In some respects, a new semi handles much like a new car. The steering is very sensitive, and the vehicle negotiates bumps and potholes with a determined, quiet toughness. But there are ways to loosen it up a bit. For example, pulling successive loaded trailers containing at least 43,000 pounds of freight, and then routing said trailers through some of the worst roads in the country will take some of the starch out.
My passenger seat is already starting to chirp as if a nest of hungry baby birds were lodged in the cushion and screeching for a fresh bug. The solution is to purchase an inexpensive elastic strap, wrap it around the seat and secure it to a nearby object so as to prevent the seat from wobbling and chirping. If that doesn't work, a second strap can be anchored to the cabinet just under the television thereby securing it from another direction. If that doesn't quiet the birds, I suppose a third strap can be routed out the window, around the side of the tractor, to the back rail and secured to the smokestack. Or perhaps a fourth strap can be used to hang the seat from a tree limb. My old truck used to have a chirping seat, along with a chirping desk, a squeaking dashboard, and a shrieking fuse box. The result was elastic straps suspended in all directions like a spider web, and tissues wedged around the squeaky edges of the fuse box. And when that didn't work, I occasionally succumbed to that most human of emotions by walloping it with the road atlas. Sometimes even that didn't work and I had to resort to thrashing it good and proper. I always felt better after that.
Today's work assignment brought me to Mehoopany, PA, where I and my shiny new truck sat in the mud for a few hours while the good people of Proctor and Gamble loaded the trailer with products bound for Connecticut. Longtime readers familiar with my experiences driving a big rig through the northeast will understand my consternation, explained in my update on Facebook this morning:
… Go forth into the mountains, yea through the valleys and up yonder peak. Deliver thou the diaper stuffings and, lo, ye shall find another trailer loaded unto bursting with Proctor and Gamble finished product which thou shalt take into the land that is called Connecticut. For verily, many middle fingers await thee, and thou shalt cry unto the heavens, "Why hast thou sent me into the land of the Philistines! What the hell!" And I will say unto thee, "Turn left at Main Street," for I am Jill the GPS, and that which I leadest thee into, I wouldst leadest thee out of. Before thou canst double clutch from 4th to 6th, thou shalt be back in the land of warmth and gumbo." So let it be written. So let it be done. Yea.
But something happened that has made me wonder if I've been unduly harsh, at least for awhile. Not far from the New York / Pennsylvania line on I-84 is a truck stop with a quaint little restaurant. All afternoon, the drivers have been characteristically nuts, blasting down the road as if wearing blinders that prevent them from knowing that anyone else occupies the same stretch of asphalt. But the people in the restaurant were even more polite than some of the specimens I encounter south of the Mason Dixon. They were almost all of retirement age too. I had never had New England Clam Chowder before, and the waitress volunteered that if it didn't agree with me, she would take it back at no charge. Many of the customers knew each other, and several were making the trip home from their vacations in the south. They were even playing Louis Armstrong over the house sound system! Such a drastic change of pace from my previous ventures into this region! So many smiles, such polite conversation, in such a warm and inviting restaurant!
Maybe it's because most of my interactions take place with people when they are behind the wheel, where even the most gracious and hospitable sons of Adam turn into half-crazed cutthroats. But when they aren't trying to ram everyone else off the road, there really are some good-natured people here. Whether this general spirit of magnanimity will survive the first brush with metropolitan traffic is, of course, another matter.