Monday, September 16, 2013

A Wrong Turn

                      A truck was driving into a big city in the USA. It had just got dark, and the driver turned off the beltway onto a boulevard heading inbound. He had been on his cell with the dispatcher at the last truckstop, and he had followed her directions because he had not been in this part of town before. There was only one truck route in to the drop off. He was supposed to drop off before midnight, so he had plenty of time. But it would be easy to get lost in the city, and not locate the factory where he was supposed to drop his load. He was towing a 50 footer with 48,000 pounds, and he did not want to get lost, but he did not want to waste any time either. It was part of trucking that he had to get there and not get lost. You have to find the place. Now he came to a tight four corners, and he could make out the sign of the road the dispatcher had told him about. It looked like he ought to turn left, but he sure remembered that she had said turn right. Now this driver had been driving for a long time; he had been in lots of towns and cities in the USA. Just before he turned right he had this feeling in his head that he had fallen into an impulse, he had got a sudden feeling that he was gambling. He ought to stop now, he had stopped a hundred times for time to think. You don’t roll the dice when you are at work. But there was a car tight on his tail, and there was this feeling about being in a hurry because he had someplace to get, and in a few seconds he realized that he was running his giant trailer down a quiet residential street. He was too embarrassed to be angry.
   The driver knew that the dispatcher had told him to turn right. Well, the dispatcher was full of shit and now he was heading down a dead end road and how was he going to turn out of it? Maybe at the end there would be a turn around. Sometimes the turn arounds were wide enough he could get past without running over anything. This could not be a dead end, could it? He had not seen a sign. But every time he looked ahead into the darkness, he thought he saw a tree line. It made no sense to stop now since he could not back up in the dark without crushing something. Cars were parked on each side of the road. It was a snug fit.
   He drove down this road another mile. There was one turnoff onto another lane, but he could not make the turn without wiping out the corner. And how could he know where that road ended? It would be almost impossible to back up in the dark without help. Then he came to the end; the road just stopped. He got out to take a look around. There was one driveway. It was a double lane leading to a two car garage. He thought the driveway was long enough. But he’d end up wiping out the mailbox, some shrubs and a part of a picket fence. His delivery was supposed to happen by midnight. Nobody liked to be late. He wondered how many times trucks had ended up here. He would bet that he wasn’t the first one.
   There was a house beside the driveway. The front door opened, and a porch light went on, suddenly brightening the darkened street.
   “Hello,” a voice shouted from the porch.
   “Hello,” the driver shouted back.
   “You much fucked up, aren’t you?”
   “Yeah I am.”
   “Well, I called the cops. I’ll be right down.”
   The driver didn’t like that idea about the cops, but the man had sounded cheerful. He was probably good for a couple of hundred bucks each time he got his mailbox nicked. He didn’t sound mean or angry. He walked down the driveway, a wobbling, good-natured strut.
   “They ought to put a warning sign up the end near the intersection,” he said. “No trucks allowed or something. They were supposed to build a turn around but never did.”
   “I could swear the dispatcher said right.”
   “They all say that,” the man laughed. “Done now. So relax. The cop will be here in a minute they said.”
   “Hope so. My drop off is supposed to be before midnight.”
   “In town.”
   “Well, you’re almost there.”
   “Isn’t this the damnedest thing?”
   “Yeah, it is. But the cop they usually send down is an old time trucker, and he always gets ’em out not too much trouble.”
    The man had strong white teeth and the driver could make out his friendly smile. The road had street lights, and the light ended up tangled in the trees. A line of trees marked the dead end. The driver turned to look at the trees. “No place to turn around,” he said.
   “Oh yeah, there’s a place.” The man smiled, glancing at the end of his driveway.
   “I wonder how often do they end up here?”
   “Oh, every couple of months. Sometimes more often. So don’t feel bad.”
   “Huh! I feel bad anyway.”
   “Why? It’s done now.”
   “‘Cause it’s done now.”
   “Bad feelings make it worse than it already is. Bad enough now. Why make it worse?”
   “I guess you’re right,” the driver had to admit.
   “The cop coming is a nice guy, and everybody else done this has survived.”
   “Okay. Thanks.”
   “Sure. Well, nice talking to you. I’ll see you later. San Antone is playing Sacramento on the tube. San Antone is my team.”
   So the driver stuffed his hands into his pockets and leaned his back against the truck and he waited. This was the last straw in a really crappy day. He couldn’t think of anything bad enough that he had done to end up like this. Maybe he had been not too bright. That possibility occurred to him quite often. But what the hell did it mean, when he was just another one in millions, surviving, making a living? So while he was waiting for somebody in the rest of the world to show up and help him out, the easy thing was to put himself down. He was tired and hungry; he had driven twelve hours today; and now he looked like a rookie.
   But he didn’t have to wait very long. The patrol car pulled up silently, and a short, powerful looking cop got out. He had a big, strong nose and under it a little mouth which was trying hard to squeeze out a smile. He wore a ten gallon hat that couldn’t have been part of the uniform. He must have been a town cop. The driver knew that the cop once was a trucker because how could he have been anything else?
   “Hello,” the cop said. “So you were taking a snooze?”
   The driver blushed.
   Then the cop stood still, staring at the end of the road. The night was warm with a damp feel about it. Moths flickered in the street lights. The neighborhood was so quiet that even though they whispered the words came out like little explosions. “They’ve been dawdling about the turn around because they’re gonna extend the road, I guess. Still need a turn around though. Your delivery is tonight?”
   “Well, let’s get you out of here. Now, there’s two ways to do this. There’s me driving, which if I run into anything, I get a slap on the wrist. Then they’s you driving, which if you run into anything, donno what will happen.”
   “Be my guest,” the driver said.
   “All right.” The cop dived into the patrol car and backed it into a driveway so that both sides of the road were clear of parked cars. Then he came back with a flashlight which he handed to the driver. “I guess you must have figured out what I’ll be trying to do.”
   “Otherwise we’ll be backing up a mile-and-a-half, and there’s a curve up there. So let’s try this. I can usually make it.”
   The minute the truck started moving, the driver knew that the cop had it figured out. The neighbors came out to watch the excitement. The cop backed up on the curb and over the sidewalk and he was brushing the guy’s mailbox, and then he straightened out maybe a dozen times in increments of a couple inches at a time, each time backing deeper into the driveway until finally he was a half-inch from the garage door.
   After another dozen or so back and forth motions, the cop had the cab turned up the road just enough. The front bumper missed a telephone pole by a half inch, and a trailer tire gouged the edge of the front lawn beside the driveway. Half-a-dozen other people had come out to watch the huge tractor-trailer get turned round on their tiny street. They cheered the cop, stomping on the divot at the edge of the lawn between times when he had to put the rear tire across it again. The driver thought the cop was doing a hellova drive. The driver was really grateful. Nobody was mad at him. Nobody even asked him what had happened.
   Finally, the truck was straightened out in the road heading in the right direction.
   The cop jumped out and said to the man whose driveway he had used. “Anything?”
   “Nah, gotta go watch San Antone beat up on Sacramento.”
   Then the cop said to the driver, “Go make your delivery.”
   “Thank you.” The driver jumped into the truck and he was moving up the road in a hurry before anybody could change their mind.
   Nobody changed their mind. This was the USA. This was the way it was supposed to be.


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