Wednesday, August 13, 2008
My George Costanza Moment
My truck's starter was going out. Dispatch had me switch trucks to deliver my next load. This other truck was brand new! Less than 16,000 miles [the truck I was driving had 504,000 on it].
The interior was spotless. The transmission tight. Both completely out of my recent experience. I was having a trouble shifting; grinding the truck's virginal gears. After a while, I figured out that the 'H' pattern of the gear shifter was on a slight angle; like the brand for the Lazy H Ranch. My old truck was a non-ergonomic straight 'H,' parallel with the rest of the truck.
This may seem trivial, but muscle memory and habit are so strong I could hardly shift. Not only was the 'H' ergonomically slanted but the transmission, being tight, had very little travel between gears. I was moving too far to the wrong place.
There are only 372 RPM's between gears, I heard on a road test. So as I move off a stop sign, and the engine revs to the next shift point, and I miss the next gear, chances are when I fumble to try it again, the engine slowed more than 372 some odd RPM's. I can't shift to that higher gear now. My brain has to process this and I should recover by putting it back in the original gear. With a particularly heavy load or on a steep hill, this processing time might take just long enough that I miss the RPM's of the original gear and have to go one lower. Worst case scenario, hopefully not on the highway, grind, grind, grind, and I have to just stop and start from the bottom gear. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, I was doing all these things.
While having all this fun, I had to deliver on the North side of Cincinnati. The directions, of course, were confusing. I had to turn around once. Try that when you are 80 feet long. Meandering down a curvy, tree-lined back street, I arrive at the Customer's facility.
This last bit of the trip reminded me of when I was moved to an offsite plant due to an acquisition. The original entrepreneur/founder had left a lot of trees as his business and building expanded. Every morning, I pulled into a park-like parking lot. The lot was surrounded by huge trees. In the middle was an island of grass and trees with a couple picnic tables. I always appreciated the trees, but I watched truckers spend hours trying to back around the island to get to the loading dock.
Dispatch had sent me in early because I was low on driving hours. I had to wait anyway. Three hours later, I was headed out. I couldn't legally drive anywhere but I was going up the road a couple miles to find a peaceful parking spot.
Just as I wandered out the curvy lane, now in the dark, I could see headlights approaching the intersection from my left. As I slowed to turn, a big truck pulled up to a stop sign.
There are six gears between 0 and 10 MPH; only four more between 10 and 50 plus. Gliding into the intersection, going slow, evaluating whether I can get around this guy, gears are grinding. Switching gears at slow speeds is always dicey; let alone in a strange truck. I manage to jam it into a gear.
The other truck has paused long enough, I know he is respecting my right-of-way and is going to let me proceed. I release the clutch, but I'm in too high a gear and I stall. I'm in the intersection but not so far that I've blocked him. My face burns in the dark and he disappears over the hill.
The Seinfeld Show was a cultural touchstone. People either loved it or hated it. It was just quirky enough to get my funny bone. In one show, the gang goes out to the Hamptons to visit some friends and see their baby. Jerry's girlfriend Rachel joined them by train. George and his girlfriend Jane come up separately. Their friends' place has a pool. It must have been cool outside.
It always gets complicated. George and Jane have not yet consummated their relationship. When George runs out to get some tomatoes for his mother, however, Jane hits the beach . . . topless. Later, George, coming in from the pool, tries to see Jerry's girlfriend in a compromised state; only fair, right. It doesn't work and George goes down the hall to change out of his swimsuit.
Jerry's Rachel goes looking for the baby's room and opens a door to reveal George who has just removed his trunks. She screams and says "Sorry, I thought this was the baby's room." Then her gaze lowers as George stands there in his glory. She smirks, and with a chuckle, says "I'm really sorry."
The story of George's life. Rachel said so much in those last three words; gelding him more swiftly than with a scalpel, more permanently than a rusty butter knife.
George yells after her, "I WAS IN THE POOL. I WAS IN THE POOL."
Stalling your truck at a lonely intersection in front of another driver is almost perfectly equivalent to being caught in a diminished state with your damp swimming trunks around your ankles.
IT'S NOT MY TRUCK! IT'S NOT MY TRUCK!!!
I love Youtube! Here is the exact scene:
If you're reading this on Facebook, here is a link to the video which I embedded on sailorbum.blogspot.com:
Here is the transcript of that episode: