How's my driving? the "Swift" truck's rear end quaintly asks. Fuck you. That's how's your driving. Tractor trailers, semis, trucks, whatever you want to call them are the absolute, no-doubt-about-it worst. Traveling Interstate 80 through the entirety of Pennsylvania and this same scene will play out dozens and dozens of times. You are minding your own business in the left lane (there are only two lanes for most of the highway) and then BAM! you have to hit the brakes because some asshole truck thought the asshole truck in front of him was going too slowly and decided to cut you off so he could take three fucking years to get around the other truck. You look to the road behind you in the rear view mirror: THERE IS NO ONE.
You may be on your way to drive this or a very similar stretch of road to talk about the Knockout Game over Turkey and too much alcohol with family members you see once a year. These truckers may not even register on the Shit That's Going To Ruin Your Holiday list, but they will be there. Waiting. Waiting to dart in front of you and fuck up the whole flow of your drive. We drive to Cleveland; it's a long trip. Just long enough to be annoying in and of itself. A trip like that, you've got to make time: minimal stops (wife, dog really jam this up) and left lane or GTFO. In optimal driving conditions—high visibility, low traffic volume and dry roads—I like to keep it at 80 MPH. Do you know the difference between 60 mph and 80 mph? 20 miles per hour! You can cover 80 miles in an hour, or 60. That can turn an eight-hour trip into ... less than eight hours; the choice is yours. Maybe it's fast, but I feel it's a safe-fast. It's safe until a vehicle the size of a strip mall decides it's going to shift lanes and you can just figure it out back there because fuck it, I'm in a motherfucking truck the size of a building where goods are bought and sold.
Here's the thing about trucks. They are huge. It takes a lot of power to get, and keep, them moving. When just a regular car cuts in front of you the scene goes thusly:
1(a). Jam on the brakes
2. Cursing. So much cursing.
3. Dirty look at offending driver.
4. You continue driving, forgetting everything.
It all plays out in a matter of seconds. Like, 10 seconds; 30 seconds if you're dealing with an old person. But it's OK because there's a built-in process to help you move past it all, like grieving. The dirty look is one of the most satisfying moments you can have as a borderline-psychotic-but-still-functional adult human being. No matter what the offense, there is nothing better than pulling along side the offender and giving them just a filthy stare, a Turducken of invective and four-letter words and other words you just made up on the spot in one glance with a clear subtext: You are a bad person. You know it, I know it, everyone on this road who saw what you just did knows it and I am telling you with my eyes. Sleep easy tonight, friend. Then you move on to stage four and it's ancient history.
The same basic framework occurs with trucks, but with two huge variations. First, It takes about a full minute for you to get from Step 1 to Step 4, unless the truck is really an asshole—in my mind trucks are anthropomorphized rectums on wheels—and wants to try to pass several vehicles before relinquishing the left lane, in which case it could be two. Have you ever just sat and been annoyed for two straight, unabridged minutes? It is so long. But that's not the worst part. The worst part is, trucks are so tall that you cannot give the driver the stink eye. You can't see him up there from your tiny little Hyundai and so you just stew. That dirty look is everything. Without it, the trucker has gotten away with everything.
Sometimes, in my darker, moral-victory-less moments, I imagine it as a game for them. They all talk to each other on their radios. We've all seen movies, we know it's true. So what's to stop them from fucking with poor-sap drivers trying to get home for Thanksgiving? Maybe they keep a tally of how many cars they've impeded. [kshssch] Ringo this is Dewayne, got another 'un. [kssssch] Black Hyundai. Puts me at a baker's for the mornin'. [kssshsch] Over. [kssshsch] They might even award bonus points based on driver reactions. They probably do, the assholes. One day we'll get teleportation. One day.
Our trip almost complete, we came to a curve in the road, with flares and a policewoman. We slackened around the bend, more flashing lights and there it was on it's side and jack-knifed: a truck. The cab had somehow pierced the freight container and all its cargo littered the snowy grass. I hoped the driver was alright, but not that truck. Even from the side of the road it's slowing everything down. Fuck that truck.