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.



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