Say Again?

 

 After welcoming one and all to the weekly installment of Ricochet’s primary podcast, James Lileks typically brings in Peter Robinson and Rob Long and asks how they’ve been getting along. Whereupon Rob can be counted on to preface his remarks with a happy reference to, “Sunny Southern California.” Uh huh. Having spent today in southern California, I can vouch that this is the kind of sunshine that resulted in Noah’s ark. Perhaps Rob really said, “I’m growing gills,” and I just misunderstood. I’ve been very busy misunderstanding a lot of people lately.

The load that brought me to Ontario, California today originated in the Nashville area on Tuesday. My understanding of the load was that it had to be delivered by 6PM today. I planned my trip accordingly. Then, Wednesday night, I checked the computer and saw that the delivery had been changed to 8AM today, effectively moving events almost a full work day earlier. Did it really change, I wondered, or did I misunderstand the assignment in the first instance? What followed was a grueling schedule that culminated with an all-night drive last night, providing time to wonder if I’ve been paying sufficient attention lately.

At 2 o’clock this morning, while I was nearing the Arizona / California border, a contemporary yet deliciously sweet piano rendition of Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring filled the cab. The patch of desert landscape, illuminated by the headlights, seemed all the more bright against a cold starless night. The delicious warmth of the coffee seemed especially comforting. I caught just a hint of what looked to be a brush of silver light to my left, almost like a reflection from one of the dashboard gauges against the driver’s side window. I looked again and saw that it was moonlight, formless, without focus, just a wisp of silver fading in from behind the clouds.

I had misunderstood my fortune, because rather than an arduous task, this night time drive was turning into a wondrous experience. Or so I thought. The California authorities were thoughtful enough to construct an inspection station in the middle of Interstate 40, where they could more properly welcome commercial drivers. “Papers,” said the nice officer. More misunderstanding ensued because I didn’t believe myself to be passing through Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin. I handed over the bills of lading, which stated that I was delivering medical supplies to a Costco distribution center. “Wachagot?” he asked. “Pardon?” I asked. “What are you carrying?” he asked. He was staring at the load list that told him precisely what I was carrying. So I answered, “drugs.” “What?” he said. “Medical supplies,” I clarified. I was allowed to proceed.

A few hours later, I was traveling south on Interstate 15 toward Los Angeles, when the highway took a turn up through a mountainous region. We drove up into large black cloud of “Sunny Southern California,” which opened a deluge on us, causing me to remember that I had come all the way out here and forgotten my suntan oil.

Later still, the load having been delivered, I wandered inside the truck stop restaurant in Ontario for a hot breakfast prior to turning in for some rest. In most truck stops, if one wants to engage in conversation with other truckers, one sits at the counter. Drivers who opt for a table or booth are generally understood to be feeling a little less sociable. Soaked to the bone, I went straightaway to a booth. A few minutes later, another driver sat in the adjacent booth. “Hope you drive wrong,” he said. “Pardon?” I asked. “Have you been driving long?” he repeated. It was going to be one of those meals.

Now, my daughter and I don’t always have the greatest of phone connections, due to my cell signal and her wireless gizmos, so that what she says and what I actually hear are not always the same thing. Occasionally, instead of asking her to repeat something, I’ll simply tell her what I thought I heard, which is always good for a laugh. This morning’s conversation was worse because the guy would neither speak up nor shut up. I had hoped, after asking him to repeat himself some five or six hundred thousand times, he might give up and go back to his eggs and bacon. Alas, his narrative was as boundless as his appetite. I threw in the towel:

Him: “My aunt flapped on a flatbed all the way to Norfolk.” 

 Me: “Really?”

Him: “Yeah, I told the idiot that lumber wouldn’t make the trip in a ribbon like that, but you know how dispatchers are.” 

Me: “Yep.”

Him: “Spinach.” 

Me: “What?”

Him: “Spend much? On food?”

Me: “About 10 bucks on average.”

Him: “Yeah, you know what I told the manager at Petro?”

Me: “Yep.”

Him: “I told that sonovabiscuit eater that there ain’t no way a cackeroni with flim flies can run no 8 bucks.” 

Me: “Really.”

Him: “If l’m lyin’ I’m fryin’, besides, the menu said the steak lice was sledge over cork.”

Me: “No kiddin’.”

And on it went. And went. He ate more food than I could manage, quicker than I could manage, and never broke stride with his story-telling. I’m not sure, but I think he was telling the waitress how much he’d like to take her to Topeka on a wheel barrow, but I might have got that part wrong. It was time to pay the bill and get some sleep. I was reminded of the story of the genteel old man who, on the occasion of his 60th wedding anniversary, told his wife, “Honey, I’m proud of you.” “Well,” she said, “I’m tired of you too.”

Meanwhile, the southern California sun continues to rinse off my truck. I think I’ll have to turn the volume up for the next podcast.

There are 30 comments.

  1. Member

    As a fellow trucker, all I can say is priceless!

