Oh, Mama, Can This Really Be the End?
Oh, Mama, Can This Really Be the End?
Little Ricky / John R. Hall
Little Ricky / John R. Hall

I have always been rather nomadic. Like a rolling stone, I have collected little moss. Most of my life has been lived unencumbered by long-term intimate relationships. When I did slip into those treacherous waters, I was usually unwilling to cohabitate with girlfriends. I preferred being in the moment instead of trying to figure out what two people are doing in the moment. I cannot count the number of times girlfriends asked me: “What are we doing here, John?”

Depending on what “we” were doing at the time, I’d respond by saying that we’re having dinner or we’re heading to the movies or we’re going to a concert or whatever it was that “we” were doing—or were going to be doing—at that particular time. The responses to that remark from all the women I have dated are, strangely enough, rather similar.

They would try to clarify their question by saying, No! I mean where are “we” going? Great emphasis was always placed on the word we.

My expression was usually one of confusion, forcing them to reiterate their original question, which was then laced with frustration when they quickly said You know what I mean. What are “we” doing here? Then, exasperated by my bewilderment, they’d cut to the chase and come right out and say it: Don’t you understand? I am talking about “us.” Me and you!

“I thought that we were trying to have a good time” was always my stock response to their unanswerable questions.

So now you know why I have remained largely single throughout my life. It was due to that—coupled with the fact that I grew up near an Amtrak depot. As a child I noticed that the train always pulled out of the station on time. When I started dating, I followed Amtrak’s lead and did likewise, leaving me childless and not entrapped.

Look, it’s hard enough for me to put up with my own tomfoolery, let alone to try to figure out how to live with someone else’s idiosyncrasies. Long ago, after getting out of my only long-term relationship—from which I received early parole for bad behavior—I decided that I was no good at relationships. And that it was unfair to the girls (ladies, women) whom I dated to pretend that I could be good at a “me and you and a dog named Boo” lifestyle. I am a poor man for that shortcoming, and I am extremely envious of people who have “a wonderful life.” I tried to live in Bedford Falls but always ended up in Pottersville—without Clarence!

When I find myself contemplating “what could have been” when reminiscing about the many stellar ladies who came my way, I take the sting away by listening to Ella and Louis sing: “You like potato and I like potahto. You like tomato and I like tomahto—potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto—let’s call the whole thing off.”

You know, potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto, are further apart than the song leads you to believe they are, or it sure seemed that way to me when I was in the trenches with my back to the wall.

Being single and having accepted that that was the way I’d be living my life made over-the-road truck driving an appealing career change. For me, the deal was sealed when I discovered the forced-solitude environment that the trucker way of life created. It’s why I entered the transportation industry. Back in 2001, I was looking for a radical change. I had managed a hotel for seven years, attended college for four years, and performed magic and balloon shows for two decades—and from 1995 through 2000 I had experienced the dot-com boom and the dot-com crash as a project manager overseeing the development of websites. I desperately needed to isolate myself. I had had enough of interacting with people.

When I had that epiphany, I was living in San Diego, California. I’d lived there from 1991 to 2001. I remember when I first thought about moving on from Dago. I grabbed a large yellow legal pad and wrote down—in very big letters—the following: “Pros and Cons of My Next Endeavor.” I was looking for a new industry to enter and wanted to analyze my decision-making process. Unfortunately, a “pros and cons” list only works if you have a subject or situation to analyze. I had neither. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I needed to approach the decision-making process a little differently. So I tore that “pros and cons” piece of paper away and wrote down the following on a new sheet of paper: “What Do I Want from My Next Endeavor?” Again, I had no idea. Many days passed until, in frustration, out of anger, and in a moment of undiluted rage, I wrote “Minimal Human Interaction!” in response to my question.

As I mentioned, I had had enough. It dawned on me that truck drivers usually work alone out on the open road. It wasn’t very long after that discovery that I decided to become a truck driver.

After I attended a commercial driver’s license training program at Savannah Technical College in Georgia, I momentarily had second thoughts about entering the trucking industry. My indecision stemmed from the fact that semitrucks are big—and driving one makes the roads seem small. I soon overcame that driving juxtaposition and entered the trucking industry. After a few additional weeks of training from a “break-in trucking company,” I was finally on my own, with eighteen wheels underneath me and a fifty-three-foot trailer behind with my new home (the sleeper berth) just two steps away. I was finally alone and in command of an eighty-thousand-pound missile.

