Saturday, July 28, 2012

Of ghosts, consciousness, Genesis, and the DOT

Saturday morning, five a.m. Pink skies, cool, low insect murmur. Hopped up on Red Bull, ingested to keep the lane drift, head bob in and out of consciousness at bay. To enter the nether region between dream and reality is to walk the shores of the river Styx. Many truckers have crossed over. I've seen the cherries from miles away. A turned over semi on a straight stretch of road. No skid marks on the highway. Dreamtime, baby.

Yesterday I woke up in the sleeper berth at my drop off point in Appleton to the sound of heavy rain. I turned the key on to get power for the windows, but it was too late. My seat was soaked. But I awoke just in time to hear "Home By the Sea," by Genesis, one of the better tracks from their mostly mediocre eighties output. It's a song sung from the perspective of ghosts. Creepy, wistful lyrics and majestic instrumentation, especially the keyboard work of Tony Banks.

This song inspired me to write a ghost song, "Ghost of Zebulon," except I tell it from the perspective of one entranced by a ghost. As soon as I record it, I will post it here with lyrics. That song was inspired by a drive I took last fall through North Carolina Swampland near the town of Zebulon. My title is confusing, because Zebulon is a man's name, and the ghost in my song is a woman who happens to haunt the swampland of Zebulon. Or, Zebulon could be the narrator's name, because he joins the spirit world with his ghost lover at the end of the song. It's fun to mix things up with multiple possibilities for interpretation.

Back to reality, I underwent a level 2 Department of Transportation inspection yesterday. I pulled into a weigh station and was instructed to pull over to a parking area. I was worried at first that an officer saw a ticketable offense, such as a non - working light, as I pulled on the scale. My trailer was empty. I was deadheading home, so there was no chance I was overweight. Although I knew I was DOT compliant, it's always a little nerve-racking to have a police officer climb. into the cab. He checked my log books and even opened and sniffed my glass water bottle for alcohol, checked all the lights on my tractor and trailer, and my air brakes, including the emergency low air indicator. I passed the inspection with no violations.

It's the third DOT inspection I've passed in a little over a year of driving. The previous two inspections I was hauling hazardous materials loads across country. Those kinds of loads draw special attention in this age of paranoia. Passing a DOT inspection goes on my driving record and makes my company's safety scores go up, which means greater job security in an already secure market. It pays to actually do pre and post trip inspections. I'm still a newbie and haven't been driving long enough to develop bad habits. You can't take short cuts if you want to stick it out for the long haul. And keep plenty of Red Bull in your cooler. Sugar free, of course.

Post-script: While I was undergoing the DOT inspection, a driver in the next lane was trying to adjust his fifth wheel with a block of wood. I think it wouldn't slide and he was trying to get it to move. The driver got into his tractor and, with extra speed, most likely to dislodge the fifth wheel, slammed the tractor back. The fifth wheel disengaged... and how. The tractor slammed into the reefer unit on his trailer, smashing his rear flood lights, bending in his air foils, and pieces of the reefer unit also fell to the ground.

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