    • #1
    • April 14, 2012 at 5:19 am
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  2. Podcaster

    California sunshine… When it ain’t burning’ , it’s sliding’ down hill…

    • #2
    • April 14, 2012 at 5:22 am
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  3. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author
    Michael Wagner: As a fellow trucker, all I can say is priceless! · 5 minutes ago

    A fellow trucker? Fantastic!!! You drive wrong?

    • #3
    • April 14, 2012 at 5:25 am
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  4. Member

    Dave Carter, You swing.

    • #4
    • April 14, 2012 at 5:46 am
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  5. Member

    Drive careful, Cave Farter.

    • #5
    • April 14, 2012 at 6:10 am
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  6. Inactive

    My favorite farewell is ” Drive fast and look worried !”but not this way (Missouri) this weekend.Tornadoes on the menu.Please alert us if transit near NW Mo in plans.

    • #6
    • April 14, 2012 at 6:17 am
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  7. Member

    I savored every word. THAT is entertainment!

    • #7
    • April 14, 2012 at 6:17 am
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  8. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author
    flownover: My favorite farewell is ” Drive fast and look worried !”but not this way (Missouri) this weekend.Tornadoes on the menu.Please alert us if transit near NW Mo in plans. · 2 minutes ago

    Yessir.

    • #8
    • April 14, 2012 at 6:20 am
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  9. Member

    Wonderful account, Dave.

    Reminds me of the two old folks at church celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. When the pastor asked the old man how one stayed married for 60 years, he replied that it helped to be a bit hard of hearing and to have a lot of work to do down at the barn.

    • #9
    • April 14, 2012 at 6:21 am
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  10. Member
    flownover: My favorite farewell is ” Drive fast and look worried !”but not this way (Missouri) this weekend.Tornadoes on the menu.Please alert us if transit near NW Mo in plans. · 0 minutes ago

    Sorry, flownover, I have a giant Dave magnet in East Central Missouri that activates the moment Dave crosses over the Missouri state line. It just might scoop you up, too, though. I hope you don’t mind.

    • #10
    • April 14, 2012 at 6:23 am
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  11. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author
    Andrea Ryan
    flownover: My favorite farewell is ” Drive fast and look worried !”but not this way (Missouri) this weekend.Tornadoes on the menu.Please alert us if transit near NW Mo in plans. · 0 minutes ago

    Sorry, flownover, I have a giant Dave magnet in East Central Missouri that activates the moment Dave crosses over the Missouri state line. It just might scoop you up, too, though. I hope you don’t mind. · 3 minutes ago

    Best ceegars and bourbon this side of the French Quarter. And the company is superb!

    • #11
    • April 14, 2012 at 6:31 am
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  12. Inactive

    Ah, the Inland Empire … Spent the better part of an evening prior to “California Jam II” (held at the old Ontario Motor Speedway) at that very truckstop back in ’78’ and I would have had no trouble following your conversation at that time…for different reasons of course…

    • #12
    • April 14, 2012 at 7:04 am
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  13. Inactive

    Mr. Carter, sir, thanks for that. I enjoyed every word. 

    I’m also reminded of what Evelyn Waugh wrote, late in life, in a letter to someone (his sister maybe?):

    “I’m quite deaf now, such a comfort.” 

    • #13
    • April 14, 2012 at 7:26 am
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  14. Member
    Dave Carter
    Andrea Ryan
    flownover: My favorite farewell is ” Drive fast and look worried !”but not this way (Missouri) this weekend.Tornadoes on the menu.Please alert us if transit near NW Mo in plans. · 0 minutes ago

    Sorry, flownover, I have a giant Dave magnet in East Central Missouri that activates the moment Dave crosses over the Missouri state line. It just might scoop you up, too, though. I hope you don’t mind. · 3 minutes ago

    Best ceegars and bourbon this side of the French Quarter. And the company is superb! · 58 minutes ago

    Ditto, Mr. Tarter. :-)

    • #14
    • April 14, 2012 at 7:30 am
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  15. Inactive
    Dave Carter

    … At 2 o’clock this morning, while I was nearing the Arizona / California border, a contemporary yet deliciously sweet piano rendition of Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring filled the cab. …

    Dave, just before reading your essay, my daughter sent me this link of a 13 year old girl playing one of my favorite sonatas. When you watch and listen, it’s easy to believe there is still hope for western civilization.

    • #15
    • April 14, 2012 at 7:56 am
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  16. Inactive

    Hey, Dave, how about Ricochet Ride-alongs? Apart from fun and adventure, we could hear you and your guests misunderstand one another live to tape on “The View From the Cab”

    • #16
    • April 14, 2012 at 7:57 am
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  17. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author
    jetstream
    Dave Carter

    … At 2 o’clock this morning, while I was nearing the Arizona / California border, a contemporary yet deliciously sweet piano rendition of Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring filled the cab. …

    Dave, just before reading your essay, my daughter sent me this link of a 13 year old girl playing one of my favorite sonatas. When you watch and listen, it’s easy to believe there is still hope for western civilization. · 21 minutes ago

    Edited 20 minutes ago

    That was downright inspirational. Thanks for passing this along. 

