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Both Feet in Different Worlds

The trick, my friend Bob Lee told me a few years ago, would be to keep both feet grounded in two different worlds.  Ricochet’s website had not yet launched, and Peter Robinson and Rob Long had just invited me to become a contributor.  So I called my friend of many years and discussed the idea with him.  Bob predicted that I might very well function as a conduit, of sorts, between the professorial and intellectual world, and that of regular people who keep the country running since, Bob maintained, that by disposition and background I could move about in both groups and either make them happy or torque their jaws, as circumstances warrant.

Others can judge the accuracy of Bob’s prediction, but I can say that the dichotomy of long haul trucking and punditry is striking at times.  This morning began with the happy absence of the raging headache that various stressors had induced the day before.   I began yesterday in the hope of doing some writing, but by day’s end the only thought I could complete was one that culminated in remembering where I had left the Tylenol.  

With a fresh and relatively pain-free start, today’s work began with another dichotomy.  Would the truckers of 30 or 40 years ago even recognize trucking now?  Could they have envisioned a large and comfortable air-ride driver’s seat complete with three adjustable airbags for lower back and lumbar support, the relative ease of maneuvering, a radar system that displays the speed of the vehicle in front of you along with an automatic braking system in the event the vehicle in front does something dumb, GPS systems that take into account truck restricted routes and low bridges, electronic logging, 24-hour communication with company dispatchers, comparatively sumptuous living quarters complete with closets, a desk, end table, and flat screen TV?

Technology makes its own paradox of course, which became apparent when, upon leaving the dirt and mud of a shipping warehouse that looked like it had been transplanted from Cologne after the Allied bombing campaign, I turned off the CB, gently pressed the little button on my cell phone and said, “Play Mozart.”  Presto!  The truck became Symphony Hall.  Later, while other drivers careened about as if on suicide missions, I said, “Play The Mormon Tabernacle Choir” and sacred music filled the cab, enabling me to manage traffic with a great deal more serenity than would have otherwise been possible.  It’s all done by speaking now.  In fact, when a certain idea or turn of phrase occurs while I’m driving, I can now say it aloud and the cell phone will transcribe it for later use.  We’ve gone from post cards and telegrams to the ability to dictate an email and have it sent without ever having to take our hands off the steering wheel.  

“Call Bob Lee,” I said.  Within seconds, the sweet and mischievous old rascal was on the line, via hands-free bluetooth technology, and we talked home improvement and politics.  ”You need to write more,” he said.  He always says this.  The schedule works against it, of course, but I told him I’d see what I could manage tonight.  After stopping this evening, it was time for my first and only meal of the day.  Truck stop food has become something on the order of gastrointestinal roulette lately, and since I am staying the night at our company’s Indianapolis terminal, I signed out the company car to go to a nearby restaurant.  

Having ordered dinner, it was time to scan the news and see what might form the basis for a Ricochet post.  I would only have a short time to write tonight, as I must make a delivery southwest of Indy tomorrow bright and early.  First order of business was to look in on the various alerts from the Associated Press that had arrived on the phone while I was driving:

“Obama To Return 5 Percent of Salary To Treasury”:  This, evidently, is a show of solidarity with federal employees who are feeling the pinch, administered by the President himself, who is eager to demonstrate that if you reduce the rate at which government grows, you are inflicting immeasurable harm because a government that spent $3.6 trillion last year will collapse without an additional $85 billion this year.  Always the conscience of progressivism, President Obama’s salary cut comes to $20,000 per year, or, the cost of operating Air Force One for about 7 minutes.  From a man whose family has already taken one vacation per month in 2013, his sacrifice is ennobling indeed, and a beacon of contrition that will, in due course, shine brightly from his enclave on Martha’s Vineyard.   

