True — You Doubters!

Let’s start with the story. It was in True’s 2 June 2002 issue:

Fill ’Er Up!

Construction workers in Dublin, Calif., watched a man drive up in a new-looking Volvo to their cement truck. He “asked the concrete workers to fill him up for a job he was doing,” a police spokesman says. While the driver remained behind the wheel, the workers aimed the concrete chute through the window and did as he asked. He then drove away with wet concrete filling the inside of the car up to the steering wheel. Police say they are “at a loss to explain the case.” (Fremont Argus) …It’s not so odd. The man found the car in his driveway. It belongs to his wife’s boyfriend.

Doubt Sets In

Readers wondered, is this story really true? Several insisted it was impossible: the concrete would weigh too much for a car. The lye would burn the man. He wouldn’t be able to operate the pedals.

Another group noted that it was an old urban legend/joke. I didn’t recall seeing such a joke until after the story was out and I found it on Snopes, but I have seen just about every joke that ever went around on the ‘net, so perhaps a subconscious memory is why my tagline and the joke’s punchline are extremely similar.

But the entire argument is silly. By saying “it’s just an old urban legend,” these readers seem to be saying it’s therefore impossible for such a scenario to ever happen in real life. Yeah, right.

Doesn’t it make more sense to suppose, when confronted with real evidence like this, that someone may have been inspired by a good joke — life imitating art? That sounds a lot more plausible!

Therefore, I’ve been keeping my eye out for updates on the story to help corroborate it, and the Oakland Tribune has made my wait pay off. In a 20 August 2002 story (no longer online, so link deleted), the Tribune notes “he’s been spotted again — this time on Thursday in Brentwood, across the street from a site he had already visited in May.”


Foreman Ruben Gaytan said Superintendent Bobby Garrigan spoke to the man, who asked for some asphalt. The man had previously been seen driving a maroon Volvo, but this time he was behind the wheel of an early ’70s white Oldsmobile station wagon, Gaytan said.

“They asked him if he was ‘the concrete guy’,” Gaytan said. “He said, ‘Yes’.”

Gaytan said he recognized the man — because he was on the job when “The Concrete Guy” visited a construction site in May. At that time, he tried to get construction workers to fill his car with asphalt — and Gayton said he looked inside the car and saw, he estimated, 800-900 pounds of concrete. He refused the request for asphalt, saying they didn’t want liability for burning him with the hot material. He said Concrete Guy was “filthy and had concrete smeared all over him.”

Another story I found mentioned he had concrete smeared on the steering wheel, all over the passenger seat and on his legs and hands. “There was concrete on the steering wheel and all over the passenger seat, forcing the man to sit awkwardly.” One foreman noted, “It didn’t look too comfortable, to say the least.” Concrete Guy is described as skinny, blond, white, and in his 30s.

As for the Olds, construction workers say “the car leaned to the right because of the weight the concrete put on the car.” Can’t have it in the pedal area, after all, so less weight on that side!

Concrete Guy has been reported at construction sites all over the San Francisco Bay Area, including Dublin, Fremont, Santa Clara and Tracy. His last known address was a homeless shelter in Santa Cruz.

“Mr. Guy” says the police have already caught up with him for a chat, but the police say the man is not in trouble — he has committed no crime (which is apparently why newspapers are withholding his identity).

So why is he doing this? Maybe Concrete Guy is in on the joke. He reportedly has told construction workers, “Well, I’m trying to get back at my ex-wife. She left me and took everything I have.”

If nothing else, I want to hear from his ex-wife. At least, we hope she’s not a stiff….

But the bottom line is, the story is true. Hah!

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13 Comments on “True — You Doubters!

  1. I heard this story 50 years ago when I was living in Phoenix, AZ.

    The way I heard it was a man was driving a cement truck and went by his house and saw strange car in his driveway and filled it up with cement.

    Correction: you didn’t hear this story 50 years ago, you heard a story like it. And this guy, 10 years ago, brought it to real life. -rc

  2. I always liked the urban legend (could be true) about the woman who sold her husband’s Mercedes through a newspaper ad for $25. It was only a year or two old, the husband had left her for another woman, and told her to sell the Mercedes and they would split the net amount of the sale. One payback that I do know is a true story happened about 20 years ago in Nevada. A woman was being evicted without cause because the landlord wanted to raise the rent considerably. (This is legal in Nevada.) To get even, the woman made a hole in the wall, put a whole chicken in the hole, and sealed the hole up. This was in the middle of summer, and the house was not air conditioned. This was the mother of one of my daughter’s friends. Boy, talk about paybacks!

  3. Mythbusters did a sequence on this I believe. Concrete gets *very* hot *very* quickly as it dries. A driver in wet concrete would be cooked to death. However gravel or dry concrete would be fine.

    I watch Mythbusters and don’t remember anything like that. And I don’t think concrete gets hot enough to “cook” someone as it cures, either. You’ll have to supply a reference or two to that before I’ll believe it. -rc

  4. Urban legends are only labeled as such because they ARE unusual AND there is no documentation. Still, even with documentation, say a newspaper item, it can leave doubt.

    There was one, years back, from Jakarta, Indonesia in which a couple guys decided that it just wasn’t enough “bang” to light a string of firecrackers, so they wired the main fuse to a motorcycle battery. According to the newspaper, the resulting explosion could be heard a mile away, and the crater in the pavement was several yards wide. Newspaper or not, I don’t believe it. First, explosive property is determined by the material and packaging, not the method of detonation. And second, string fuses are impregnated with flash powder to help them burn. As electrical conductors, they are insulators, just the opposite, and a battery would have much less effect than a match.

