Once again I watched in awe. The way I have watched in awe when I drove professionally over-the-road as a semi truck driver. One sees way too much carnage when traversing the lower 48 states as a truck driver. On average, an over-the-road driver must, or better stated, a successful over-the-road truck driver must clock 14-hour workdays, eleven of them driving. The idea and goal in that insane industry is to be on the upper-side of 600 miles rolled daily. Actually, as far on the other side of 600 as possible because truck drivers—by enlarge—are paid by the mile, which makes the talk of safety in the trucking industry trite. That pace needs to be kept until a driver reaches 70-hours worked in an eight-day workweek. This is all controlled by Uncle Sam in an attempt to reduce the carnage on our nation’s highways and byways. That law is commonly called the 70-Hour/8-Day Limit. It is officially called: “Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 395.3 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; Maximum driving time for property-carrying vehicles” which includes recordkeeping requirements for hours driven by a commercial driver.1
That title would make even the most cynical bureaucrat within the civil service proud. When 70-hours within eight days is reached, the law steps in and drops the big pimp-daddy hand down, requiring drivers to take 34-hours off before the vicious cycle starts all over again; if driving commercially in the oilfields, a 24-hour reset is all that’s required before returning to the chain gang.
Now, I will not discuss from personal experience what occurred before electronic logs became the norm and which are now required to record drivers’ “Hours of Service”2 (technology aside, what occurred before surely continues to this day), but I will share what I overheard my fellow truckers talk about. Back before technology took the trucking industry by storm, in an attempt to tame it, to reduce the carnage, paper and pens were allowed for recordkeeping; lots of paper and lots of ink. Remember, I am only recounting stories I heard from drivers about fudging their hours driven from that prehistoric time. I’d usually hear the stories around three o’clock in the morning while I was sittin’ sippin’ coffee in nearly deserted truck stops, save a few lot lizards and tweakers strewn around outside of the all-night diners. I never actually participated in any such unseemly endeavor as keeping two, let alone three, paper logbooks to skirt the law. Nope. Not me! And that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. If you persist in challenging my postulation, in an attempt to get me to speak from personal experience, I’ll make use of my Maranda Rights and send you off as my personal errand boy to retrieve me a lawyer, and forthwith and evermore evoke my Fifth Amendment Rights on this matter.
So, are we clear? I’m talkin’ the crystal kind? Good. So “what I heard” in the wee hours in those down-and-out diners, is that certain drivers would keep a bevy of paper logbooks, hoping one would appear to reflect compliance with the “Hours of Service” laws. This was done so that they could drive 100-hours a week or more and appear to be within the number of law.
Yep. I saw a lot of carnage in my eight years as an over-the-road truck driver; driver fatigue extracts a toll, usually catastrophically, in the predawn hours on lonely stretches of Interstate asphalt. I would always drive by the scenes slowly . . . usually force to do so due to the ambulances, wreckers, bodies banged and broken, many dead, scattered on the roadway, between flashing lights and traffic cops. It is human nature, I suppose, that kicks in and makes one drive by accident scenes slowly even when not forced to do so. Something innate takes over and makes one want to see humanity devastated, vehicles totaled, utter carnage.
I suppose that same instinctual drive has kicked in in this political season with its onslaught of political slaughter, in this “foul year of our Lord” (HST). Try as I might, and I have tried, I cannot keep the TV off. I cannot keep from logging on to CNN, to The Wall Street Journal, to The New York Times, to The New Yorker, and a host of other bastions of journalism for my daily dosage of political carnage. I suppose I should just forget about it. Forget about overriding Darwin, but try as I have, I cannot keep my head in the sand.
Morning is currently a relative concept to me. As it was when I drove daily for X-hours over-the-road. It’s a relative concept now because I am on the back end of battling an ailment which left me immobile and unemployed for many, many months. I am still unable to work, for the time being. That’s a dangerous thing for a boozer . . . the hours run by uncounted for, until in despair, fatigue forces sleep. Sometimes sleep comes with the TV remaining on. That occurred just the other day. Have you ever partially woken up, then fell right back asleep for that final hour or two of REM sleep; wherein the dream state is in full force? That just happened to me the other day; the TV was still on, I awoke momentarily but was slammed right back to slumber, thinking (or dreaming . . . maybe both, that) I was hearing Johnny Depp disguised as Joseph D. Pistone disguised as Donnie Brasco in his undercover namesake movie explaining Mafioso lingo.3 He was explaining the Mafia’s usage of the term“forget about it.”
“Forget about it is, like, if you agree with someone, you know, like ‘Raquel Welch is one great piece of ass. Forget about it!’ But then, if you disagree, like ‘A Lincoln is better than a Cadillac? Forget about it!’ You know? But then, it’s also like if something’s the greatest thing in the world, like, ‘Minghia! Those peppers! Forget about it!’ But it’s also like saying ‘Go to hell!’ too. Like, you know, like ‘Hey Paulie, you got a one-inch pecker?’ and Paulie says ‘Forget about it!” Sometimes it just means ‘Forget about it.'”4
I awoke a few hours later after having “forget about it” subconsciously planted into my mind. CNN was on the flat screen, informing a broken world of this, that and another thing; I clicked the TV off. Mental fog was hanging heavily from deep REM sleep. I staggered to my trusty friend, the Keurig, popped in a pod, and headed straight to the bathroom for morning duties and relief. I returned to the only thing that makes mornings—albeit them nonconformity to the time of day—tolerable. I returned to the Keurig; firmly, I grab the cup . . . ahhhhh, I muttered after that first glorious sip.
When the coffee was cool enough to take in a gulp, I turned the TV back on and instantly my jaw dropped. I was aghast. I stared in awe, in stunned disbelief as my president once again created political carnage.
This time he was at the National Prayer Breakfast. He used that forum, in much the same way as he did on the day after his inauguration when he was at CIA headquarters standing in front of the hallowed wall to the sacred fallen, to dishonor the office of president and all attending the breakfast. After prayers he mocked Arnold Schwarzenegger and his ratings on The Apprentice. Then he spewed, in Mafioso-eques lingo: “When you hear about the tough phone calls I’m having, don’t worry about it, just don’t worry about it.”5 In other words, he said—forget about it.
The lines between sleep and consciousness, the lines between Reality TV and reality, the lines between fantasy and fact, between honor and disrespect, between presidential and parasitic, just keep getting blurrier and blurrier to me. And that’s fine. I just pray that all focus rapidly fade from my eyes, that everything fads to black . . . so that I could escape the carnage and the imposition of this life. But, I suppose, I should just forget about it. But I can’t—I’ve seen way too much carnage . . . both physical and political.
Post Scriptum: This article is dedicated to all the truck drivers who die yearly simply attempting to feed their families.
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