My palms still get sweaty from anxiety when I think of driving those big rigs—because they are big. Really big! And it’s an awesome responsibility. At least that’s how I approached being a professional driver. I was responsible for the life and death of other motorists and pedestrians who came near my big rig.

Everything about trucking was new and exciting and stressful. It took a few months before I settled into the routine of being a truck driver. After the job became somewhat mundane, I relaxed and was able to reflect on the decision I had made and the motivation that led me into the semitruck I was driving.

Stopping for fuel is a daily occurrence in the trucking world. It is not unusual to pump two hundred gallons of diesel into a semitruck. The standard fuel capacity for over-the-road trucks is three hundred gallons, divided between two tanks. Company drivers are issued fuel cards to pay for the diesel. I remember a stopwatch catching my eye as I was waiting in line to sign for fuel I had pumped. It was for sale among the sundry items that crowd today’s checkout counters. Those displays are designed and deployed to trigger impulse purchases from consumers. I can usually override the ambush, that triggered spontaneous urge to purchase something resulting from a well-executed cash register display. But on that day I had been trying to figure something out. It had been on my mind for quite a while. A stopwatch would be able to provide the answer to a nagging question that was reverberating within me. I wanted to know how much time I was spending interacting with people as a truck driver. I bought that timer posthaste.

Then, when I interacted with people, I timed the interactions and kept a log to see how much time per a week was spent interacting. I had remembered that a professor of mine, William “Bill” Weiner, from San Diego City College, had mentioned the number of hours contained within a week. He was lecturing on the physiology of psychological disorders (schizophrenia, et al.) when he said: “I guarantee you that people who are suffering from a mental health disorder, that their 168 hours a week are a hell of a lot longer than yours are.” Professor Weiner had a knack for putting the struggles of people suffering from mental issues into unforgettable perspective—as he did with so many other things that he taught his students. Knowing that there are 168 hours in a week, I was soon to find out what percentage of them I spent dealing with people while working within the transportation industry as a truck driver.

Trying to properly explain myself to the vast majority of people with whom I have had to interact with throughout my life has always been rather challenging—most simply don’t know what to make of me, nor I of them. That failure to communicate one-on-one most likely stems from a lifetime spent performing comedy or magic for people. When performing, it is usually a one-way communication model. The performer speaks to the audience while the audience listens. Much of my performing career occurred in theme parks, where two twenty-minute shows per hour were repeated over a ten-hour workday. The days were even longer if “passing the hat” was how I was getting paid—by street performing. As I mentioned, I needed a break from people, and I had trusted that trucking would deliver the goods, so to speak.

The trucking industry operates under federal law, which mandates the length of time a truck driver may work. Most over-the-road trucking companies operate under the “70-hour/8-day limit rule.” It can be found under the “Code of Federal Regulations, Title 49, Subtitle B, Chapter III, Subchapter B, Part 395, Subpart A, §395.3; Maximum driving time for property-carrying vehicles.”1 Phew!

Simply put, a truck driver may only drive eleven hours within a fourteen-hour window before being required to stop for a mandated rest period of ten hours. The law also limits how many hours per week a truck driver may work before a longer break is required. Again, simply put, a driver may not work more than seventy hours within an eight-day period. When seventy hours within eight days is reached, a thirty-four-hour “reset” break is required, after which seventy work hours are again available. A trucker’s workday allows fourteen hours—which includes driving time—but only eleven hours within the fourteen hours may be spent driving. The other time is allotted for loading and unloading, fueling, waiting to be loaded or unloaded, and mandated vehicle inspections.

Most truck drivers are paid by the miles that they drive (so many cents per mile) and are paid nothing for fueling the truck, safety inspections, and so forth. So when being paid by the mile, successful truck drivers do not dillydally. They move with a fixed focus and a sole purpose: to minimize the time spent not driving and maximize the miles driven, thereby increasing the financial reward for being a truck driver. When pondering the trucking industry’s pay paradigm, you may conclude that it is not synonymous with safety—and you’d be right!

