Navigating ‘amateur day’ with the four-wheelers

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Following find a dispatch from former finish carpenter, designer, and sales/project manager Bill Chatterson that caught my eye in the inbox of late. I suspect you might find plenty familiar in this bit of satire of sorts on the weekend warriors Chatterson’s seen plenty of following the “Great Recession.” Since then the married father of four, resident of Petoskey, Mich., has been driving tanker trucks, first hauling oil and water in the oil fields and currently running oil for Pilot Flying J around Wheeler, Texas, getting home once every six weeks or so. 

In any case, enjoy! 

congestion on SB i85Amateur night, by Bill Chatterson
Being a professional truck driver, I’ve seen plenty on the highways — I see some of the craziest stuff on Saturday nights. That’s when the amateur drivers fill our roads. These folks have been stuck at desks, staring at computers all week. They are wound-up and ready to cut loose. What better place to lose oneself than on the open road, right?

I dread Saturday nights.  You never know what will happen.

I don’t mean to profile drivers, but some behave so predictably on Saturdays I’m going to have to.

There’s the brake-footer, otherwise known as a two-foot pedal masher. You see this driver tailgating a semi-truck (usually loaded with gasoline), and his brake lights are coming on and off like a flashing traffic signal. Behind this driver, brake lights ripple back in waves so that traffic becomes a kind of halting, blinking Christmas-light display. This guy is really dangerous, because no one on the road really knows if he is stopping or going.

There’s the timid driver who can’t (or won’t) merge into traffic properly. These drivers have an overactive manners gland. They try to be nice, letting others go first, the way nice people should. But then they’re not sure if other drivers understand they are being nice.

“You go first”, they signal, waving their hands.

“No, you go,” waves the other driver, also a nice person.

“No, you.”

“No please, you.”

Pretty soon, the merging lane ends, and it’s panic time. Manners vanish in an adrenalin rush as both drivers race for the last spot in the same lane.

Then there’s the texter. He’s easy to spot as he wanders side to side, in and out of the lane. He’ll race to get in front of a 150,000-lb. log-hauling semi (Michigan) and then slow down to 50 mph while writing that most important text to his wife:

“Be home in 20”

Meanwhile, a heavily loaded semi is riding on his bumper, nearly crawling up the trunk. This driver belongs at home on the couch, so he can play with his phone and not with the minds and safety of other drivers.

There’s the NASCAR wannabe. She lights up the passing lane doing a glorious 90 mph. Even semi trucks wobble as she blasts by. She’s got to get where she’s going — right now. Fifteen miles down the highway she’s on the right shoulder with her new friend, a state trooper.

There’s a crotch-rocket version of this driver too, who zips by on a motorcycle. These guys scare me the most. Last I knew there are no air bags or seatbelts on a motorcycle. On the plus side, at least the crotch rocket driver can’t text and drive. (We hope.)

Of course, there’s the rubbernecker: This is the driver who apparently has never seen road construction before. He slows to a Sunday crawl to watch a couple of masked-up workers use a concrete saw.

“Look Mary, they’re cutting the road.”

Meanwhile, six miles’ worth cars and trucks in the traffic behind him are honking horns, drivers cursing out of the windows.

One of my favorite drivers is the sportsman who should have left on Friday but didn’t get packed until Saturday afternoon. He’s the midnight rider, trying to make up some time. He pulls a trailer stacked with outdoor toys like four-wheelers, duck boats, jet skis and various camping gear. It’s 1 a.m. and he’s in a big hurry, speeding and passing anyone who’s still driving on the dark roads. When he gets where he’s going, he often, unfortunately, finds a few items missing from the trailer.

The rest of us dodge those unsecured items: coolers, pillows, small plastic chairs, as we come upon them lying in the road. This adds to the already fun time of dodging night deer, skunks, opossum, and the occasional fox.

There. Now you know why most truck drivers take Saturday night off. It’s no fun, it’s treacherous. It’s amateur night.

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