    • #17
    • April 14, 2012 at 8:21 am
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  18. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author
    nick: Hey, Dave, how about Ricochet Ride-alongs? Apart from fun and adventure, we could hear you and your guests misunderstand one another live to tape on “The View From the Cab” · 34 minutes ago

    Well, I’m limited on the number of passengers I can take per year. I’m hoping to take my buddy Bob Lee soon. May have a couple of family members during the summer too. I’m not averse to the idea, though. We’ve even joked about getting Rob or Peter in the truck for a week or so. But remember; as sumptuous as the new truck is,…two people living in less space than the average prisoner is allotted, is not for the weak spirited. And the schedule can wreak havoc on a body.

    • #18
    • April 14, 2012 at 8:35 am
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  19. Inactive

    What a wondrous hoot and RAH….thanks Dave for the delicious sip..

    • #19
    • April 14, 2012 at 8:46 am
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  20. Member

    Can’t believe I missed this rare Southern California exciting weather event. But this afternoon in NYC, the Flatiron Building was in bloom:

    466516_10151496747560223_557955222_23511086_92206064_o.jpg

    • #20
    • April 14, 2012 at 9:10 am
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  21. Inactive

    I just want to compliment you on your wonderful writing. Thank you for this post. Reading along I felt as if I had been right there with you on this adventure and I enjoyed each humorous and poignant moment .

    • #21
    • April 14, 2012 at 9:26 am
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  22. Inactive
    Dave Carter

    Well, I’m limited on the number of passengers I can take per year. I’m hoping to take my buddy Bob Lee soon. May have a couple of family members during the summer too. I’m not averse to the idea, though. We’ve even joked about getting Rob or Peter in the truck for a week or so. But remember; as sumptuous as the new truck is,…two people living in less space than the average prisoner is allotted, is not for the weak spirited. And the schedule can wreak havoc on a body. · 1 hour ago

    Well, OK. Then I say Ricochet needs its own fleet. We could have convoys. If our governments refuse to shrink, we could surround them.

    And I want to see whether Richard Epstein can speak in paragraphs and essays while jammin’ some gears.

    Best.

    • #22
    • April 14, 2012 at 9:41 am
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  23. Inactive

    Dave, Thanks for the reports from the road. I hope you’re able to take time off to just have fun and pursue hobbies once in awhile too. Stay safe.

    Image65.jpg

    • #23
    • April 14, 2012 at 10:11 am
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  24. Contributor

    Dave: I hope you’ll let me know the next time you’re headed back out west. It would be great to meet you. Thanks for all the excellent writing.

    • #24
    • April 14, 2012 at 10:20 am
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  25. Member
    Bryan Van Blaricom: You just have to get used to our seasons out here. Winter starts in April, spring starts in July, summer starts in September and fall starts in December. They seem to be rotated a bit from the rest of the country. Anyway, that means our most miserable cloudy and rainy season comes in April, May and June; they aren’t kidding when they call it June gloom.

    Do you live in one of those silly little coastal places like San Diego? Us inland folks have it more something like this: Summer is from the beginning of May or end of April until halfway through October, when Fall starts. Spring comes sometime in January or February, and goes until Summer. At any time in that non-Summer time, Winter might peek in for a visit for a few days before going back north, and there will generally be a week or two (in December or January) that Summer will come back to cool itself off.

    Had Dave come in on Monday, Tuesday, or Thursday, it would have been sunny. Heck, Monday was in the 90’s.

    • #25
    • April 14, 2012 at 11:45 am
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  26. Member

    You just have to get used to our seasons out here. Winter starts in April, spring starts in July, summer starts in September and fall starts in December. They seem to be rotated a bit from the rest of the country. Anyway, that means our most miserable cloudy and rainy season comes in April, May and June; they aren’t kidding when they call it June gloom.

    My wife sympathized with your conversation in the truck stop, by the way. She says that’s the way she often hears me!

    • #26
    • April 14, 2012 at 12:32 pm
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  27. Member
    TheRoyalFamily

    Do you live in one of those silly little coastal places like San Diego?

    Lakewood, actually, just beside Long Beach. The weather here is actually gorgeous and mild for most of the year compared to pretty much everywhere else in the world. It’s the reason I hear given most often for staying in California in spite of all the other insanity.

    • #27
    • April 15, 2012 at 2:50 am
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  28. Inactive

    Does this mean I missed you while I was galavanting around Mexico this week?

    • #28
    • April 15, 2012 at 9:05 am
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  29. Member

    Don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in a year! I’ll be wiping tears of mirth for the rest of the day, and it’ll be a lot more fun in the future when my hubby tells me I’m speaking too softly. Bank goo, Gave! 

    • #29
    • April 15, 2012 at 10:39 am
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  30. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author
    Mole-eye: Don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in a year! I’ll be wiping tears of mirth for the rest of the day, and it’ll be a lot more fun in the future when my hubby tells me I’m speaking too softly. Bank goo, Gave! · 44 minutes ago

    So problem! Gappy to felp.

    • #30
    • April 15, 2012 at 11:24 am
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