As the sun was setting Boo’s pedal was fluttering. He would grow weak and just before puttering out regain strength and continue to roll down the highway. It was on the outskirts of Portland I stopped at an auto parts store and purchased a fire extinguisher. I wanted to ensure we did not meet the same fate as the man Texan and his red bug.
I had been anticipating Portland’s numerous narrow bridges and highway over passes that leapfrog over rivers and other bridges with little room for vehicles in distress. The first overpass I had to overcome reaches up into the sky as if it’s the beginning of a rollercoaster. I charged pressing the peddle to the floor in an effort to gain speed and momentum. At 60miles per hour Boo began to shake. At 70 he was shaking, rattling and making a sound WOOB…WOOOB…WOOOB…WOOOOB…
As Boo climbed the overpass he began to struggle and his engine skipped like a prop airplane in distress…Brrrrp….Brrrrrp….Brrrrrrp. With modern cars passing by at high rates of speed I felt like a jockey ridding a mule in the Kentucky Derby.
Reaching the crest of the overpass Boo floated over its rounded top as if we were silently gliding over the city of Portland with its glowing lights that reflected from the rivers below. The victory was short lived as we headed down Boo stalled. In angst I turned the key and pumped the gas and got Boo to turnover. To no avail I soon found myself on the narrow shoulder of an over pass.
Boo barely fit between the white line and concrete wall that keeps cars and things from falling below. The constant wind from automobiles and commercial trucks caused Boo to waver like a blade of prairie grass in the afternoon breeze.
I got out, went around back and lifted the hood. Again, the clear fuel filter had little fuel in it. There is something causing fuel restriction I thought. I sat on the curb and waited. I then got the starter fluid from the passenger seat, took the oil filter off and sprayed the fluid into the carburetor. I then ran to the front and turned the ignition….VRRROOOMMM said Boo shaking and rattling. I put the oil filter back on, let Boo idle a bit, waited for an opening as cars whizzed by and when I saw space…we were gone.
Down the overpass, over the bridges and across the Washington State line a feeling of tranquility set over me as I hugged the slow lane. It was just before the town of Castle Rock that Boo died. The gas gage dial was in the red marked with an R for reserve. It made me wonder if Boo was suffering from his recurring condition, or if the gas dial was inaccurate. I called roadside assistance and after a bit a tow truck arrived.
He was a young heavyset rosy-cheeked guy. A country kid with dark features, cowboy boots and dressed in overalls. I told the driver, “My bug more than likely just needs gas. I just bought it and I’m not sure how accurate the gauge is.”
He loaded Boo and drove me a few miles down the road to a gas station. I told him he should wait to see if I could get him started before leaving.
I filled up and turned the key. Boo came to life and the tow driver raised his hand to say goodbye. I didn’t get more than a mile down the road when Boo died. With every unanswered turn of the key my vision of driving Boo home and into my driveway began to fade. Again I called roadside assistants who told me that this would be my last service call. I assured them it was the only one I would need, as they would have to tow me home, a distance that was just under my 200-mile limit.
An hour later the same young man who towed me to the gas station was now towing me home. We got to talking and he told me he went to school and was certified as a diesel mechanic, but was unable to find work. He now filled his days and nights as a salaried tow truck driver for a wage that I cannot remember, but seemed criminal after hearing the number of hours he had to work. He drove both day and night at the ring of his phone and slept in shifts except for his two days off where he slept most of the 48 hours.
He explained the differences of a diesel engine compared to a gasoline engine.
“A diesel engine gets better mileage, requires less maintenance and lasts longer than a car that uses regular gasoline.”
“What’s the down side?” I asked.
“Well, the parts for a diesel engine can be twice as much compared to a petrol engine. Consumer vehicles, well heck a lot of people getting a new car every couple years, so diesel engine wouldn’t do’em any good.”
With all of the buzz in the media about a need for Americans to go to trade schools so they can become mechanics or nurses among other professions that are deemed useful in today’s economy, there I sat next to a certified diesel mechanic who made a living as a tow truck driver.
“Funny, I got my Masters in Library Science because of all the jobs that were said to be in that field. When I graduated the only job I found was as a transcriptionist. I worked next to a guy who was a registered nurse that couldn’t find a job in the field. When he did find a job as a nurse, he had to re-enlist in the Navy to get it.”
“Man oh man,” he said. “You always hear those nursing commercials, man oh man. Don’t stop talking to me, it keeps me awake.” So I told him some of the greatest stories that have never been told.
