My Close Call With an 18 Wheeler
As I recall this story, I am reminded of the 1970's movie "Duel" starring Dennis Weaver, and the more recent film, "Joy Ride". In both movies, drivers of 4 wheeled cars are hunted and terrorized by psychotic truck drivers who just might have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed that morning. "Joy Ride" hits especially close to home, as I can relate to the radio gags that the hapless victims in the car were playing to kill time while on their trip. Well, I almost found myself involved in a real life version of one of those movies when I was busting the stones of one such truck driver, and went a little too far.......
The time was 1982, and I was driving home from another fun-filled weekend down at Art's boat in Barnegat Bay N.J.. Due to differences in schedule, Art and I had each driven down in separate cars and we were now following each other on the long trip back home to the state of Pa.. As usual, we were yacking it up on the CB, as we rode each other's bumper. At some point we had a small disagreement on which of two different ways was faster. One way would have taken us up US 206 and across RT 38 to exit 5 on the New Jersey Turnpike, which we would then take north to exit 6, toward Pennsylvania. The other way took us further up 206 to make the Turnpike at exit 7, which we would then take south to exit 6. The distance between exit 7 and 6 was a shorter run on the turnpike, but to get there involved a longer amount of time on "back roads" at slower speeds. I argued that while the distance on the turnpike was longer (and the toll a bit higher) the first way, it was still faster. Art was not convinced, so we decided to settle the dispute by each of us taking our preferred routes and then seeing who arrived at the Pennsylvania exit first.
As we went our separate ways, our signals to each other naturally started dropping, but we could still hear each other fairly well for the time being. That would change when I hit the N.J. Turnpike. I was driving, at the time, a 1973 Mercury Capri (Which I had nicknamed "The Screemin' Yellow Zonker"). The car had a 2.6 liter V6 with a 4 speed manual transmission. It was a pretty quick car, and the sound of the exhaust was almost musical in its note. On the radio side, I was running one of my Realistic TRC-152's, with about 60 watts of "help" into a 4 foot trunk mounted fiberglass whip. I hit the on-ramp to the turnpike and quickly accelerated north onto the main body of the highway. Once on the turnpike, I started getting hammered by a ton of bleed over from the truck drivers on Channel 19. It was making it tough to hear Art through all the noise. It continued to get worse until I finally had endured more than I could take. So, in a momentary fit of disgust, I spun the dial to 19 just in time to catch one particularly obnoxious sounding driver spewing out some sort of bastardized English through a badly over modulated and distorted echo mike. Sensing that this was the source of most of my bleed over aggravation, I seized the opportunity to make his life as miserable as he had just made mine. So I keyed up and started lambasting this guy for how crappy he sounded. My disertation pulled no punches, and I was brutal. I accused him of robbing a homeless guy, getting ripped off by the local CB screwdriver tech, and sounding like he was talking from the bottom of a trash can. I also remarked that I once had a rig like that, until I got a job. I was already running my amp, and he was fairly close so I figured that he was hearing me and only me. In typical truck driver fashion, his responses quickly devolved into chains of four letter word sentences, including the obligatory "your mom" comments. Because of the sound of his radio, it was hard to understand most of what he said, so the fact that he wasn't saying anything particularly insightful was only a bonus. The things that people like this say don't bother me though, and it only adds fuel to the fire, as I laid into his crappy sounding junk even more, adding comments like his getting his mic in a Cracker Jack box, and other equally witty verbal sarcasm. But, between watching my driving (The N.J. turnpike is notorious for being the equivalent of the Indy 500) and unleashing my verbal dressing down, I was not paying particularly close attention to his signal. I knew that he was close, but I didn't realize just HOW close. The next thing I knew, as I was passing by a slower moving truck in the right lane, this guy keyed up and the relay in my amp started buzzing. There's only one thing that can do that, and that's another mobile running a bit of power sitting right next to me. I must have done the same thing to him as he immediately realized who it was who had just passed him. His barely coherent comments about my "piss yellow" car confirmed the worst. The next thing I knew, this guy was threatening to run me down and had, in fact, switched lanes and was accelerating in an attempt to catch up to me. Hmm... I thought to myself, this guy must really be pissed...... Good! Well, the last time I went to school, a large heavy truck was no match in acceleration and maneuverability for a small car on a crowded highway. So I kicked the 2.6 in the pants and ran it up to over 80 MPH (which meant that I was now running about even with the left lane speeders and other Mario Andretti wannabe's), and started to weave in and out of the slower traffic so as to maintain my steady increase in distance between my would-be 18-wheeled battering ram and my nice shiny bumper. Even as he cussed and threatened, I didn't want to let on that I was concerned, so I continued to egg him on (What, was I crazy?). He could not follow my moves and was held up by slower traffic, which helped me put some distance between us.
A few minutes later, exit 6 loomed up ahead. I had hoped that I had put enough space between us, that he wouldn't see me exit and try to follow. As I dropped out of hyperspace for the off-ramp, I glanced in the mirror and then observed his truck passing underneath the crossover bridge in the center lane. I made one final comment about meeting up with him in New York, and I breathed a sigh of relief. During all the fuss, Art had been listening in as well, and when we returned to the channel we had been on, he told me that he thought I was nuts. I admitted that I wasn't planning on running up right next to the guy. I guess that'll teach me to pay closer attention to the signals of the idiots who I bust on. It was probably the closest that I ever got to one of the many ignoramuses that I've come across over the years while on the radio.
Well, this wasn't a story quite worthy of a spot on the big screen (or even a little one), but it's funny how life sometimes imitates Art instead of the other way around......