Big Rigs: Under the weather

Every time I slide behind the wheel of one of my vehicles, I do so with great trepidation, and an equal amount of fear.

I only hope those feelings equal the correct amount of respect that will get me from point A to point B with no physical repercussions.

It’s still a gamble, no matter what way you or I cut it. It is something we just have to deal with. Some do so better than others.

Have you ever stopped and really thought about what really frightens you when you shift your vehicle into gear? I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours, but spare me the rants. Tell them to your therapist. He won’t laugh, but I will.

Even before I ever started to drive big rigs, (back in the ’70s), I hated, but at the same time, respected fog.

My Second World War veteran dad was very specific about speed and being extra cautious when encountering those East Coast fog banks. They would roll in like a cloud of smoke, and there was no way to escape. It was also when he taught me a lifelong lesson: Look into the mirrors every seven seconds. I still do it today. Don’t know what the seven-second rule signifies, but it has worked for me since I was 16.

Then, when I was out on my very first solo trip in a big rig, going to Brooks, Ore., driving a rig that

I think Noah brought over in the Ark, I encountered a very thick and serious fog bank.

I immediately went into the seven-second rule (thanks, Dad), and I spotted the line on the right side of the interstate. The fog line. I concentrated on that line, my mirrors and, lastly, what was out front. I arrived safely at my destination, but I was a new driver, in more ways than one.

No, I didn’t have to change my shorts, but close … very, very close.

Another big rig driver friend is deathly afraid of the fog. He suffers from claustrophobia. His world suddenly closes in around him, and he needs to park the rig somewhere, fast. He’s had a couple of close calls, almost being rear-ended while looking for some way to escape the fog.

He doesn’t care about the fog line. He just wants out. He wants off the road.

You can see it on the highway — many drivers are of that frame of mind: They have not had a good teacher or they simply can’t stand that closed-in feeling fog renders to us all.

Believe it or not, I fear commercial rigs. I kid you not. I respect them, but I fear them more. Yes. I make a bad passenger.

I also make sure I do not dawdle when coming up to a big rig on a highway, or even city street.

Too many bad things can happen, in the blind of an eye, and more often than not, is NOT the fault of the commercial driver. So in my mindset,
I play the odds, and when I know I can scoot past, I do so, and if a cop gives me a blue coupon, I really don’t give a hoot.

My life and the lives of those in the vehicle with me are more important than a sudden burst of speed to safely pass a commercial rig. The rig driver appreciates it, too, for now he has one less “person” to worry about if something untoward should occur. That goes for me, too.

Please, pass me whenever you can. It makes me a better driver. Less on my mind.

The one thing that frightens me more than anything, no matter what steering wheel I have my 10 very white knuckles attached to, is snow and ice. Every day that I make it through to closing the front door on my home is a giant plus.

Let me explain further. The very first time I drove any vehicle, it was my dad’s 1958 Chevy wagon, with my whole family in it, plus our two boxer dogs, and we were on the Trans Canada Highway. It was early February, and the highway was covered with snow and black ice. It was like driving down a long tunnel, because the snow was pushed up on both sides, higher than the wagon.

Baptism by fire. I haven’t got over that fear, and never will, but I have defined it to a lesser degree, which I can live with. It’s called respect.

But why do I always feel so alone out there? We’ll all soon find out, won’t we? The snow is coming.

I’ll watch out for you if you do the same for me. That’s my definition of respect.

I could fill a newspaper with stories about life on the road, but why not share yours with readers? Send them to Driving editor Andrew McCredie at [email protected]

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