“Did you know that the modern bottle and light bulb are related?“
“No I didn’t, how’s that?”
“In the later part of the 19th Century Thomas Edison had a contract with Corning Glass to make light bulbs. Well the workers at Corning went on strike and Libbey Glass House was hired to make the light bulbs. Libbey, the owner of Libbey Glass put a man named, Michael Owens, in charge of production. Well, Owens, seeing the light bulb making process had an idea, he created a small machine to simplify the work and speedup the process. He named the machine, “The Dummy.”
“Why did they name it, “The Dummy?” asked the driver.
“Because, “The Dummy” took the skill out of making the light bulb and enabled Libbey to hire les-skilled labor at a lower wage while at the same time increasing the production of light bulbs.”
“Dang, less for more, that’s profit right there,” said the driver.
“You’re right,” I replied. “Have you ever seen a cartoon where a character gets an idea and a light bulb goes off above its head?” I asked.
“Sure, I love Looney Tunes.”
“Well, “The Dummy,” gave Libbey an idea. It showed him that by implementing new technology to replace workers and increasing production, he could make more than profit…he could monopolize an industry.
With, “The Dummy” in mind, Libby created a separate business Toledo Glass Works for one reason: to make machines for the exploitation of glass. It was there that Michael Owens created the automatic bottle machine that enabled Libby to monopolize the glass industry.”
“How did they monopolize it?”
“Well, the automatic bottle machine was the key. After creating the automatic bottle machine, Libbey created another business, Owens Bottle Company, which had the ability to create and sell bottles at a price lower than their competitors. They then leased the automatic bottle machines out to different bottle companies only to later purchase the majority or controlling stock in those same companies.”
“So they were able to do all that with a bottle machine…huh?” Said the driver.
“Did you know that our war with Japan in WWII could be explained with a bottle?”
“No,” said the driver.
“Well, it can. In Japan they used a bottle that is referred to as a Ramune bottle; but the true name of the Ramune bottle is a Codd Bottle. It is named after the inventor, Hiram Codd, who is English; but I believe the bottle best represents the country Japan.”
“Why would an English bottle represent Japan?”
“Well, you see, the Codd Bottle is different than any other bottle you’ve ever seen. It’s designed around a marble, which is used as a seal that can be broken and resealed over and over…sigh…and over again. The United States stopped using the Codd Bottle in the 1930’s.”
The driver asked, “Well, why did they stop using it?”
“There were a couple reasons. The first reason is it was difficult to sterilize. The second reason is kids were breaking the bottles to get the marble out instead of redeeming them. So, little by little beverage companies replaced their Codd Bottles with bottles that use bottle caps.
Interesting thing about Japan is they didn’t have the luxury to solely use the crown cork cap and toss bottle cap because steel is expensive and Japan is a small island with few natural resources. They needed something that could be reused over and over again.
So, the use of the Codd Bottle in Japan helps us to understand their expansion in the 30’s into other countries for natural resources, which turned into what we know today as World War II.
But you know what the really interesting thing about World War II was?
“Well all of the battles and stuff?” exclaimed the driver.
“Yeah, well there is that, but another interesting fact about World War II is it is where the United States first began using disposable bottles, which was the beginning of disposable packaging in the US. With the defeat of Japan the Codd Bottle not only remained in Japan, it evolved.”
“What do you mean by it evolving?”
“It changed from a glass top that was difficult to sterilize to a plastic top where the top could be taken off the bottle, the bottle cleaned and replaced.
But do you want to know what is even more amazing than that?”
“Well, remember how I told you kids in the US would break Codd Bottles to play with the marbles?”
“Yeah, I remember that.”
“Well, the playing of marbles in Japan started at the same time as the use of the Codd bottle in Japan. Kids in Japan were breaking bottles to play with the marbles just like the kids in the US. So, in the end, regardless of how different we look we’re all the same. The Codd Bottle taught us that.”
Talk and tales of bottles, bottle caps and other things considered trivial, simple, nothingness went on until about 4:00AM. The driver let out a yawn as we rolled up to my house. As he unloaded Boo in the driveway, I told him he could use the bathroom and sleep on my sofa if he needed to take a powernap.
“Thanks,” he replied, “but I need to head back. I enjoyed the bottle talk.”
As he pulled out of the driveway a hot sun was rising over a hill in the East. Boo sat in the driveway as I walked in the house and crawled in bed with my wife and dogs where I fell into a deep sleep.
To be continued.