One summer day in 1987, I drove from Calgary, Alberta, to Utah County in one day. My wife stayed with her family in Canada and would fly home later. For 900 miles, it was just me, Pink Floyd and a station wagon filled with furniture my mother-in-law wanted gone.
On this trip, there were only two mishaps worth mentioning. The first was when I plowed into the median south of Dillon, Mont., while trying to eat a hamburger at 65 mph.
The next happened near Tremonton. I was grubby, road weary, and — most importantly — in no mood.
Heading south in the late afternoon, a tractor-trailer passed me, pulled in front, and then slowed down so abruptly that I had to hit the brakes. I moved over to pass, but so did the semi. Every time I tried to go around him, he cut me off.
After a minute of this, it became apparent that I was being messed with deliberately. I put the whip to the engine and shot past the truck on the far left and into the clear.
A minute later, my entire back window filled with chrome. At 80 mph, the same truck was now following me so closely that I could determine the gender of the bugs splattered against its grill.
Again, I moved over. So did the truck. I pulled onto the shoulder and slowed. The truck followed, dust and gravel billowing behind us. OK, there was a head case at the wheel.
As the Utah Highway Patrol weigh station near Brigham City was coming up, the truck finally relented. He passed me on the left with a blast from his horn. I’m sure he saw an unshaven, haggard family man, covered in hamburger grease at the wheel, one he had just taught a lesson for … whatever.
We both took the exit for the weigh station. Because I could park closer, I was in the lobby well before Mr. Peterbilt. I explained to the UHP troopers inside what had occurred.
The truck driver came marching in, a bandy-legged older man with a huff up his butt and a Midwestern twang that would have required an ax to cut. I motioned to him that I needed a word.
Him • “Believe ah’ll jist speak to the offsuhs rat cheer.”
The troopers in the room silently pointed at my police ID and badge on the counter.
Me • “Nope. You’ll talk to me.
I still treasure the look on his face.
In the end, the trucker said I had made him mad for something I’d done 40 miles back, and he was merely trying to teach me a lesson. I apologized for whatever it was that I had done and assured him that it hadn’t been intentional.
Then I asked him how he felt about coming back from Missouri to Utah to fight a charge of reckless driving, and how that might go over on his commercial driver license record or with his bosses at (name withheld) trucking?
I finished up with the caution that you never know whom you’re messing with, and, as such, it is a good idea not to try give someone a driving lesson at 75 mph. He agreed and apologized.
Today, I have an affinity for truck drivers. It’s a tough job, not just because of the long miles and the time away from home, but because of whom they have to share the highways with: us.
Last week, my wife and I followed a semi up Logan Canyon. A long line of recreational vehicles and boats on trailers stacked up behind the crawling monster, some of them impatient (and stupid) enough to leapfrog the line on blind curves. We witnessed a few close calls.
I get it. It’s no fun having to stare at the back of a slow-moving truck. But it’s also no fun being sent to a wheelchair or having to put some of your friends or loved ones in the ground.
It’s summer and everyone is out for a good time. I’m an average to horrible driver, but I’m old enough to know that the fundamental point of life is to stay alive in the first place. You have to be that in order to have the fun you’re trying to reach.