“Crews corral cruise ship that tore loose in Ala”:  Who writes these headlines?  It sounds like the ship either started its engines all by itself and “tore” from the dock, or it “tore loose” by throwing a bachelor party.  In reality, high winds “tore” the vessel from the dock, sending it adrift and into a cargo ship.  This is the same ship, incidentally, that lost power and stranded vacationers a few weeks ago.  Some day I’d like to go on a cruise, but not on this ship.  Ever.   I’d prefer to use it for live-fire naval exercises off the coast of North Korea.  Speaking of which:

“US missile defense shield to counter NKorea threat”:  You mean there was merit to SDI after all?   As Bruce Klingner, at the Heritage Foundation, observed, the President is in the uncomfortable position of reversing his own policies while trying to catch up to events.  The administration is deploying the SBX radar, which Klingner describes as, “…capable of detecting a baseball hit out of a ballpark from more than 3,000 miles away,” closer to the Korean peninsula, following its 2009 refusal to give Northern Command permission to the radar to monitor North Korea’s missile activity.  Likewise, President Obama has decided to increase the number of Ground-Based Midcourse Defense interceptors in the US to 44 interceptors which, interestingly, is the number President Bush had proposed to deploy before President Obama decided to limit the number to 30.  Again, from Bruce Klingner, “…if he [had] proceeded with the original plan, he wouldn’t have to play catch up to the North Korean ballistic missile threat and waste taxpayers’ dollars in the process.”  Such are the wages of hope and change, …and starry-eyed vulnerability.  

While enjoying a meal of flounder, baked potato, and broccoli (to make the doctor happy), I tapped on the screen and the Flipboard application came to life.  Rob Long first suggested this application as one my Dad might enjoy on his iPad, and I’ve become addicted to it.  Name a news source and, most likely, Flipboard will incorporate it.  The tactile element is especially attractive, as you move a finger across the screen and pages of stories turn as if in a book.  Tap on a story and it enlarges to full screen size, enabling you to read it in full.  Tap again and it shrinks and resumes it’s little place on the page, which you can then turn.  Tap in another spot, and the story is saved in a different application called “Pocket,” which keeps the story intact for later reference.  This is where I keep the stories I intend to use in columns.  After saving a few stories for later use, I rummage through those I’ve already saved in “Pocket,” and see: 

“Colorado courts face review after mistakenly setting Evan Ebel free”:  Ebel, you may recall, is the man suspected of fatally shooting Colorado Director of Corrections Tom Clements a short time ago.  As it turns out, he was supposed to be in prison serving an additional four years for an assault conviction, but due to a paperwork glitch, he was released instead.  Whereupon he allegedly killed Mr. Clements.  Meanwhile, Colorado’s governor signed three gun control bills just this morning that will make it more difficult for law abiding citizens to defend themselves against such people as Colorado releases from its prisons.  Who says we can’t trust government to manage our healthcare?  I even hear that President Obama flew to Colorado to show his solidarity with these efforts, which solidarity worked against the fiscal solidarity he demonstrated hours before when returning to the Treasury as much money as it took to get his airplane off the ground.  Liberals are fun to watch.  It’s only when they exercise real power that things get dicey.  

Back at the truck, following dinner, it was time to collect the bills of lading of the last several days, go inside the terminal and scan them into the system which records their digital image at the mothership in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Then, after picking up other forms and administrative minutia, the clerical duties of a driver having grown to distracting levels that border on nuttery, there remained an hour or so to put these thoughts to keyboard for your perusal.   I had hoped to write something more substantive tonight, but the need to keep both feet planted in two different worlds requires a good measure of rest so as to have 35,000 pounds of corrugated cardboard in Plainview, Indiana tomorrow.  Goodnight, all.  

Oh, and Bob?  How’d you like this one?  

  1. AUMom

    Dave, today, as I calculated if there was enough room for me to switch lanes and end up in front of a truck, I thought, I haven’t heard much from Dave lately. He must be busy. I wish he would write more. I wonder if he has any idea how much safer he has made the roads. 

    Of all the laughs, smiles, and, yes, even a few tears, that come from a Dave Carter column, I believe the most lasting thing I have learned is road safety. 

    Keep up the good work, Dave. Thanks for keeping feet wherever you need them and taking us along with. 

