Building a Trailer

Kane is moving out, back to Sydney, rejoining his long-time partner Jean, and her two kids. He’s been a solid housemate, joining me on a mission to buy ultimate cleats, inviting me to a board game night with his friends. I’m sorry to see him go. But life carries us each along our own plot lines, some intersecting just briefly, others tangling up for good. His path takes him south.

And that means packing up all the trappings of life, the comfortable burden of stuff. He bought a trailer a week ago and it’s been sitting in the weird front patio space blocking access our trash and recycling bins. Throwing things away has become a slightly acrobatic affair, a high stakes agility test. But the trailer is open to the elements and boxes are stacking up in his small bedroom. So today we covered the trailer.

We start with an old vinyl billboard ad. Unfolding the twelve-by-three-meter material feels like unwrapping a gift: what will we get? Stretching it out down the sidewalk, we reveal a nearly life-size rendering of a luxury SUV, a giant pink X, and, in white Helvetica two-feet tall, THIS IS THE NEW LEXUS. There’s enough material to cover the trailer three times over.

Fearing the terrible consequences of a rash cut, we deliberate the best covering strategy. Seams and folds must be aerodynamically hidden, maximally waterproof, and structurally sound. And of course, the trailer must be as visually loud as possible.  

For such a simple task, it’s inordinately satisfying. Lost in the never-ending story that is my research — that is all research — I’d forgotten the joy of a discrete mission, attainable in an afternoon, the physical evidence of a job done well sitting in front of me.

And there’s the camaraderie in shared work. Kane and I place similar value in craftsmanship and attention to detail. At the same time, having him around derails my penchant for perfectionism. Ultimately, final decisions are not mine. As my mind winds into a knot deliberating the optimal way to  cut out a corner, Kane just starts cutting and the knot gets chopped in two. His decisive actions reveal just how many of my PhD struggles are self-inflicted.

As with any good craft project, we improve our method as we go. To augment the gasketed sheet metal screws, we tape more liberally, adding mechanical reinforcement and load distribution, as well as sealing pathways for malicious airflow.

Having starting in mid-arvo (Aussie: afternoon), when we finish, it’s nearly dusk. The visual impact is crisp, bold, completely abstracted from the original ad, a singular trailer that will be difficult to miss. Watch out, Australian highways! You’re about to receive a heavy dose of the late 1980s!

Header Image: Kane and the completed trailer. 

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