In my opinion, the talk of safety within the trucking industry will accomplish nothing until the pay paradigm is changed from incentive-based pay (paid per mile driven) to an hourly payrate. My advice is to assume that the driver of the semitruck near you is either in a hurry or is fatigued (both would be the safe bet) and approach or pass that truck with extreme caution.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the folks charged with compiling data on commercial vehicles, “In 2017 [the most recent data available], 4,889 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes.”2 I assume that it’s another safe bet that most of the fatal crashes had more than one fatality per crash. I’d rather gamble on a roulette wheel than assume a truck driver is aware of my vehicle when I’m near his or her truck—but it’s your call.

With my newly acquired stopwatch in my hand, I began to time my interludes with people. I wanted to know how much time it took to speak to or listen to another person to reach an understanding, or to convey or receive information. The minimal time needed for either to occur is surprising small. An over-the-road truck driver’s obligatory interactions with people consist of speaking with shipping clerks, receiving clerks, dock personnel, fuel attendants, cashiers, the occasional fleet manager (dispatcher), food service personnel, and the rare chatty fellow driver. I timed those interactions for one month. The data was astonishing. On average I spent under an hour per week interacting with people. That’s right! I spent less than sixty minutes out of 10,080 minutes per week interacting with people. I felt like Hugh Romney when he stood on the stage at Woodstock in 1969 and proclaimed to the masses: “We must be in heaven, man!”

I would never have quit being an over-the-road truck driver in 2010, except that the industry was changing because of the economic collapse of 2008. Its aftershocks rocked America for many years after ’08 and hit her trucking industry especially hard. In addition to the dire economic situation, new company policies from the company I drove for and new federal regulations were being enacted that would reduce my earning potential. It was already hard enough to justify the trucker lifestyle (where I was on the road for months at a time) for the money I was able to earn while ensuring that I was operating as safely as possible. It was for those reasons, combined with the fact that I had survived being smashed between two semitrucks at a truck stop in Oak Grove, Missouri, on August 20, 2009, that I exited the over-the-road truck-driving industry.

You read that right: I was smashed between two semitrucks and taken by ambulance to Centerpoint Medical Center in Independence, Missouri. The trauma doctor on duty that night was Catherine C. White. We were both quite shocked that I’d be walking out of her trauma unit (where I was triage patient numeral uno) within a few hours after being rolled in and delivered to her for emergency treatment. While I was under her care, I was in excruciating pain—indescribable pain that lasted for weeks.

Much of the muscles and ligaments and nerves and tissue in my upper torso were torn away from my rib cage. Doctor White said, “If you had broken your ribs instead, you would be in less pain.” She also said, “I’ve been a trauma doctor for many years now, and while you’re not the luckiest patient I’ve treated, you are way up the ladder.”

After that accident, I spent the next two weeks flat on my back in a motel room across the street from the accident scene, inhaling and exhaling slow and shallow breaths, trying to minimize the pain. My inverted kundalini breathing exercise provided no relief. The pain remained and it hurt; it hurt badly. I could not shake the pain nor Dr. White’s statement that I was lucky.

Lucky? I could not disagree with that word choice of hers more stringently. Lucky is when you win the lottery. Lucky would be never having had the accident in the first place but having had a “near miss” instead—that would have been lucky. Lucky would be having a date with a Miss America of your choosing. I was fortunate, very fortunate that the accident hadn’t killed me. Some people said the hand of God was upon me. Ahem. As Gust Avrakotos from Charlie Wilson’s War said: “Well, reasonable people can disagree, but I don’t see God anywhere within miles of this.”

It was a beautiful late summer evening back on the twentieth of August 2009 when I decided to stop driving my semitruck for the night and get a bite to eat at a Popeyes chicken stand at a TravelCenters of America (TA) in Oak Grove, Missouri. I had actually stopped forty minutes earlier for the night, some thirty miles to the east of the TA, but then I’d decided that I would roll on down Interstate 70 and take exit 28, because down there, at the TA, there would be better services available. When I made that decision, I thought that I was exercising free will. After the accident I was unsure about the free will thing and began to ponder “fate.” I came to wonder if fate was acting as my navigator that night. We’d all like to believe that there is a manifest destiny operating in our lives, hanging out in our subconscious mind. If I had a date with destiny that night—I would rather have been stood up.