  2. Dave Carter
    C
    AlrightAlready: Dave Carter, you are the single biggest reason I joined Ricochet; no joke.  This is not idle flattery.  You really are.  Thank you so much for your perspective, your wit, your stories, your writing.  I hope to meet you some day at a Ricochet meet-up; if you are ever passing through Minnesota, just say the word. · 6 hours ago

    You just made my day.  Thank you!

  3. Dave Carter
    C
    Gary McVey: …I don’t always agree with Dave’s opinions,…

    Hmmmm…. much work do we must.  ;)

  4. Dave Carter
    C
    AUMom: …

    Of all the laughs, smiles, and, yes, even a few tears, that come from a Dave Carter column, I believe the most lasting thing I have learned is road safety. 

    This is exquisite!  I see so many accidents that result from carelessness, inattentiveness, and stubborn refusal to recognize the laws of physics or simple courtesy.  I pray none of you are ever involved in one. 

  5. Cper

    Dave, today, as I calculated if there was enough room for me to switch lanes and end up in front of a truck, I thought, I haven’t heard much from Dave lately. He must be busy. I wish he would write more. I wonder if he has any idea how much safer he has made the roads. I so agree, AUMom. We are on the road a fair amount and I have learned so much from Dave about road safety, especially concerning trucks and what the driver has to do if he is cut off going downhill. Thanks, Dave, for your interesting and informative columns. I’m a much safer driver as a result.

  6. Cper

    Oops, thought I was putting AUMom’s quote in a quote box. I tried to delete and start over but it wouldn’t let me.

  7. Big John

    Dave, your posts are welcome tonic because of their world-straddling qualities.  One of the nice things about this site is that members are willing to share advice and insights on all manner of things that stray from politics–books, movies, music, philosophy, family, religion.  Thanks for being such an effective example.

  8. Fricosis Guy

    When I’m driving my son asks me all the time what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, why I don’t go or do go.

    I try to get him to think about driving in terms he can understand “remember when you couldn’t stop quickly enough and your head hit that pole?” That’s the most important attribute of a good driver IMO, empathy.  You need to put yourself behind the wheel of another driver.

    Why so careful?  The morning of my senior year’s first basketball game we rolled through a stop sign and got t-boned by a 1970′s New Yorker taxi going 40-45 mph.  I was in the front passenger seat and he hit my door.

    I was lucky. I was young , as strong as I had ever been, so I could pull myself out of that car and walk away with a only broken pelvis.

    My ups are gone, but thank God I’m alive.

    Dave Carter: I see so many accidents that result from carelessness, inattentiveness, and stubborn refusal to recognize the laws of physics or simple courtesy.  I pray none of you are ever involved in one.

  9. D.C. McAllister
    C

    Your writing is a delight and an inspiration. Thank you, Dave. This was the first thing I read on Ricochet this morning, and you’ve motivated me to do some writing of my own. Of course, what has inspired me the most is your truck. :) I’m envious. It sounds nicer than my house (especially since it’s absent several teenagers!). If ever I hit the road, I want to go Dave Carter style. Seriously, I appreciate your thoughts and insights, and the fact that they’re framed with such beautiful style and generated from different worlds makes them even richer. 

  10. Giantkiller

    Dave – may I heartily second the wish that you write more!  The reason I keep reading Ricochet is your moral and intelligent commentary on our poor, beleaguered country – written in unusually lively, good prose.

    You provide a needed touchstone for reality – something largely lacking in many other websites dedicated to political discussions.

    In your honor, I have even begun to refrain from making gratuitous comments on your former paramilitary organization, the Air Force.

  11. Gus Marvinson

    Dave, in my opinion, you are Ricochet’s premier talent among contributors. Your work reminds my of my favorite motojournalist, Peter Egan (Cycle World, Road and Track). Except that he’s a lib, but, fortunately, his ideology rarely bubbles to the surface of his work. You and Egan are at once erudite and conversational in tone, and reading your work is like eating hot buttered popcorn.

  12. Jim Chase

    C.S. Lewis once wrote in a letter:

    “Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was ‘terrible,’ describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was ‘delightful’; make us say ‘delightful’ when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, ‘Please will you do my job for me.’”

