral and pulled the parking brake as if ejecting from a fighter jet.

I jumped ship, leaving a wide-open door in my wake. I greedily gulped air. I coughed, spat and snorted to cleanse my sinsuses. I bent at the waist. The urge to retch, so pronounced in that moment, soon begged off. Thank God, I’d skipped lunch.

Thinking me choking, a workman rushed over, prepared to employ the Heimlich. Fortunately, I could speak just well enough to cite the source of my distress. This blue-collar Saint Bernard went above and beyond “kindness to a stranger;” he fetched water bottles and clean rags from his company vehicle. I scrubbed my face, hands, forearms, and neck. Curiously, the more I soaked and scrubbed, the more intense the burning became. Water, scrubbing, or their pairing seemed to agitate rather than abrogate the bane.

I was tremendously lucky that both gushers had arced starboard. Had their trajectories been trained driver’s side, either or both would have glazed my mug, likely vitiating my eyes and inducing medical attention-worthy respiratory distress.

The keg’s worth of soda I’d imbibed encored, taking the stage with Kool-Aid Man subtlety. I sprinted for the elevator. While inoperability obviously precludes theft, abandoning my automobile, doors unlocked, engine running, and ignition keyed, was simpler said than done.

I’ve never had to pee so bad in my life. My gait was that of a gut shot man. I resolved to “go” inside the elevator. However, the conveyance’s conspicuously-placed electric eye compelled a change of plans: I’d find a trashcan instead.

Parting elevator doors unveiled a lavish lobby, no unsightly wastebin befouling it. The "receptionist" driveled directions to the nearest restroom, belched an entry code, then about-faced back to text messaging. On my honor, the closest communal restroom lived lobby adjacent, down a serpentine path, behind the 3rd of 3 nondescript doors. I hobbled down the path, audibly repeating the 4-digit sequence. God forbid I forget it.

I peed full-bore for longer than I’d thought possible. Again, I washed my face, hands, forearms and neck, only this time with water and soap. Again, scrubbing awakened dormant bane. That discomfort bent the knee before what came next: Between untucking my shirt, dropping my drawers, and handing my manhood, my fingertips besmirched my tender bits with residual malignant mist. My glans began to tingle. Soon, it glowed like a stove element. My scrotum soon followed suit.

A chance glance at my watch showed the time to be five minutes past 5pm. I raced back to the elevator, back to my parking level, back to my car. Lost in the melee was my charge! I’d braved drive-time traffic, courted car repair costs, and been tear gassed like a Capitol cop battling Right-Wing insurgents, all to deliver a package I’d forgotten about. “No effing way,” I growled. If I found the firm’s doors locked, I’d pound on them until security appeared, at which point I’d foist the parcel upon him/her as though it were a subpoena.

I held my breath, scrunched my face, and tripped the trunk lid. I shouldered the box like a cave man claiming his bride, and sprinted for the lift like it was the last chopper out of Saigon. Even during droughts, scintillas of luck sometimes bloom. The law firm stayed open until 5:30, daily.

The receptionist’s eyes widened when she saw me. Ambulating while shouldering deadweight had me hyperventilating. My hair and shirt were sodden and disarrayed. I explained my ordeal between labored breaths. She feigned sympathy unconvincingly.

My prime directive satisfied, ‘twas time to focus on my exit strategy. First, I’d call AAA. Being a premium member since time out of mind, I’m aware that their response time can vary from forthwith to Comcast service window. As reception began just outside the parking garage’s perimeter, I had to lean over the railing to hear and be heard, conscious not to drop my mobile onto the walkway several stories below.

I instructed AAA’s phone rep to send a wrecker. While I’m no grease monkey, I’ve operated motor vehicles for the last 30 years, and been towed more times than I can or care to recall. I've never seen a flatbed dainty enough to skirt parked cars and concrete pillars in such a confined space. I stressed as much to the dispatcher, who, I’d soon learn, summarily disregarded the sage.

Enter Lional, towman extraordinaire. Lional curbed his rig in the parking structure's shadow. Seconds later, he came hiking up the ramp. Diaphanous shirt sleeves thinly veiled wrist to shoulder body art. Though sparse of height, and slight of build, he both projected and inspired confidence. He took in the topography before affirming that, given the height and width of his rig relative to the structure’s low ceilings and narrow arteries, ingress was indeed impossible.

Lional and I backed my car out of its berth brute force, cutting the wheel to inform its next move. We then muscled my Elantra along until we’d manufactured enough momentum to reach the exit ramp, leaping in like silver screen bank robbers when it had.

Once we reached street level, elbow grease aligned my car’s bow with his flatbed’s stern. A sinewy steel cable hoisted it from blacktop to truck bed. Over my protests, Lional insisted on sacrificing himself being the one to force the shifter into park (a must, for safety reasons). By doing so, he caused the most voluminous expulsion of rust honey yet, one which claimed him as collateral damage.

Serendipitously, I spied a spigot protruding from a nearby building. Miraculously, said spigot was unlocked. Lional promptly baptized himself in the spigot’s sputtering stream.

The ride home was a pleasant one. The rig’s A/C blew air cold enough to sustain ice sculptures. We drove the pay-to-play lane the whole way back. Naturally, I inquired about the cause, nature, or extent of my car’s malady. Lional confessed cluelessness. We agreed that the tranny was ground zero for whatever had gone wrong, given the wellspring’s origin point and its passing resemblance to transmission fluid.

We arrived 9 minutes after my mechanic had closed. My car would camp out in their parking lot; I’d be waiting when they reopened the next morning.

After much adept maneuvering, Lional dumped my car into a parking space. His work was done, and the twist ending to my travail about to be revealed.

Set to part ways, we shook hands. Lional casually inquired about “the self-defense spray.” Partially deafened by his rig’s engine, I only caught the gist of his ask. “I do keep a cannister of pepper spray in my car,” I affirmed. Lional then delicately informed me that no mechanical concern existed, or ever had. The volcanic blasts had, in fact, emanated from a pressurized cylinder kept in the compartment immediately fore of my gear stick. Said cylinder's trigger guard had slipped off, making shifting stage 1 of a 2-stage firing sequence. By forcing the shift lever headlong, Lional had unwittingly dislodged the cannikin and annulled the danger.

I was far too to be off the hook for a new gear box to entertain anger. I tipped Lional nicely, and bid him adieu warmly.


From there, I drove to the nearby Pollo Tropical, where I treated myself to grilled chicken festooned with grilled onions. While awaiting my order, it occurred to me that fresh clothes could be found in my gym bag.

I took a 3rd whore’s bath in Pollo's bathroom, before slipping on the spare duds. Epic fail. I’ve heard that capsaicin, a chili pepper’s agent of chaos, reanimates when watered. If true, it makes sense that capsicum, oil derived from chilis, would behave in a like fashion.

Seconds after saturating my hands, face, neck, and forearms anew, they began to feel like cigars had just been snuffed out on them, again. Tragically, I'd sluiced below the belt, again. Soon, I was sitting in a sandbox nude at high noon, again.

And that’s when my story ended, until I took a wet rag to my car’s cabin…


About the Creator

Chris Z

My opinion column garnered more reader responses than any other contributor in the paper's 40-year run. As a stand-up comic, I performed in 16 countries & 26 states. I've written 2 one-man shows, umpteen poems, songs, essays & chronologies.

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