While I was waiting in line to place my fowl order at Popeyes, I looked to my left and saw a fellow truck driver wearing a T-shirt that had the image of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle emblazoned on it. I asked him if he owned a bike or just the T-shirt. He looked perplexed for a moment before answering, “Yeah. A Softail Classic.”

“Nice bike,” I responded.

After we had placed our orders, and while waiting for them to be packaged and delivered, we chatted about our bikes: their colors, customizations, where we have ridden, where we want to ride, and what we want to do to our bikes in the future. Just the pertinent facts. We showed each other pictures of our bikes (just as proud new parents do with one another). When we both held bags containing our dinners, we walked outside still yappin’ about our bikes and about this and that and another thing too.

At the fuel island we said our goodbyes, and he hopped up into his semitruck, which was parked under the fuel island’s canopy, and I walked over to mine, where it was parked alongside other trucks also parked for the night. I was gnawing on a piece of chicken while watching the trucker with whom I had just spoken and his codriver adjust the rear tandems of their semitruck’s trailer. They were adjusting the length of the trailer by moving the rear tires (the tandems), thereby redistributing the weight of their freight to comply with the weight distribution length law (known as the bridge law). I assumed that they were headed for California, where forty feet is the maximum length allowed between the kingpin on the tractor and the center of the rear tires (the tandems) of the trailer. Federal law for interstate commercial vehicles states that 80,000 pounds is the maximum a tractor trailer may weigh, with a weight distribution of 12,000 pounds on the steer tires, 34,000 pounds on the drive tires, and 34,000 pounds on the tandems (rear tires). As with all things in a land where justice is blind, exceptions to the rule of law are made—if you got the cash.

Moving the rear tandems of a tractor trailer moves the rear tires and redistributes the weight in the trailer. At times, depending on how a shipper loaded a trailer, complying with the bridge law can get tricky, if not impossible, which is why a driver should always have the tractor full of fuel when picking up a load before being weighed for interstate travel compliance. Many trucking companies direct their drivers to pick up loads with way less than a quarter tank of fuel onboard. Well, why not, they’re not responsible for the costly citations for being overweight, and they do not pay a driver for the extra stops for refueling. Arriving at a shipper with only a quarter of fuel capacity reduces the tractor trailer’s overall weight and allows the shipper to load more cargo into the trailer.

When the drivers I was watching at that TA assumed that they had everything with their rig right, they pulled away from the fuel island, made a U-turn, and entered a CAT Scale to be reweighed. After the reweigh, they again pulled forward and made another U-turn, then parked back at the top of the fuel lane. Both times they passed directly in front of me, but it was on the second pass that I processed the company’s name on the side of their truck’s door. It was Prime, a trucking company I was considering transferring to.

At that time I assumed that I’d be staying in the trucking industry until retirement. Being an over-the-road truck driver was a perfect fit for me. It allowed me the solitude I enjoy and plenty of time for internal processing. The internal thinking process that occurs while driving a semitruck for many hours a day is sort of like what occurs within me when I’m riding a motorcycle on a long, hard day’s ride.

I wanted to talk to the driver whom I had just met and who was working for Prime so I could ask him how he liked working for them. After his codriver got out of their truck to go inside the TA again to get the reweigh ticket, I ran over to speak with my fellow biker and truck driver about Prime. I was standing on the foot railing of his truck’s door. It’s the step that allows entry and exiting into and out of a semitruck’s cab. I was talking with him through the driver’s-side window. And that’s when it happened—that’s when I became trapped between two big rigs—that’s when I got smashed.

There was a truck to the left of the truck I was standing on while I was chatting about Prime and thinking about switching companies. The driver of the other truck, which was parallel to the one I was standing on, turned to the right to leave the fuel island. He turned too sharply. He hadn’t noticed the truck to his right—the truck I was on—and his trailer slowly smashed into the cab of the truck I was standing on. As the trailer of the left truck contacted the truck’s cab I was standing on, a V-shaped vice began to form. That vice began to close in on me. I saw the trailer coming in, in my peripheral vision, but I could not process what was happening until it touched me. It seemed to me that time slowed down as I felt my chest compress between the cab of the truck I was standing on and the trailer of the other truck. I was trapped with nowhere to go—except to exit the other side of life.

