Wednesday, January 25, 2012

3 of 3: Interstate 5

I drove home from Glendora to San Leandro late last night. I left Glendora at nearly 10PM and I pulled into my driveway at 315AM. I want to take a brief moment to tell you about what Interstate 5 is like on a Tuesday-into-Wednesday at that time of the night.

It is, essentially, a big-rig highway. At that time of night, a person driving a passenger car quickly figures out that the truckers are in charge of the freeway and you are their guest. I have driven I-5 in this circumstance perhaps 4 or 5 times including last night and I must say that it is refreshing.

Why, you ask? Well, to put it simply, there is a simple but poignant lesson for all of us from such an experience. For those of you who do not know, I-5 carries two lanes of traffic in each direction for most of the Central Valley. The... umh... posted speed limit is 70 MPH, which in California-speak means "somewhere between 60 and 100+" apparently randomly. The propensity of drivers, particularly idiot Bay Area drivers, to hang out in the left-lane can cause real problems when there are only two lanes available. But that's not my point... OK then Philip, what is your point? ==>

What is so refreshing about driving the American Autobahn late at night is that these big-rig drivers know what they are doing. It is astonishing to see how closely they can follow each other. The shared desire for success, the camaraderie, is remarkable to witness. The only way truckers can follow each other so closely is absolute faith and trust in the desire of the guy in front of you to not fuck your life up. We could all take a cue from this, wouldn't you say?

But there is one other thing. Most of the trucks on I-5 late at night during the weekday are doing between 55 and 70MPH... not necessarily because that's the speed they want to drive but because that's the speed that their rigs can do given the environment. I-5 is not flat, despite the folklore about it. Despite this, though, I have found that the truckers are fully willing to let a tiny Honda like mine drive around them like a bat out of hell and they ask just one thing in return: don't fuck with them. And there is something else: they have CB radios! If you treat truckers like their rigs are an inconvenience placed on the road to piss you off then guess what? They will tell other truckers about you. They will describe your vehicle and how you are behaving, so that the trucks up the road will know that you're an asshole and you are coming toward them. And they might even get the attention of the highway patrol.

So, when you're flying up I-5 at 80... 90... 100MPH, and you see a truck pull into the fast-lane, back the fuck off. Don't fly up on them, slam your breaks, and get pissed off. Take your foot off the gas pedal, let your speed drop "organically" to match the speed of the truck in front of you, and stay far enough back that you can see the truck's side-mirrors. Remember the lesson from driver's ed? If you cannot see a big-rig's mirrors then they cannot see you and they do not know that you are there. It really is simple. Just hang back, take a deep breath, wait a few minutes, and just let the trucker do his or her thing. They do not want to be in your way, and they -- unlike you -- do not hang out in the fast-lane like they own it. If they are in that lane then it is because they need to be there. Just wait a few minutes, they will move out of your way. And never, unless physically necessary to save your life, pass them on the RIGHT. Let them move over.

It isn't rocket-science, folks. Really.

And a final point: let's say that a truck driver does pull in front of you and force you to slam on your breaks. I can understand how annoying that can be, and I can understand the temptation to let righteous anger flow through your veins. But ponder these two things:

First, how big is your car? And how big is that truck? They win. Period.

Second, and perhaps even more to-the-point, ask yourself a question: why is this truck on the road? What is it doing? It is moving goods from point of distribution toward point of consumption. The word consumption... related to the word CONSUMER. That's you. The next time you buy... well... anything at a grocery store, drug store, department store, or just about anywhere else, stop for a second and think about how your purchases ended up on that shelf for you to buy. Chances are, they came in on a big-rig truck that drove up I-5. And if it's in the morning hours and it's a fresh consumable product? Chances are that the truck you pissed off a few hours ago was hauling the thing you are buying right now.

It's called the Golden Rule.

Try it out sometime. It works.

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