While I was interviewing humor columnist Jeff Kramer he told a story about a guy in rural New York who got drunk and stole a steamroller. It was too long to include in the article, but too good not to include somewhere. Kramer’s story never ran in the paper, and the world is a lesser place for it.
The Humor Columnist: Did you have any stories killed?
Jeff Kramer: Some kid was going to court because he had turned himself in for stealing a steamroller, like a road grader, a thing for flattening asphalt. I drive out to the boonies, and I find this kid, and he’s in his early 20s. He’s in a crumbling apartment building in the middle of a pasture. There’s Bee Gees music blaring. The stairs are crumbling. I walk up the stairs. I pound on the door. He can’t hear me. I pound louder.
He comes down. He’s wearing nothing but a bathing suit. He’s drinking beer.
I tell him who I am and why I want to talk to him, and he says, ‘I’m kind of busy.’ I said, ‘What are you doing?’ He says, ‘I’m drinking beer.’ I go, ‘I drink beer.’ He goes, ‘You want one?’ So he brings down three Buds, two for him, one for me.
We sit on these crumbling concrete stairs, and he spills out this whole story. He had been at this bar and was too drunk to drive. He starts walking home to his mother’s house, seven miles on a rural road. He cuts through a cornfield. There’s a creek in the cornfield he didn’t see. He falls into that. He’s in his waste in muddy water. He climbs out. He gets back on the road. He’s tired. He’s wet. He’s no longer buzzed.
He sees a construction site. He’d worked construction before, and he knew that keys get left in these things. He has four miles to go. These things have a top speed of seven miles per hour. He gets home, and he hides it in the woods. He gets up in the morning, and he’s forgotten all about it. He sees the sun glint off something in the backyard. He says, ‘Holy crap.’ It comes back what he’s done. He puts the thing deeper in the woods and covers it.
It’s a small town. Cops are going back and forth in front of the house. He’s looking for an opportunity to take it back, but he doesn’t want to get any friends involved because he doesn’t want to get them in trouble. He finally realizes he’s going to get arrested and turns himself in.
That’s where I picked up the story. This wasn’t one of those things where you have to be Dave Barry. You just let the thing tell itself. I wrote it up. It should have been front page 4th of July newspaper, the little thing at the bottom of page one everyone talks about at the barbecue. They would not run it. Guess why.
THC: It glorifies drinking and driving.
JK: You may be the only one who has ever gotten that.
THC: I’ve worked at newspapers.
JK: They said it glorifies drinking and driving. If you use that as a standard, you could never write about anyone who has done anything stupid.
Read the whole interview with Kramer here.
Photo by Curran Kelleher