I will never escape the look in Vincent B. Hahn’s eyes, the truck driver who was wearing the Harley-Davidson T-shirt that had grabbed my attention when we were ordering chicken. That T-shirt, strangely enough, was responsible for the jam I was in.

Vincent turned white as a ghost, and his eyes nearly popped out of their sockets when he realized what was happening—that I was being squished to death right before his eyes. We were so close together, having been talking through the driver’s-side window of his cab, that we were actually touching one another while I was being smashed. Vincent saved my life that night. If not for his quick, instinctual actions, I would not be writing this. Instead, my obituary would have been written that night.

I remember seeing Vincent explode out of his driver’s seat and, in one fast motion, jump out of the passenger’s door and disappear from my view. They say that, when you see death coming at you, your life flashes before your eyes. I can attest that this is true—it happened to me. The squeezing of my body between those two trucks probably only lasted for ten seconds, but it seemed like a lifetime to me as my body slowly compressed. I thought I heard my upper torso making sounds similar to Rice Krispies: snap, crackle, and pop.

With death closing in on me, one hundred billion thoughts, one for each neuron in the human body, seemed to flash before my eyes. I was screaming “STOP! STOP! STOP! STOP!”

Then I stopped screaming and accepted my fate. I felt as if I was going to die. From out of the many racing thoughts that flashed through my mind, the one thought that allowed me to let go and accept death was that I had recently dealt with that one long-term intimate relationship, and there was no strife left. I was at peace. I accepted my fate. My last thought was that I was happy I had made amends. I closed my eyes, which were still fixated on where Vincent had jumped out of his truck and disappeared. Then everything faded to black while I waited to violently but peacefully die.

That was when the other truck stopped moving. I immediately snapped back. I reopened my eyes and realized that I was still alive. I started screaming again, but this time I was yelling “DON’T MOVE! DON’T MOVE! DON’T MOVE!” While I was screaming, I experienced a vision of being back in my high school driver’s education class and hearing the teacher say, “If you are in an accident, do not move the car until you know you won’t be doing any further damage.” I remember that, having that . . . hallucination? Clearly the driver of the truck that smashed me did not share my vision, because the trailer started moving backward.

That was when the damage was done to me. If the other driver hadn’t backed up, I would not have been so badly injured. When everything was still—while I was trapped between one truck’s cab and the other truck’s trailer—I envisioned a rescue squad using airbags to gently free me. But instead of that the trailer’s reverse motion twisted my upper torso.

When I was being compressed between the two trucks, the squeezing came equally from my front and my back, like two hands being interlocked from placing them together, one on top of the other. But when that driver backed up it was like two firmly gripped hands were being separated by moving one forward and the other backward, creating friction and twisting of the skin—that was what happened to my upper torso. Its skin, its muscles, its ligaments, its nerves, everything, was being twisted. Much like an “Indian burn,” where one twists the forearm skin of another by wrapping both hands around the forearm and twisting each hand in a different direction, my epidermis and everything below it, right down to the bone, were being torn away from my rib cage as that driver backed up. When the trailer and cab separated enough, I collapsed to the ground. Adrenaline popped me right back up, back to my feet momentarily, before I lay back down on that oil-stained, diesel-soaked ground. It was then that I felt the pain begin to rise. “Well, shit,” I thought to myself as the pain intensified, “this really screws things up; the freight is going to be late.”

As I lay on the ground with pain quickly rising, I thought about a Bob Dylan song: “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.” One of its verses contains the following line, which I think about whenever I choose to remember the night that I got smashed between two trucks: “An’ me, I nearly got busted. An’ wouldn’t it be my luck. To get caught without a ticket. And be discovered beneath a truck. Oh, mama, can this really be the end?”

I don’t remember anything else from that accident scene. The police report indicates that I was alert and spoke to the investigating officer and to the attending paramedics. But I don’t remember any of that. What I do clearly remember is the time I spent in the emergency room’s trauma unit. I remember the pain and Doctor White—short in stature but firmly in charge of her environment.

