Crashes were not always relegated to software programs. Sometimes I experienced other kinds. And they often happened close to the office. Or next to scary places nearby.
In late spring 1994, Dad and I made a marketing call to a potential client without Bob. It was a major telecom company based in northern New Jersey, about an hour’s drive from Weehawken. The prospect was already running one of our competitor’s patent management systems, and wasn’t looking for a change. Rather, this was going to be a straight-up discussion about annuity payment services, right down Dad’s alley.
After some preparation, we plunked down inside my Dad’s lobotomized Mercedes Benz and traced our way to the company via the Garden State’s ribbon of expressways as guided by a crusty folded highway map. As mentioned in my post “HIS NAME WAS BOB GERHARDT,” Dad had a method of increasing gasoline efficiency in automobile engines. It involved disabling multiple cylinders within the engine based on the simple premise that each cylinder is a source of fuel consumption and combustion. If you can shut them off, you will consume less fuel.
What could be simpler?
As you can imagine, there were nevertheless consequences to gelding an automobile engine in this manner. Mainly, the underpowered engine was at risk for stalling, especially if the A/C was turned on. New Jersey is unusually rich in inconvenient places to stall on her highways and byways. As you will find out.
I have a great memory of this particular sales call. Dad and I worked side by side, in unison toward the same goals. At one point, the Chief Patent Counsel asked us if we could accept data exports from the competitor’s patent system as payment instruction. In selected countries only, not all. It was a meatball question. Dad and I pretty much answered with one voice, “the answer is yes.”
On the drive back to Weehawken, we encountered a back-up leading to the I-495 trench through Union City. Being highly allergic to traffic, Dad took the exit for Kennedy Boulevard where the off-ramp is a steep hill climbing 30th Street.
Alert readers may recognize this interchange as the locale for my very first post here on the Bernard Olcott story, “YES DEPOSIT, YES RETURN.”
The Intersection of Doom, revisited. The Left Turn from Hell is marked in the upper right hand corner. The York Motel crash is marked with an “X” on the left. The arrow at the bottom marks the location of The Leber Funeral Home where Dad’s Memorial Service was held in 2007.
I stared out the window mindlessly, my eyes falling upon the York Motel on my right. It’s a tawdry looking affair with a hokey marquee boasting “IN-ROOM WHIRLPOOLS,” “HOURLY RATES,” and “MOVIES,” with a handful of letters missing.
Notice the hill in this old photograph of the York Motel?
About 12 years earlier, maybe a year or two before the events of “DEPOSITED RETURN” (which included a very ill-advised left hand turn religiously employed by Dad), a certain Richard Kuklinski had rented out Room 31 at the aforementioned motel. He had invited two buddies to join him in his room that day in late December, one Daniel Kempner and another knucklehead, Gary Smith. All three were partners in a booming car theft business and, that day, Kuklinski had gotten a Christmas present for his partner Gary. A hamburger.
Now this wasn’t just any burger. It had a patty covered in a “secret sauce.” What made the sauce especially special was not the spices, it was the cyanide!
I guess you could say that Kuklinski was “voting his shares” in the partnership to remove Gary. The grounds for this ultimate pink slip? Maybe Gary had tried to steal an older imported automobile with a modified engine parked leisurely on the streets of Weehawken. No one will ever know. My bet is that Kuklinski just wanted Gary’s shares on the cheap.
In any event, Kuklinski watched Gary eat the burger, and was amazed when Gary continued to talk and walk around the room for seemingly hours. Maybe, when Gary asked for another burger, Kuklinski lost his patience and asked Daniel to do him a solid. “Daniel,” he probably said, “you mind taking that table lamp (pointing at one on the night stand) and strangling this guy (pointing at Gary) for me?”
Daniel, a paragon of loyalty, obliged Kuklinski by ending Gary’s life using the lamp cord as a ligature. “Thanks Daniel,” Kuklinski must have said, “how about calling Barbara (Daniel’ wife) and get her to drive over here so we can throw Gary in the trunk?” Spirit of the season kind of thing, you could say.
Well, what do you think these geniuses did when Barbara ignored their request to “drive over to fill her trunk with Christmas cheer?” They lifted the mattress up and dumped the body in the box-spring. Carefully settling the mattress back down, Kuklinski and Associates checked out. The maid cleaned up the room afterwards and outfitted the bed with fresh sheets.
Do you think that mattress was kind of lumpy?
What’s even more incredible about this story is that, true to legions of urban myths, room 31 was duly rented out, numerous times afterwards! Not one transient reported anything peculiar with the room or the mattress. True, there were some comments about the unusual odor in the room. Perhaps they slept extra heavily? Or, maybe, they just rented the room for an hour or two? Even so, the mattress would be the main event, right? People get distracted so close to the Lincoln Tunnel!
In any event, all good things come to an end. Four days later, on December 27, 1982, the smell in the room overpowered all. The North Bergen police were called. Finally, someone looked under the mattress. Gary found!
Daniel, for his part of the story, was found dead on a road in New Jersey just five months later.
And Kuklinski? Within 4 years, he was linked to multiple murders as “The Iceman,” and was finally arrested on yet another December day, the 17th, in 1986. He was a real life ghoul, reportedly driving to Manhattan’s West Side as early as 1954 to prey on passersby. Most likely by now, he has already made the acquaintance of the Las Vegas shooter in Hell.
As we glided slowly past this garden spot of a spa on the right, the engine in Dad’s Mercedes groaned with strain to mount the hill. Our airspeed declined from 50 to 40. To 30. Dad pushed down too hard on the gas. Stall! We were rolling to a stop.
Suddenly, cars were swerving around us, horns blaring. We were now an obstacle to be avoided. On a highway exit ramp. In New Jersey! I braced for impact. And then BANG! We were struck from behind! The sound of crushed metal filled the air and we lurched forward.
No one was hurt. But Dad was now getting rear-ended several times a year. Oddly, he thought of this as entertainment, dutifully taking down the hapless driver’s name and insurance details. Then back in the office, he would sue the aforementioned company for damages to his Mercedes Benz. Dad claimed that all drivers were obligated “as a matter of law,” to operate their motor vehicles, “so as not to hit other cars.” True that, but there was a point to be made about minimum speed.
In any event, Dad’s Benz was not just a clunker with a wheezy engine, it was even a revenue center! If only he would spend more time and attention on Olcott International and treat it like the real profit center that was supposed to be.
Morals of the story: Do not disable cylinders in your automobiles; you need all the ones you can get. Drive safely while observing maximum and minimum speed limits. And it just might be a good idea when travelling to look under those motel mattresses (I would include certain emollient hotel chains as well).