Monday, April 30, 2007

Arthur is a Badass

I feel like shit! Really – all soft and brown and stinky.

About 10 years ago I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. You know the old joke:
“Them Ritis boys is bad, but Arthur’s the meanest one.”
Well. arthritis is bad and rheumatoid is the meanest one. The reason I was diagnosed tells you how strange this disease can be. While sitting at home watching TV one evening, my hand began to swell – quickly. I ran to my toolbox, grabbed some side-cut pliers and snipped off the ring I wore on that hand. In 5 minutes my hand had swollen so much that the ring was imbedded in flesh. After a bunch of tests, rheumatoid arthritis was found to be the culprit.

Then it was weekly trips to a rheumatologist, trying different drugs and combinations of drugs to see which my body would respond to. Some of them were dangerous – others just had freaky side-effects. The steroids I took eventually dissolved the cartilage in my right hip. I had a hip replacement. They also affected my eyes. I had cataracts removed from both.

Now I’m on an injectible drug called Humira. I give myself a subcutaneous shot once every two weeks, and it seems to be working. At least it did seem to be working.

Friday night my right foot started to ache. No big deal – I get aches and pains all the time. By the time I got ready for bed, however, it was getting difficult to walk. By Saturday morning I needed a cane to take the weight off my foot. It felt like a sprained ankle, but there was no swelling. By Saturday afternoon my foot and ankle had swollen dramatically, and I needed crutches to get around.

Sunday morning I finally said, “fuck this,” and went to the local Urgent Care center where I was told that x-rays showed no bone damage and this was probably connected to my rheumatoid arthritis. I should see my rheumatologist as soon as possible.

I have an appointment at 9 o’clock tomorrow morning, and as long as the Vicodins don’t run out I should make it till then.



Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The I Man

Don Imus has done it again. He’s put his foot so far into his mouth that it’s starting to come out of his ass. “Nappy headed ho’s?” Don, you’re an idiot.

I remember listening to “Imus in the Morning” during the early 70’s on WNBC out of New York City. At the time I was living in New Jersey and caught his program on my way to work each morning. He may have been addicted to drugs and alcohol at the time, but the sumbitch WAS funny. That seems to have changed with his sobriety.

While watching his interview on The Today Show yesterday, one of his “slips of the tongue” caught my attention. I don’t know how many others noticed it or if they read into it the same significance that I did.

Matt Lauer was interviewing both Imus and the Reverend Al Sharpton at the time. Following one of Sharpton’s comments, Imus responded with, “Well, Reverend Hargus – I mean Sharpton…..” Anyone who had listened to the old Imus would have caught that immediately.

Imus had recurring characters on his old radio program and one of them was the Reverend Billy Saul Hargus, “Broadcasting to you from the Gold Buckle of the Bible Belt, Del Rio Texas.” It was a rip on radio evangelists, and regularly tore them all new assholes.

The lead-in for the skit was musical and performed by a black, female gospel choir. To the best of my recollection, and remember this was 35 years ago, the choir sang:

“I don’t care if it rains or freezes,
Long as I got my plastic Jesus,
Ridin’ on the dashboard of my car.
I can do a hundred miles an hour,
Long as I got the almighty power,
Sittin’ up there beside my fuzzy dice.”

So, was Imus’s miscue an actual slip of the tongue or one of those Freudian types, meant to stick it to the Reverend Al? We may never know, but I’d be willing to bet on the latter.



Friday, April 06, 2007

Look Before You Leap

One of the first lessons I learned when I started driving a big truck was to never drive into a situation where you cannot see an obvious escape route. Of course I learned this the hard way.

It was my second solo trip, and I was delivering chickens to a processing plant in Gainesville, Georgia. The directions sent by my dispatcher sucked. I later learned that this was standard operating procedure. My route had brought me from Alabama to Atlanta onto I-285, then I-85 north and onto I-985 to Gainesville. That’s as far as my directions went – no exit number, no highway name, nothing. Since I had come through the Big Chitterling (the south’s version of the Big Apple) it was, needless to say, very early in the morning – about 3 a.m.

I exited 985 at the first Gainesville interchange that I came to – a four-lane highway. Luckily there was no traffic at that hour. There were also no signs pointing to a chicken processing plant. But there were lights in the distance. Just like in “Poltergeist” I headed toward the light.