She stood over my horizonal body. My forehead was taped down to a gurney, and a neck brace was around my neck. I was immobilized while being transferred from the care of the paramedics to the highly focused attention of the emergency room personnel. While being rolled into triage, medical staff were beginning to surround me. They were moving in, and in unison they moved with me. I was attached to the gurney, and we were all headed toward the trauma unit. I remember observing Doctor White and thinking to myself that my doc is a babe. I strained to focus, to see the environment I was being moved into and the people within it. That was when Doctor White spoke to me while I was thinking that she’s very fine indeed.

It’s funny now because while everyone else was worried that I had ruptured organs and might be bleeding out—that I might die—I was lying flat on my back, strapped down to a moving gurney, immobilized from head to toe, while checking out a good-looking doctor. I suppose that men are always on the hunt, like hawks.

NightHawk Radiology, I was soon to discover, is a private after-hours club of sorts, but strictly for the medical field. NightHawk Radiology provides teleradiology services to trauma units 24-7. Teleradiology is the transmission of radiological patient images, such as x-rays, CTs, and MRIs, from one location to another for the purposes of sharing studies with other radiologists and physicians.

On the night I was rolled into Centerpoint Medical Center’s trauma unit, NightHawk Radiology’s teleradiology services were being used to either keep from staffing radiologists onsite or because Centerpoint’s radiologists were off duty that night, enjoying their lives while Doctor White and I worried about mine. We both worried while the “golden time” continued to ticktock away . . .

Trauma teams are well-oiled machines. They are singularly focused on the fallen before them. They are void of peripheral distractions. They operate with stealth efficiency, with lightning speed. They are quite aware of the “golden hour”—that time immediately following a trauma wherein lies a patient’s highest likelihood that prompt medical treatment will prevent death. My trauma team was not going to let me die—not if they had their way. The pain I felt had been increasing exponentially the entire ambulance ride to the trauma center.

From the moment I was lifted from where I fell and placed inside of an ambulance, my adrenaline had been dissipating, while the pain began to crescendo. Inside of the trauma unit the pain began to pulse, like it was galloping along in tandem with my increasing heartrate. The pain was building, pulsing faster and faster. As the pain intensified, I closed my eyes and began to conjure up the theme music to The Lone Ranger. It was set to the William Tell Overture. Its building cadence dunt-da-dalunt-da-daluntuntun, dunt-da-dalunt-da-daluntuntun matched the galloping pain. The pain was so intense that I had to ask for something to kill it.

“No!” said Doctor White. “We don’t know the extent of your injuries. We might have to put you under and open you up.”

That got my undivided attention. It was further focused as my clothes were being removed by the team in the trauma room. Doctor White began to ask me questions as she simultaneously poked and pushed on my body, mainly in the abdomen region, but also on my arms and on my legs and on my rib cage.

“Can you feel this?” she asked as she raked something across my bare feet.

“Yes,” I said.

“Do you know what day it is? Do you know where you are? Do you know who the president is?” she asked in rapid succession.

I answered each question correctly through short, painful breaths.

“Get him over to x-ray, then run full-body scans,” Doctor White snapped.

I was rolled across the hall. After scans and numerous x-rays were taken, I was rolled into a different room. This room had a bank of operating lights right over where I was placed. I noticed other attendants were coming into that room. They were wearing surgical gowns and standing at the ready.

Shit! This is serious,” I thought.

Time ticked away slowly and painfully as we waited for the results from the x-rays and CT scans. After a while I could hear Doctor White talking with NightHawk.

“Impossible!” she said. “Scan him again,” she ordered, because NightHawk reported that they’d found no broken bones and no ruptured organs. Doctor White was going to cover her ass—she was going to be sure. The next conversation Doctor White had with NightHawk, after they reviewed the additional x-rays and CT scans, concluded with the same findings: nothing was broken; nothing was ruptured. That was when that cute blonde doctor of mine leaned in, and while leaning over me she looked me straight in the eyes and told me how lucky I was.