    Dave is one of those few who have the gift of making the reader emotionally connect to their material.  He has a knack for putting words together in just the right order and in just the right tenor, leaving a flavor on the tongue that fills one with pleasure.

    And indeed, Dave, your words are a pleasure to read.  I’m envious, of course, but appreciative.

    Delightful! 

  13. Dave Carter
    C
    Brian McMenomy: As someone that works in trucking, I can second and add to Dave’s assessment; life inside the cab would not even be recognizable to truckers from 40 years ago.

    Whether one can make $$ as an owner-operator, now that’s a dicier proposition.  The squeeze of fuel costs, repair costs through the roof (try paying to replace all that expensive particulate mitigation equipment), new regulations (more coming in July on the hours-of-service front), and the drivers I talk to either won’t go into California anymore or wonder how they can afford to.

    They wouldn’t believe the clerical work either.  By the time I finish entering all the data necessary to drop off one trailer and pick up another, I’ve made enough keystrokes to launch a missile strike.  And I never, repeat, never, get it all done.  At some point, you have to decide if you’re going to sit there all day and be a data entry clerk, or if you’re going to actually move freight around the country.  

  14. Dave Carter
    C
    Denise McAllister: Your writing is a delight and an inspiration. Thank you, Dave. This was the first thing I read on Ricochet this morning, and you’ve motivated me to do some writing of my own. Of course, what has inspired me the most is your truck. :) I’m envious. It sounds nicer than my house (especially since it’s absent several teenagers!). If ever I hit the road, I want to go Dave Carter style. Seriously, I appreciate your thoughts and insights, and the fact that they’re framed with such beautiful style and generated from different worlds makes them even richer.  · 30 minutes ago

    Edited 24 minutes ago

    Very high praise indeed, coming from you, Denise.  Your posts are among the most compelling on Ricochet, and always a “must read” for me.  Thank you. 

  15. Dave Carter
    C
    Giantkiller: Dave – may I heartily second the wish that you write more!  The reason I keep reading Ricochet is your moral and intelligent commentary on our poor, beleaguered country – written in unusually lively, good prose.

    You provide a needed touchstone for reality – something largely lacking in many other websites dedicated to political discussions.

    In your honor, I have even begun to refrain from making gratuitous comments on your former paramilitary organization, the Air Force. · 24 minutes ago

    Thank you.  I think…   And in your honor, I’ll ask them to forgo any supersonic demonstrations over your home.  ;) 

  16. Dave Carter
    C
    Gus Marvinson: Dave, in my opinion, you are Ricochet’s premier talent among contributors. Your work reminds my of my favorite motojournalist, Peter Egan (Cycle World, Road and Track). Except that he’s a lib, but, fortunately, his ideology rarely bubbles to the surface of his work. You and Egan are at once erudite and conversational in tone, and reading your work is like eating hot buttered popcorn. · 24 minutes ago

    Edited 18 minutes ago

    Okay, if this keeps up, I won’t be able to fit my fat head into the truck…  Wait, did somebody say popcorn?  

  17. Dave Carter
    C
    Jim Chase: C.S. Lewis once wrote in a letter:

    “Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was ‘terrible,’ describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was ‘delightful’; make us say ‘delightful’ when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, ‘Please will you do my job for me.’”

    Dave is one of those few who have the gift of making the reader emotionally connect to their material.  He has a knack for putting words together in just the right order and in just the right tenor, leaving a flavor on the tongue that fills one with pleasure.

    And indeed, Dave, your words are a pleasure to read.  I’m envious, of course, but appreciative.

    Delightful!  · 21 minutes ago

    Thank you very kindly, Jim.  And it was indeed a privilege to meet you and your charming wife, Janet, at the Nashville meet up.  We have to do that again some time.  

  18. Robert E. Lee

    Good but short.  You are going to have to cut down on your truck driving hobby and get back to work writing.

  19. Dave Carter
    C

    Figured as much…

  20. Scott R

    Never woulda thought 35,000 lbs of cardboard would fit in a single truck. Cool.

    Mine was struggling today with 2500 lbs of mulch. And still smells like it.