By Bill Hudgins
When school let out for the summer this year, Honey Belle Sideswipe informed her nephew – my friend and ace gearjammer Rufus Sideswipe – that her grandson, DeWayne, would be spending the summer before his senior year at high school riding with Rufus.
DeWayne prefers spending hours online to doing almost anything else. His grandmother was concerned about his computer fixation and decreed that he was old enough to see the country firsthand instead of through webcams.
Neither Rufus nor DeWayne liked the idea, but both knew better than to go against Honey Belle. So, they decided to try a short trip to give DeWayne a taste of the road life. He thought it would be cool to put photos and videos of the three-day trip online, so he took a camera along.
DeWayne quickly found out that videoing “stupid traffic tricks” was a lot more fun, and funnier, than anything he had ever encountered online.
“Tell me again what you’re going to do with those videos?” Rufus asked DeWayne, as they pulled into the Sideswipe driveway at journey’s end.
“Post them on YouTube,” DeWayne replied.
“What’s that?” Rufus asked.
DeWayne showed him, and Rufus was immediately hooked – and inspired.
“We truckers are always complaining that people don’t know what it’s like in a big rig. We could show them!” he declared.
Thus, “RufeTube: Behave Yourself” was born.
The idea was simple: RufeTube would accept only videos that showed how life is for truckers. Rufus and DeWayne figured they could sell lots of advertising to big truck lines, truck builders, truck stops and even insurance companies, and make a ton of dough.
DeWayne spent the next month with Rufus, busily videoing the good, the bad, the funny, the sad, the tragic, the strange and the idiotic. He recorded motorists reading, writing, texting, eating, grooming, changing clothes, and once, changing a baby.
In traffic jams, he taped screaming, finger-waving folks whose cars had WWJD bumper stickers, and couples vigorously disagreeing about which way to go at a split. DeWayne taped motorists cutting off big rigs, refusing to let them change lanes, tailgating ICC bumpers and dawdling in blind spots.
He also taped a surprising number of motorists helping each other – from stopping to help at accidents, to changing tires, to simply flashing lights for a lane change.
“We complain a lot out here,” Rufus explained, “but if there wasn’t a lot of good people, things would really be a mess.”
Truckers from around the world posted videos of all sorts of things, not just bad driving – sunrises, sunsets, storms, animals. One prolific poster even dubbed a parody of “These Are a Few of My Favorite Dings” over his video; it went something like this:
“Flashers and crashers and moms off to soccer;
“Fingers and dingers and guys off their rocker;
“Drivers engaged in all sorts of acts;
“These are a few of the ones who get whacked.”
It didn’t take long for it to become a hit. Word spread around the Internet like wildfire. Clips began showing up on CNN, Fox, the morning news shows, Leno and Letterman.
Then a strange thing happened. Truckers who still respected their profession and remembered what it meant to be a knight of the road began dropping digital dimes on drivers who didn’t.
The cameras never blinked when outing a 40-ton tailgater or speeder, or red-handing a driver too lazy to signal a lane change.
Truckers fed up with guys running rattletrap rigs exposed their bald tires, illegally secured loads, rusty wiring. Dispatchers suddenly had proof of abuses at docks; some drivers even armed themselves with thermometers to check diesel temps for hot fuel. And nothing says this fella “no speak English” like a video interview.
Soon, what started as something meant to amuse mostly truckers began turning into a powerful means for the industry to police itself – correction, for the drivers who put their lives on the line every day to police themselves – and either straighten out or run out the careless, the ignorant and the incompetent.
The response was so huge that Rufus and DeWayne, who was back at school, couldn’t keep up.
Last time I saw Rufus, he was trying to sell the site to Google. They were offering a new set of steers and drivers. My guess is he’ll settle for a couple of cases of aluminum foil tape and a big Google decal for his truck.
Until next time, be safe, make money and get home often. And be careful out there – you never know who’s watching.
Bill Hudgins may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.