from "Sleep Thieves":
the typical case of one truck driver named Joe.
"Now what used to happen on long hauls or circle
hauls is that you started pretty fresh, but after a week
or so of this kind of schedule you were tired all of the
time. It got to the point where I could fall asleep sitting
on the john in the men's room in a gas station. But then,
somehow, in the morning, even without any sleep, you felt
OK again, at least for a few hours.
"The fatigue thing would get pretty bad toward the
end of a haul. It would get really bad when there was
nothing going on--like crossing through Kansas where there
is nothing but flat farms all growing wheat or corn. Nothing
to see but the road and the fields. My truck has a CB
radio, and talking to the other guys helps some. I also
have the radio and a built in tape recorder. I used to
take these 'books on tape' out of the library, that's
where some guy reads a book for you, and listening to
the stories helped keep me awake some. But even with all
that I still had some pretty close misses that started
to scare me.
"Probably the weirdest was when I was doing this
cross country job. I was heading west or maybe southwest
and getting pretty near to Salt Lake City. Coming on in
that direction you go down this highway that crosses through
the salt flats, and I'll tell you calling them flats is
a good description. In the summer it looks like a big
flat empty parking lot out there. It was, maybe, around
3 or 4 am and I was really tired and I'd been tired for
days on that run. At night, out there, there is no lights,
and all you've got is what you see in your headlights.
Damn little other traffic either. I would sort of line
myself up on the white line down the middle of the road.
Since there was no other traffic it didn't matter much,
and it gave me something to look at. Anyway I'm tooling
along at the speed limit watching the road and the next
thing I know the road is feeling sort of bumpy, and sounding
noisy, like I was going over gravel or an uneven road
surface. I look at the road and there's no white line
in sight. I figure to myself, 'They're repairing the road',
so I go on for another couple of minutes but nothing changes.
So I go to pull off to the side of the road, but there
are no shoulders. I got really spooked. I stop the truck
and put on my flashers in case someone comes down the
highway, and I get out the cab. I'm looking around and
I'm seeing nothing. No road, no lights, no signs, just
nothing. It's like I'm parked on this big flat airfield.
"Now I'm not superstitious or nothing, but I started
to think of one of the 'Twilight Zone' spook shows where
this guy finds himself in the middle of nowhere and it
turns out that he has landed in Hell. Well that's what
it felt like. So I said to myself, 'I'll just leave the
lights flashing and rest until morning when it will be
light enough to see.' I crawl back into the cab, get into
the bunk, and just fall asleep. Next thing I know there
is this pounding on the side of the truck. When I get
out its daylight and there is the highway patrol cop standing
there. 'What the hell you doin' out here?' he asks. 'Out
where?' I asked, feeling pretty stupid. 'Look it, you're
nearly 10 miles off the highway in the middle of the flats.
The patrol plane spotted your lights flashing', he says.
"The only thing that I can figure is that I fell
asleep, drove off of the road and just kept on driving.
It made me real scared to think that if I had been somewhere
where there was traffic or houses or things on the side
of the road I could have killed someone and myself too.
I mean there I was 10 miles in the middle of nowhere.
If the cops hadn't spotted me with that road patrol plane
I could have just got up in the morning, not knowed where
I was, and driven off in the wrong direction. You sure
couldn't see any road from where I was, and every direction
looked just the same. If I got stuck out there, without
fuel, I hate to think about it. Lot's of people have died
out in deserts like that and I figure that no one would
ever bother looking for an eighteen wheeler out in the
middle of the salt flats even if someone ever did report
© 1999 Stanley Coren.
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