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?