    So, two thoughts that cross my mind about the cement truck story… One, how fast does cement begin to cure or set? Not that fast? And two, I’m just wondering if I were working on a cement truck, and somebody pulled up to ask for his car to be filled. Would I worry that I could be sued if I did it? Or that I could be reprimanded or fired for misallocation of company or city resources? But having done some outrageous things, myself, maybe I’d do it. So, could it be real? Probably, why not? There’s a difference between what’s impossible and what’s merely improbable.

    I don’t believe it because it was in a newspaper, I believe it because it was a) in a “legitimate, mainstream” newspaper, and b) was confirmed with a follow-up by a “mainstream, legitimate” newspaper. -rc

  5. This plot was featured on the old tv show Adam 12. I believe the character drove a cement truck and found a convertible parked in front of his house which he proceeded to fill with concrete.

    Huh! Sure enough: Season 3, Episode 25 (1 April 1971, summarized in IMDB). The way I read it, though, the jealous husband is made to look the fool when the owner of the convertible turns out to be a jewelry salesman, not the wife’s boyfriend. -rc

  6. It is quite possible that the person had heard the urban legend, and thought it a suitable method of revenge, thereby creating the authentication of the legend.

    Certainly. -rc

  7. Concrete does not dry it cures. The process of curing produces heat due to a chemical reaction. The heat happens over the 24 hours after it is mixed not in a flash. Heat would be the drivers least concern. Concrete weighs about 3300 pounds per cubic yard. Depending on the slump (how liquid the mix is) the car might be able to carry the weight but if he is encased in concrete or overcome by the flowing concrete driving would be a challenge. Depending how much mix, and its slump, is put into the car would have a lot to determine if the cars stays right there or is driven off.

  8. Sorry, Randy, but this story simply doesn’t make sense. And it wouldn’t be the first time that “legitimate, mainstream” newspapers have been fooled.

    1) There’s no mention of money changing hands. Did these guys just give away 800-900 pounds of concrete?

    2) Since this was a construction site and not a concrete selling business, it wasn’t theirs to give away or even sell. Do you actually believe that a foreman would risk getting fired when the shortage was discovered?

    3) Do you really think that any normal person would fill up a person’s car with wet concrete, even if asked to?

    It would stretch the imagination to answer yes to just one of the above questions. It defies all reason to answer yes to all three.

    Look at the top of this very page, Daniel: there’s a reason it notes “Truth is stranger than fiction because fiction has to make sense.” If you discredit every story that lacks common sense, why do you read This is True?! 1) “It’s not mine.” 2) Yes. 3) See line at top of page. Last, most of the stories here defy reason! That’s why it’s so popular. -rc

  9. Since you threw down the gauntlet, I did some research on the heat issue. While the driver might get uncomfortable after a full day in curing concrete, he would not get cooked. It looks like about a 30 degree F rise in temperature over ambient at the 24 hour mark. While concrete continues to cure for months after pouring, the peak temperature is reached around the 2 day mark, depending on the shape of the pour. There is a useful reference online by the Portland Cement Association, if you look for Heat of Hydration.

    Thanks for confirming my intuition! -rc

  10. Sorry Randy but you have been duped, probably not the first time either. There is no way the gas and brake peddles would function properly enough to operate. They would be weighed down to the floor! Nice try though.

    You’re not thinking, Lawrence. That would only be the case if there was cement on top of the pedal, and not under it.

    I gave the police spokesman’s name — Sgt. Joe Hoeber — to another reader, who contacted the police department involved. The spokesman is now a lieutenant, and says yes, he remembers the incident. Sorry, but the doubters are wrong! -rc

  11. Well, concrete does not flow like a liquid. It actually retains its shape pretty well, watch somebody pump it thru a hose: it wants to retain a cylindrical shape. You need to jiggle it well for it to flow. The motion of the car would help do that.

    It also depends if most of the concrete was mainly poured into the back seat; bench seats would act as a form.
    The best way to cure concrete is completely immerse it in water, to prevent oxygen from altering the chemical reaction.

    As far as the “free” concrete, you *always* buy more than you need (if you know what you are doing). It can be a Very Bad Thing to run out a yard short. So, there is always a bit left over, which would be about how much is described in a lot of cases. (There is a fine art in cutting it close.) You need someplace to dump the extra — it cannot stay in the truck.

    The base PH of concrete is enough to give you chemical burns in sensitive areas on direct contact. Depends on the length of time and the amount of moisture in the cloth (ie sweaty jeans). But it’s not crippling if you limit exposure and clean up properly. I would assume it would take a few hours direct exposure on sensitive skin to match a good sunburn, but that is just a guess.

    BTW: a *very* large hunk of concrete takes *decades* to fully cure, The Hoover Dam was built with internal pipes to run water thru to carry away the heat. The dam is just getting fully cured about now.

    Based on my personal experience on various building projects with concrete. Never got chemical burns on my hand, but I have pretty tough skin on it.

  12. 800-900 pounds of concrete is 6 cubic feet, barely enough to fill the back seat. People seem to envision the driver fully encased in concrete.

  13. As Randy points out, an urban legend can also be a true story. The two labels are not mutually exclusive. People like Snopes make a living researching ULs and verifying their veracity.

    I first met Randy on an urban folklore newsgroup. He knows his way around urban legends, and he knows how to spot a bogus one.

    I’m not saying I cannot possibly be fooled, but my BS-o-Meter is pretty darned good. We have two different “legitimate, mainstream” newspapers who did stories, and we now have confirmation that the cop quoted is real, and does remember it (though they didn’t pursue a formal case since, as noted, no crime occurred). You can’t get much better than that. -rc


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