Lucky would have been getting her phone number and going out and having an agreeable meal. Instead of any of that lucky daydreaming happening, she ordered me up a shot of morphine. Well, you can’t have everything, I suppose. Where would you put it all?

Nurse Bruce inserted a syringe into the IV line stuck in me, and just like that the pain was gone. And so was Doctor White. And so was the team in surgical gowns. The overture I conjured up to distract me from the pain was finally over too. I exhaled, feeling somewhat fortunate as I lay there under emergency room lights. Nurse Bruce stayed close by and watched the vital signs oscillate across the screens during the observation period. I just lay there, looking up and trying to make sense of the last hour or so of my life.

I walked out of that emergency room a few hours later, albeit gingerly. I slowly slipped into a cab and headed back to the TA truck stop to hand off my trailer of freight to a fellow truck driver so that the freight would be delivered on time. That seemed to be my company’s night dispatcher’s only concern.

After that the trailer was en route to its destination, I had the cabdriver take me across the interstate so that I could secure a hotel room, where I would remain for the following two weeks—flat on my back. For the first few days after the accident, I wished that Nurse Bruce was in the room with me with an inexhaustible supply of syringes filled with pain relief. In lieu of that, I tried to escape the pain by watching the ’09 Little League World Series while sippin’ cheap whiskey from the bottle, and by watching marathon week of the History Channel’s show Ice Road Truckers.

My fleet manager for the company I drove for, Mr. Dean Gobrecht, called me as soon as he came to work for his morning shift. He was worried sick about me. He assured me that the semitruck I drove would remain where I had parked it. It contained my personal items and all the items a professional truck driver needs. Had the company I drove for had their way, my belongings would have been removed and the tractor driven off, leaving me to figure out the rest. Of all the things I miss from my years as an over-the-road truck driver, it is the daily interaction and the relationship that I enjoyed with Mr. Gobrecht that I miss the most. He remains one in a million to me—thanks, Dean.

During week two of my healing hiatus from truckin’, I stepped out of that cheap motel and went to a truck stop right next to it. Petro Shopping Center was right across Interstate 70 from where the accident had occurred at the TA. I could see the accident scene when I looked across the interstate. I went to the Petro truck stop to wash clothes. I sat in the corner of its “drivers’ laundry room” while my clothes dried.

Three other truck drivers were in there with me, washing their clothes. Out of the blue one of the drivers said to the other two: “Did you hear about the driver who got killed over at the TA last week? He was smashed between two trucks.”

That ill-informed driver went on with this and that and another thing concerning my demise. He was regurgitating what he had heard and adding his two cents to the story as my myth grew right before my eyes and ears.

I cloaked my smile as I listened to the truckers talk about my demise . . . while Samuel Clemens came to my mind. I could plainly hear him saying “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” I knew right then and there that I’d soon be rereading more of Mark Twain’s wit.

Postscriptum: No one’s life is ever saved—only prolonged.

Copyright © 2019 – Hunting For Thompson / Hallesque – All Rights Reserved

[1] “Maximum driving time for property-carrying vehicles” rule; Source: https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=29fdfc01b47c43818fc2f6033cd6f2f5&mc=true&node=se49.5.395_13&rgn=div8

[2] “Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2017”; Source: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/data-and-statistics/large-truck-and-bus-crash-facts-2017.

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John R. Hall is a James Copley Scholarship for Journalism recipient. John studied journalism, psychology, communications & drama at City College, San Diego, California. John has largely traveled through life as a single and childless rolling stone, collecting little moss. He has been employed in numerous industries: first as a KFC dishwasher, then a Red Lion busboy, followed by soda jerking for Dairy Queen. All of that occurred before Uncle Sam whispered in his ear and he donned the olive drab green as a soldier in the U.S. Army. After that non Yankee Doodle Dandy duty was over, he attempted a career in entertainment, performing comedy and magic. When those opportunities disappeared, John reappeared in the transportation industry as a taxi and truck driver. He's been a barkeep, a hotel manager, a street performer, a professional student, a business manager, a dispatcher, an oil field professional, and an IT/IS professional; He's even been a procurer of substances. John developed and maintains both HuntingForThompson.com and HALLESQUE.com. All of this basically makes him an omnipotent . . . (in his own mind, which, as he says: "Is all that counts").