The illumination turned out to be a convenience store on my side of the highway, but there was not enough room in their parking lot for 70’ of tractor-trailer. Next door, however, was a brand new Laundromat with a large, vacant parking area.

I had no trouble at all getting into the Laundromat parking lot and I saw what looked like a large exit on the other side that would get me back out onto the highway. I parked my rig and hustled over to get directions.

Two cabbies were sitting in front of the store taking a coffee break. Who better to ask for directions? I walked up to one of the cabs and knocked on its window and the cabbie rolled it down.

“You have any idea where the XYZ Chicken Plant is?” I asked.

He smiled, pointed down a side street across from the C-store and said, “Right there, bud. You drivin’ that big rig parked next door?”

I answered in the affirmative.

“Good luck getting’ that bitch out of there,” he said while laughing his ass off.

I went back to my truck, fired it up, put my headlights on and pulled up to the “exit.” It wasn’t an exit – it was actually a large parking spot with a curb between it and the grass median that led to the highway – which meant that I’d need to back out of the lot the same way I had come in.

Avoiding all the new landscaping, I worked for about 45 minutes backing out of that lot, pulling forward, backing up, changing my angle, pulling forward again, cutting the front wheels again, and backing up. Repeat – repeat – repeat.

But a valuable lesson was learned. I should have just put on my four-way flashers, pulled into the turning lane and run into the C-store for directions.



Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Gettin' Back onthe Horse

The last three posts, all of them dealing with my trucker’s dictionary, were pretty easy – they were written several years ago as part of my book. All I did was break it into three sections, then copy and paste into my blog. It was sort of an easy way to slide back into putting something on paper.

Actually, I’ve wanted to write, but my fancy hasn’t been tickled lately. I haven’t even worked on any of my Ron Gabriel short stories. There are five so far – two pretty much wrapped up and three more in various stages of completion. Of course I haven’t found a market for them yet, but why rush into things?

Yesterday, rather than sit down at the computer and crank something out that would actually interest some readers, I power-washed my front porch – the prelude to restaining it. Sucker took about 5 hours to finish, and it’s only 10’ by 10’. Today I need to repeat the process on my deck. That sumbitch is 30’ by 12’. I need to get it finished before house-plant moving time.

Every summer all our house plants migrate from our living room to the deck where they will flourish. When we first moved to Asheville, we’d put the plants outside during the first warm spell – normally in late March. Hell – we live in the south, right?

Wrong. Every year, about the first or second week of April, we’d be rushing around trying to get them all back in before the predicted frost or freeze. Now we wait until well into April before we perform this seasonal ritual. It’s a good thing we waited this year – temperatures are forecast to dip into the upper 20’s for the next few days. That’s another reason I wanted to get the decks cleaned up now. I’ll stain them both after the freeze.

Well, this wasn’t that interesting, but it did get me back into writing.



Monday, April 02, 2007

Dictionary - Part Three

Drum roll, please - the final installment of the trucker’s dictionary.

Trucker’s term for highway rest area. You figure it out.
An infernal contraption which sends and receives instant messages between a driver and
his office. It’s sort of like e-mail. The unit itself looks like a cross between a computer
and an old word processor.
Ass-hole drivers who use their radios to pick fights.
No, not the kind you roll - the refrigeration unit that cools a trailer. They are diesel
powered, and make a hell of a lot of noise. You learn to sleep with them running all night
about two feet from your head.
Also called a slave pump. Since big trucks have two fuel tanks (no, they’re not gas tanks)
two pumps are needed for fueling. The one on the driver’s side is a regular pump, with
readouts for gallons and dollars. The satellite pump, on the passenger side, has no
display, just a hose. It is only activated when the main pump is operating, and its gallons
and cost read out on the main pump totals.
A flat-bed trailer
Trucker’s term for the female occupant(s) of a passing vehicle. They are generally young, attractive and long legged.
A side-to-side steering maneuver (quite snake-like) that swings the tail of your trailer. This is how a backing set-up is performed. You serpentine until your trailer is lined up with the hole that you’re trying to back into.
See Bear
Slang term for one of the newer, larger weigh stations. These normally have much more room to park “out of service” trucks and some have buildings
large enough to pull an entire rig into for inspections.
One of the “10” codes used on CB’s. When someone asks what your “20” is, they are
asking for your location.
There are actually two types of tandems. The drive tandems are the two sets of wheels at
the back of a tractor. They drive the truck. The trailer tandems are the two sets of wheels
at the rear of a tractor. They act as a pivot point when the truck is turned. They are
capable of being moved forward and backward on the trailer frame in order to adjust the
trailer’s weight distribution or bridge.
The same road marking as the fog line. Past this line, the road’s engineers do not
guarantee that the highway will support the weight of a big truck.
The business end of a semi. It’s the end where the driver sits.
Pretty self-explanatory. It’s the part that hauls the stuff. Got it?
A service, similar to UPS or FEDEX, used by some trucking companies to get needed
paperwork from the road to the home office. Drivers put completed Trip Pak envelopes in
a bright yellow box located at truck stops, where it’s picked up by couriers on a daily
Truckers’ term for a trailer.
Color of an unmarked patrol car. “That bear’s in a plain white wrapper.”
A double trailer. So called because the back trailer seems to wander, or wiggle, going down the road. I heard this from a female driver, so it may just be a “girl thing.”
Also called a yard mule. A very small, short tractor used in warehouse yards to move
trailers. They are extremely maneuverable and can put a trailer in a space no normal
tractor can. Their fifth wheel also raises and lowers, so they can lift and move a trailer
without raising the landing gear.
Highway mile marker
Dotted line on the highway




