I’ve been needling the west coast for quite a while now. First, there was my blog post about Oregonians called “Too Stupid to Fuel?” Then, on Twitter I’ve been bashing California and Oregon for their ridiculous 55 mph truck speed limits. Washington state isn’t much better at 60 mph. Now let me aim my shotgun of disdain at the other coast. Let me further limit it to the Northeast.[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
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I really don’t hate the Northeast all that much. Other than the heavy traffic, the road restrictions, the way the towns were built, and the occasional a-hole with a middle finger that has its own bicep, it’s really a lovely place. But for the most part, the Northeast can’t be blamed for all this. The fact is, the Northeast was mapped out long before trucks, or even automobiles were built. A-holes, on the other hand, choose to be a-holes, so I’m laying that blame right on the a-hole who chooses to be a-hole-ish.
Our forefathers had a lot of foresight when it came to that whole Constitution thing, but they were waaaay off the mark when it came to laying out towns. I’m pretty sure that ol’ Ben wasn’t anticipating a 70-foot long vehicle weighing 80,000 pounds. And I’m certain that he’d never seen a 13′ 6″ tall horse-and-buggy before. That’s why, when traveling in the Northeast, truckers must always be on their guard when they get off the beaten path. The roads are tight and there always seems to be a low bridge lurking around the corner. This was renewed in my mind the other night.
After getting two different loads and having them cancelled as soon as they arrived (I just love that), it was finally settled that I would pick up a load in Pottstown, Pennsylvania at 1:00 a.m. As usual, my company sent me all the relevant information, including the directions. As usual, these directions were as trustworthy as a Hollywood spouse. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time. I should have anticipated it, but being in a hurry, I didn’t.
The fun began when I turned off the main road. The first thing I saw was a long, somewhat narrow bridge. Beside it was that sign that every trucker loves to see. You know, the one that inevitably posts weight restrictions that you can’t possibly meet. Well, at this point, there was no backing up and no turning around. Having an empty trailer at the time, I wasn’t that much over the weight limit. And since I didn’t see a fleet of cop cars, I proceeded slowly. Not falling into a cold, icy grave made me happy.
Figuring the worst was over, I continued to follow my directions. As The Evil Overlord was happy to later point out, I’m not real bright sometimes. I came to a T-intersection and took a left and then a quick right. About a quarter-mile down the road I saw one of those glow-in-the-dark yellow signs. I immediately became leery, but since it looked close to the ground, I plunged ahead. As I approached, I realized that the road started to go down hill. And that’s why the sign looked so close to the ground. Uh-oh. Last time I checked, a 13′ 6″ vehicle can’t fit under an 11-foot bridge. Nuts!
Being focused on that cursed yellow sign, I hadn’t noticed the two cars that had crept up behind me. As I reached for the trusty iPhone, the first car came up beside me. He stopped and rolled down his passenger window. Forgetting I was in the Northeast, I was expecting the guy to ask if I needed some directions around the low bridge. Instead I got, “Hey buddy! How ’bout some flashers?!” While it was true that I hadn’t bothered to turn on my flashers (it was 1:00 a.m. and there hadn’t been a car in sight), I hadn’t been stopped for more than 10 seconds.
Pointing at the low bridge, I said, “Sorry, my focus was on that.” In typical a-hole fashion, he said, “Oh,” and drove off. No, “sorry.” No, “You need a hand?” No, “Gee. Guess I’m an a-hole.” At least the next car just drove right past. No help, but at least I didn’t have to talk to another a-hole.
I called the shipper to get some directions that wouldn’t involve a truck decapitation, but of course, it went directly to voice mail. I found out later that the guard had stepped away from his desk for a few minutes. Of course he had. Nice timing. Next, I pulled up the directions on Google Maps. Ohhhh. So that’s where my company got those directions! Even though I couldn’t follow their recommended route, at least I had a map of the city. So I winged it.
Luckily, there was a huge empty parking lot right beside me, so I whipped a U-turn and took what looked like the biggest road on the map. When I got back to the street I was supposed to turn on, all I could see were houses. Since trucks and residential areas are normally as agreeable as Chris and Rihanna, I kept on going.
I finally found another road big enough to turn onto and made my way back to the pinpoint on the map. It was there alright. Tucked in the middle of a town, surrounded by houses; but it was there. Now where to turn in? Nope. Not that first entrance. U-turn. Maybe on down the residential road a bit? Nope. So now I’m stuck backing up for a quarter-mile on a dark, residential street, lined with cars. Man, I love trucking sometimes.
Holy crap! What was that? I swore I saw something move behind me. It seems that I almost backed over the security guard. I’m guessing this guy was a hide-and-seek master in his youth, as he went from hiding from a phone to hiding behind a moving semi in the matter of a few minutes. I’m also guessing he was about as bright as the street I was on.
He informed me that I was at the right location, but I was supposed to be at the back entrance. After getting directions and taking a couple of tight little nasty corners that had me dodging cars that were parked in front of houses, the gate finally came into sight. But wait.
Seeing what awaited me, I parked down the street and walked toward the gate. There were cars parked in front of houses on one side of the street and trucks parked on the other. At the gate, the intercom assured me that I was in the right place. On my way back to the truck, another fine citizen of Pottstown came out onto his porch smoking a cigarette. Once again, the naive optimist inside of me was expecting a witty comment about how tight it was going to be. Foiled again!
Shocking me back to reality, he said, “You gonna sit out here and idle your truck all night?” Why yes, dill-munch. That is exactly what I had planned to do. Here I was, walking back to my truck from the gate, while my truck sat in the middle of the road with its headlights on. Clearly that was my plan. I simply said “no” and kept walking. If you don’t have anything good to say…
Being evil and all, The Evil Overlord called him by his appropriate name. She didn’t use asterisks though. Gotta love her. She’s like that little red devil sitting on my shoulder. I’m the white angel that keeps getting jabbed in the face with her pitchfork.
Thank God The Evil Overlord was awake though. It’s times like that where you say a silent thank you to the engineer who designs these trucks. So that’s why our side mirrors fold in. It was that tight. With the mirrors folded in and both our heads hanging out the windows like a couple of joy-riding slobber hounds, we slowly crept forward. We had a whole six inches to spare on each side.
After getting loaded, we went back through the truck funnel using the same process. Once out on the street, I was tempted to take Mr. A-hole’s suggestion to sit idling by his house, but I went on down to where there weren’t any houses to do my paperwork. One point for the angel. Having gotten the proper directions from the shipper, we went back out a different way. So it seems that there was a way to avoid drowning and decapitation after all.
So anyway, I can’t blame everything on the Northeast. I’m guessing that weight-restricted bridge was built years before trucks got so darned huge. Same goes for the low underpass. Some good directions would have avoided the trouble; not that my company can be bothered with such trivial matters.
As for the a-holes… well, I’m afraid there’s no avoiding them. At least not until some enterprising young proctologist invents an a-hole detector anyway.
Photo by wonderferret via Flickr