By Scott Sargent, OOIDA LIFE MEMBER, HOLMEN, WI
I was raised as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, and part of my naïveté comes from that shielded life. When I left the religion at age 42, I was rudely awakened to what was really out there.
I was somewhat of a target for those who prey on the weak or inexperienced. While not all of my adventures have this common thread, I decided on a title if I ever wrote them down: "Gullible's Travels" or maybe "I Smoke 'Cause I'm Too Green to Burn" (even though I have since quit smoking).
I joined the ranks of truck drivers as a trainee with Schneider. Just getting into a truck for the first time, seeing the vantage point we have over four-wheelers, was remarkable experience. Of course, blowing a steer tire on my second run on the skid pad was a real Fruit of the Loom moment itself. I got my CDL on my first attempt, and went out for two weeks with a trainer.
I was assigned a Navistar cabover with a nine-speed – not orange, but a bright green – acquired in the purchase of another company.
Returning from my first solo trip I ran through a bad snowstorm in Maryland on into Pennsylvania. I had to keep the cab hot to prevent snow from building up on the wipers – and I was only wearing jogging pants and a T-shirt.
When I pulled over after a toll booth on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to clear the ice off the wipers, the door didn't fully unlock when I got out. So it locked when I closed it.
I couldn't get back in. There I stood, in a T-shirt, during a snowstorm, locked out of my running truck.
Another driver was kind enough to stop and give me a quick lesson on breaking and entering. I still follow his advice today: Keep a spare key in your pocket and a multi-tool on your belt.
Later on after I changed companies I was on I-65 south at Seymour, IN, where I pulled into the open weigh station. As I exited the platform, I heard on my CB "Service one, park around back. Bring in your registration, bills, logbook and proof of insurance." Unfamiliar with the scale process, I complied, only to be asked by the officer why I was there. I learned they do not use the CB, and I'm sure the driver who caught me is still laughing.
On a trip to Toledo, OH, I stopped at the Pilot on the north side of town. I had just gone to bed when I heard a pounding on the sleeper. A driver outside my door said, "You gotta see this! A Hunt driver just won $35,000 on a scratch off, and he wants to share with everyone.
He'll double whatever you have in your wallet."
So off I went, without my wallet. He was sitting with three slightly domed cards on the pavement, and all I had to do was pick the red card. Well, it was easy since he had folded over one corner on the card. I went back to my truck to get my $200 advance from my wallet. When I came back, that's when the shouting and pushing started. I was told I had to pick again, since I hadn't put up any money the first time. Needless to say, I lost $200 in my first (and only) game of three-card monte.
At a small truck stop and restaurant in Pennsylvania, I was approached by another driver. He was in his car, trying to get to Pittsburgh with his pregnant wife whose father had just died. He had no money for gas; could I help him out with $40? He would give me his name and address, his phone number and the company he worked for. He would pay me back as soon as he got back from Pittsburgh.
After two weeks I called the disconnected phone number, sent a letter to an undeliverable address, and tried calling his company who had no record of his employment. I decided no more handouts, no matter how sad the sob story.
While sleeping at the Monteagle, TN, rest area, about 2 a.m. one time my truck suddenly shook rather violently. Roused from sleep, I unhooked my front curtains to check my side mirrors. On the driver's side I could see a large hole peeled in the trailer, and a truck backing out of the space he had tried to pull into.
By the time I got out of the truck he was already hightailing it out of the rest area. I gave chase on foot to get his trailer ID and plate number. Another driver parked on the shoulder took the info I gave him and called the state patrol while I walked all the way to my truck in nothing but my tighty whiteys. They caught the truck eight miles on down the road.
While some of the lessons I've learned have been humiliating, they've all been valuable. I've learned a skill that has kept me employed continuously. I have nine years of accident-free driving, have received OOIDA's safe driving award each year as long as I've been a member, and last January turned my first million miles. It's been an interesting ride, and I know I'll approach the second million a whole lot wiser. LL.