“I Did That!”

Roger Clark
February 2023

There are now YouTube channels celebrating the dumb stuff truck drivers do. The people creating those videos are just trying to be funny. But in the words of Jay Leno, “If you’re not funny, don’t try!”

These influencers are showing mistakes and bad choices they never made in their two-year, million-mile careers. I don’t know about y’all, but my biggest errors were just getting started about that time. Still immortal, under age thirty, that’s the time drivers swap more paint than a four-car NASCAR team.

Oh, I bumped into a few things, those first couple of years, but repairs were made with a hammer and can of spray paint. A tail-light here, a wiper there, and a scuff over yonder cost what Dave Ramsey refers to as a stupid tax. But then it started getting weird. Or worse. 

Trying to do a U-turn in a dark parking lot, clearly marked NO TRUCKS, I tore the air lines loose, which led to an hour-long lecture from the property owner while we waited for road service. Then I did it again, some months later, when I drove out from under my trailer in the middle of a Petro truckstop. I forget what I was hauling, but still remember it weighed 45,000 pounds. It may explain why my left arm is longer than the right! 

I’ve always had a thing about heights. A bad thing. My depth perception is so good I can turn on a dime and give you eight cents change. But back in the day I was over my head when anything was over my truck.

But it wasn’t all bad. The bridge—the first one—was in New York City, just a half-block from the best deli sandwich I’ve ever had. The second bridge, 20 years later, was in Abilene, Texas, where I met Sergeant Terry Monroe of the Abilene PD Motorcycle Division. He doesn’t remember me. I’ll never forget him.

 Have you ever waited in line for fuel? Yah, me too. It’s often because the drivers ahead of us don’t have a lick of courtesy. But not always. Sometimes the driver makes a mess on the ground, or in his overalls, and has no choice but to abandon his lane. You just have to sniff this one out, if possible.

Love’s has been known for years to regularly clean the fuel lanes. Not anymore. I don’t know if it’s a lack of employees, or competition with Flying J for the tallest piles of trash, but it would be safer to wear your flip flops in a landfill. They empty the fuel lane trash cans every few days, but they get to choose which ones.

 But I digress. Back in the eighties, the list of things I didn’t hit was shorter than the things I collided with. Guardrails in Wisconsin and Kentucky. Cars in Ohio and New York. Buildings in Texas and Missouri. And of course, there were the U-turns and right turns that took out stop signs, sprinkler systems, and the occasional mailbox.

In between these memorable mileposts, I blew an engine in Pennsylvania, stripped a transmission in Illinois, and burned up a power divider on Donner Pass. I also earned a handful of tickets, during that decade, for going too fast, following too close, and getting married too soon. Again.

 Ultimately what I learned is this. Few drivers are going to have a forty year career without accidents, but what they can do is avoid it being their fault. Oh, and remember, cameras are just one shirt pocket away!