by: Wes Ishmael
Hooter hated driving anywhere with lots of traffic, which was about anywhere on I-45, from about Sherman to south of Houston; anywhere on I-35 from South of San Antonio to Oklahoma City; anywhere on I-20 from…you get the notion.
He never worried about his skills or reaction time but he had definite concerns about many he encountered: yapping away on a phone, texting, bobbing for who knows what in a fast food sack, applying makeup, for crying out loud.
Hooter was a defensive driver first, an offensive driver when necessary and a courteous driver to anyone pulling or hauling a load of anything. He was always puzzled by how ignorant folks were about the laws of physics, darting in front of Kenworths and Petes that were loaded for bear, apparently unable to comprehend inertia and the fact that weight wins.
Whenever he saw such transgressions he remembered a friend—let's call him Bubba—who made a living hauling hay, lots of it, from North Park in Colorado to lower elevations. Bubba always drove a Peterbilt with enough chrome to blind a near-sighted armadillo at midnight.
Back in the day, Bubba was carrying a questionably heavy load through the mountains. A tiny sports car cut him off in one of those blind and steep curves, causing all manner of calisthenics to maintain his lane and regain control. About 30 miles later, Bubba spied the same little car in the rear-view attempting the same maneuver at an approaching curve; he swung the trailer out just enough to prevent it. Bubba never saw the car again, which he thought was odd. When he finally pulled into a truck stop about 70 miles down the road, he figured out why. Rather than back off, the car's driver apparently hit the gas at the wrong time, somehow got his car's bumper entwined with some low-slung steps at the back of the trailer, and went along for the ride.
As the story went, the driver was paler than bleached chalk, with fingers frozen around the steering wheel. Bubba jerked him out of the car, then proceeded to back his load toward a concrete wall until he felt the offending and now-crumpled hitchhiker come undone.
A more tragic story occurred to another friend of his, teaching his grandson to drive his pickup on some winding, narrow two-lane roads. Junior had barely pulled on to the pavement when there was an 18-wheeler in their hip pocket, flashing lights, wallering air horns, the whole bit. Grandpa told Junior to ignore the commotion, while he turned around to shake his fist and other digits at the truck driver. This went on for about 10 miles. Finally, Grandpa knew there was a turnout just ahead. “Pull over,” he told his grandson.
Grandpa grabbed his pistol and leaped out, ready for battle.
The truck driver was already out of the cab and making a beeline for him, even madder.
“You imbeciles, you had your dog tied to the bumper!”
Apparently Spot couldn't do 50.
Placebos for Dummies
So, Hooter tried to help the heavy-laden whenever he could, at least stay out of their way. Unless those same types were the offending party.
Hooter was heading through Fort Worth toward Dallas at exactly the wrong time of day, which is a fairly broad window. Traffic screaming along one minute, screeching to a halt the next, repeat.
It was during one of those sudden 60 to zero interludes that a truck swerved into his lane, just missing Hooter's front bumper and forcing him to mash the brake pedal through the floorboards, leaving good and expensive rubber along the way.
Hooter honked, shook his fist, cussed and generally threw a fit.
Traffic was packed tighter than a rusty nut on a cold day. Hooter inched along with the traffic and simmered. Then, Bingo, he saw it. There on the trailer, just below the faded letters of a trucking company name he couldn't decipher:
“How's my driving? Call XXXXXX.”
Hooter wasted no time thumping out the phone number on his cell phone.
“Hello,” came a cheery voice, this is Rush Truck Global, how can we help you?”
“One of your drivers just cut me off in the middle of I-20, danged near caused me to wreck!”
“Are you sure it wasn't your fault?”
That stopped Hooter for a second. “Why would I call you to report me?”
“Why, indeed. Just making sure.” There was the noise of static. “I'm sorry, you seem to be…” click.
Hooter tried again.
“Hello, this is…”
“We just got caught off.”
“Oh, you again.”
“Yes, me again. I want to report the bonehead that just cut me off.”
“What, again? You just did. Surely, there hasn't been…” That static and dead line again.
Once more, thumping the numbers.
“I know who it is. I haven't even given you the truck number.”
“I know what it is. Thank you.” Click.
By now, Hooter was gauging the potential of letting his pickup idle along in granny gear, while dashing for the cab of the offending truck. Too much of a stretch. He grabbed his phone again. Thump, thump, thump.
“I assume it's you again.”
“Yes, it's me again,” Hooter growled. “I want to talk to somebody in charge.”
“That would be me.”
“Well then put someone on who isn't in charge.”
“That would be me, too.”
“I can see you in my rearview mirror. You're following too close. Shame, shame.”
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