This is a sample of the first chapter of my new book Semi-Educated. The book focuses on the processes of change.
Picking up speed on a salty gray highway with a set of empty pup trailers in tow, I seemed to be approaching a paranoid four-wheeler in front of me at a very fast pace. I hadn’t even reached the speed limit and the person in front of me was unaware, the once icy pavement had been over treated and was now dry as a bone. This person was going so slow they might as well have been parked on the highway. I quickly checked my right mirror as I began to apply a steady amount of break pressure. I saw lots of traffic in the right so I checked left all while barreling forward at this target that was becoming a real threat.
I can’t speak for other drivers as to what their main concern in this type of situation is. I think for most it’s “how do I make the right moves to save my life.” The adrenaline that courses through their veins at that time is merely to save their own life and possibly the passengers in their own vehicle. My training is a little different. The first few companies I worked for told horror stories of their own drivers killing people on the highway followed up with bloody videos and pictures of gruesome accident scenes where people ended up paralyzed or disfigured for life. If that wasn’t enough, they would remind us of the number of log violations that would land us in prison in such an event, possibly for the rest of our lives, to stress the importance of the situation.
In fifteen years on the highway I can’t count the number of trucking accidents I’ve seen. My first concern is never, “I hope the driver is okay,” the driver is almost always physically okay, after all, he or she is driving one of the largest industrial strength pieces of equipment on the road. The iron frame and reinforced cab is so strong most drivers drive the truck out of the accident and repairs are almost always cosmetic. In 2020 there are no trucks that I am aware of that that have airbags as standard equipment because they just aren’t necessary in a semi-truck. A standard semi-truck is the safest vehicle on the road for the person driving it. My main concern when I see a truck accident is, “I hope they didn’t hurt or kill anyone and I hope their logs are in good order.” It makes me so sad to see the number of really good people who lose their livelihood and sometimes their freedom over a job that was supposed to give them and their families a better life. I have asked many truck drivers over the years if this was what they wanted to do for a living. Almost without exception I’ve watched the expression on their face change. The light goes out of their eyes and their whole face sags as they repeat to you the same thing they have been repeating to themselves for years. “It’s a good honest living and it pays the bills, there’s nothing wrong with that right?”
I could almost feel my heart beat hitting the bumper of that paranoid four-wheeler ahead of me as I double checked that left lane again after confirming no opportunity to move to the right onto more dry gray pavement. My foot heavy on the break, I made the move left narrowly missing the the target I was trying to avoid as soon as the second trailer entered the left lane I realized the truck was no longer under my control. The hood began to slide off the road as I took my foot of the break and then in a panic stabbed the break again causing the rear trailer to slide. Just then, every trucker who ever shared a jackknife story came into my head. “If you can read the name on the side of your truck, hang on, because you’re about to go for a ride.” I took my foot off the break knowing that would make it worse, I tried to counter steer and could see my front trailer leaning as if it was going to tip over. I gripped the steering wheel as the cab of the truck slid into the middle lane and then the right. Suddenly, nearly seventy feet of truck was sliding sideways (horizontally) across all three lanes and as I turned my head to follow the motion all I could see out of the passenger window was three lanes of traffic heading towards me and I knew they were all on ice and this was going to be an epic pile up. In that moment, there was stillness. As I watched this whole event unfold, everything, my life, the lives of dozens of people heading towards me, my career, my family, my freedom, and truck, were all out of my control at that moment. The sound of eighteen wheels screeching sideways down the road sounded like demons from hell devouring their prey. The tail of the truck swung some-more as both trailers wrapped around each other and the cab as it all slid like a coiled snake into the right lane ditch.
One thing that is plainly obvious to the wise is that change is inevitable. It’s all around us and impossible to miss. Yet there are far to many who insist on keeping things the same, or worse moving backwards. As I write this I am sitting on my front porch in awe of the the autumn leave bursting with reds, contrasted with glowing yellows, there are undertones of green and it’s all held together with rich browns. The temperature is perfect to sit here in a t-shirt and the easy breeze is a welcome distraction to remind me to look up from my work and admire what is right in front of me in this moment, as this moment will surly pass, as did, all the moments that led me here to this point right now. As incredible as this moment is I have known for a very long time that it won’t last. How can I ask the trees to stop changing? What could I do to keep the temperature the same? How can I make this universe bend to my will and do what I want? I think by now, especially with all that has happened in the recent past, it is easy to see that stopping change is impossible and everyone attempting to take change in reverse is a failure. We can’t ask the trees to keep their leaves or turn back to green so that we can see them change again. No matter how many times I had re-live and re-tell the story of this accident and when questioned by the my superiors, the accident review board, when recounting my own actions, and questioning myself. I could only learn from my mistake but now matter how hard I try I can’t put the leaves back on the trees. I can’t undo what’s already been done. So how long should I have to suffer with this mistake? The penalties and consequences handed down by the authorities or by nature have their own schedule but is it a schedule that I have to accept or is there another way? How do we come to terms with the changes that have already happened and how can we move forward and embrace more change? The words that follow will give you the tools and skills that you need to embrace change and to create change, but they will have no effect if you are not willing to change yourself. What was about to change in this moment of crisis for me was not at all what I was expecting.