Sunday, April 01, 2007

Dictionary - Part Deux

As promised - more trucker dictionary terms.

A trailer similar to a flat bed, but much lower to the ground. Used primarily to transport heavy equipment, its deck is actually lower than its attachment to the tractor.

A large, fenced area – normally with security – where trailers are stored. They act as transfer stations where empty trailers are dropped and loaded ones picked up. Most large companies have them scattered around the country.

The trailers probably pulled by 75% of the nation’s trucks. These are the plain, ol’ box trailers that you see everywhere on the highways. They vary in length, but most are now 53’ long.

A term used to ask if your CB is turned on. As in, “Hey, driver - got your ears on?”

Motorcycle cop.

The part of the tractor that the trailer hooks into. It’s shaped like a fat horseshoe with the opening facing to the rear of the tractor. The trailer’s kingpin slides into that opening and locks in place.

The white line painted on the right shoulder of a highway. (I’d bet a whole lot of money that you didn’t know that one.)

A “bear” is full grown if he’s a state trooper and in a completely marked vehicle.

Attachments at the ends of the air lines which run from a tractor to a trailer. They connect the lines controlling a trailer’s brakes. Without them, no air can be fed to the trailer’s brake system and the brakes cannot be released.

Slow, or right-hand, lane of traffic.

Passing lane. “You got a bear comin’ up fast in the hammer lane.”

Accelerator all the way to the floor and traveling at very high speed. Formerly called “pedal to the metal.”

HAZMAT Abbreviation for HAZardous MATerials. There are many classifications of Hazmat loads. Some items, such as cosmetics, would not considered dangerous by the average person. In large quantities, however, they do pose a health risk in the event of an accident.

Female police or DOT officer.

This one goes by a number of different names, with Jake brake being the most common. It can also be called an engine retarder, an engine brake or an exhaust brake. This device forces exhaust gasses back through the engine to slow it down. It also makes the truck sound very loud and cool.

Concrete barriers that highway crews use to separate lanes when they’re working on an Interstate. I can’t imagine why they’re named after the loveliest state in the Union.

A steel pin, about as round as a tin can, that sticks down from the bottom of a trailer. It slips into the fifth wheel on a tractor, and the two lock together. Because it’s round, it lets the trailer pivot so that it can turn.

The legs that support a trailer when it’s not attached to a tractor.

Metal poles that expand to the inside width of a trailer. They are placed against the freight, then expanded to wedge them against the trailer walls and “lock” your load in place.

An affectionate nick-name for a prostitute who normally works truck stops. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors, and usually hawk their wares over CB radios.

Abbreviation for over-the-road trucker. Also called a long-haul driver. They are normally dispatched to anywhere in the U.S. or Canada. Other classifications include “regional” where a driver runs only in one area of the country (say, the southeast) or “day” drivers who are only out one day at a time, usually making all their drops in one city. There are also “dedicated” drivers who always run the same route.

What the DMV will do to a truck if it’s found to be unsafe. The truck does not move until the violations are corrected. A driver can also be placed out of service for logbook violations.

Automobile hauler.

More soon.