It's a sifting process, really. So much can and does happen during the course of a day on the road that the idea of a "normal day" becomes something of a foreign concept for the long haul trucker. So the question becomes not so much what to write about but, more correctly, what not to write about? After all, many things are interesting but don't merit an article unto themselves. So from time to time, I put together a collection of random incidents and observances for your consideration and amusement. Herewith, some new offerings:
* Dinner with the Fuwappah Natives: I had dinner with this exotic and friendly tribe at Shooters Family Restaurant and Recreation Facility in Plover, Wisconsin, home of Thelma's Famous Salad Bar. If Thelma was there she wasn't advertising, though her name was on the menu which I was busy studying when I heard what sounded like a tour group approaching my table. It was the waitress, a Fuwappah Indian, so named because of the sound her flip flops made when they slapped against her feet as she walked. What began as a soft wappafuwappa that more or less faded into the ambient sounds of the room became louder as she drew closer, prompting me to look up in anticipation of a stampede headed for my table. But it was just one little waitress with shoes that went FUWAPPAFUWAPPAFUWAPPA, and so on. I dismissed as a fluke the idea that one person could make such a ruckus with two shoes, … until another member of the tribe left the Recreation Facility, which is actually the adjoining bar, and made her way to the Ladies Room with an even louder FUWAPPAFUWAPPAFUWAPPA. Then, when a couple more natives undertook the same trek across the restaurant and the awful commotion from their flip flops nearly drowned out poor Merle Haggard who was doing his best to explain the finer points of being an Okie from Muskogee, I knew I had found the Fuwappah Tribe.
I soon found that every one of these ladies at Shooters, regardless of their age group or rung on the social ladder, wore the tribal footwear, and they were very accomplished at making the shoe slap up against their feet numerous times in a single step. And they are a frightfully restless lot, except when you are waiting on one of them to bring your check at the conclusion of the meal. But finally the waitress reappeared, this time with a pphhhttt-wappa pphhhttt-wappa. I think she stepped in some water. Lovely people though, and I expect that they fend off all would-be aggressors simply by walking toward them.
* Crowding Large Trucks Is Risky Business: A few days ago, I was driving through Hope, Arkansas, carrying what I'm sure is the most dangerous load thus far in my nearly 8 years on the road. It was a Hazardous Material (Hazmat) load, in 100 percent liquid form, poured into 29 separate containers in the trailer. I've heard tanker drivers describe the way their tanks tend to move about on their own, but really didn't understand until now. All that liquid sloshing to and fro gives the trailer a mind of its own, so that the driver's input via the steering wheel, brakes, and throttle becomes more of a suggestion than a command. I tried to stop the vehicle, but the liquid literally pushed the vehicle forward beyond the stopping point, and even after it stopped, the tractor and trailer continued swaying with the moving liquid. The load required a delicate touch and plenty of space to maneuver safely.
Curse the naiveté that so earnestly hoped other drivers would put a little more distance between their vehicles and mine. They either followed so close that I couldn't see them through my side mirrors (I could only see the shadow their vehicles cast on the highway), or they drove along side of me, neither passing nor allowing me to pass, blithely oblivious to their fate should a tire blow out, …which it did. I was trying dutifully to keep that sloshing behemoth between the ditches when a mighty and ominous BOOOOM sounded like Judgement Day itself, jarring everyone out of their complacence. Gripping the steering wheel hard and holding in the clutch, I held her straight and true while praying that it wasn't a steer tire that had blown, for if that were the case I would likely lurch over one of the guard rails and make a Hazmat mess of everything and everyone in my path. But I glanced in the side mirror, and saw chunks of black rubber flying off the rear wheels and felt happy as a deacon with a full collection plate, secure in the knowledge that all I had to do was nurse that sloshing beast to the shoulder and wait for road repair to come out and replace the tire. The people tailgating me had a time of it and likely needed a wardrobe replacement, but no one was hurt and perhaps they won't tailgate again for at least another week. But again, there are so many things that can go wrong without notice, that it doesn't make any sense to linger around an 18 wheeler on the highway.
* The State Needs Revenue: Here's something that seems to be happening more often. One state trooper on an overpass records the speed of traffic on the highway while half a dozen or more state troopers wait along side the road to chase down offenders. So next time you see someone pulled over, remember that there may be several other troopers in the immediate vicinity waiting for the next customer.
* The Magnetism of Dashboards: Have you noticed that during the summer months, dashboards magnetically attract human feet? I've travelled all four corners of the lower 48 states this summer, and noticed that if there is a passenger in a car or SUV, their feet will be up on the dashboard. I used to think it was a seasonal phenomenon, but I've noticed that it only happens with bare feet. Shoes apparently defeat the magnetic pull. But take the shoes off and the feet end up stuck to the dashboard. You don't see this in the winter because it's too cold to go around bare footed.