Brian A. Warburton
It was a peculiar November evening. A misty fog hung over the area. Just as I was abt to walk out the door, I had a more than strange urge to pray. So I paused and prayed, "Lord, make this a safe trip."
It had rained most of the day, and I didn't look forward to driving in bad weather. But I hopped into my pickup and headed for work.
I pulled into the yard, parked, and walked over to the office trailer to get my instructions. A note for me read: "Take 'Little Blue' and trailer #234287 to Delaware and bring trailer #187 to Jessup Md. to the produce market."
So I hooked up the trailer and headed north. As I left Beltsville, Maryland, the roads were starting to dry up. The evening traffic was moderately heavy, but moving well.
When I reached the Port of Wilmington, a high-level, misty fog covered the area. I checked into the guard shack. I drove around to the empty side of the lot, dropped the empty trailer, and then hooked up the loaded trailer and did the pretrip inspection. Noting how dirty the mirrors were, I took a considerable amount of time cleaning them.
Then I headed out. I entered onto southbound I-495 and watched the traffic slowly build up behind me as I went through the gears. Just as I hit ninth gear, I noticed a compact car coming down the on-ramp at the Route 33 interchange. Due to the orange construction barrels, the left lane was the only one open on southbound I-495. Surprisingly, the posted speed limit was fifty miles per hour. A peculiar thought went through my head: "Keep your eyes on that car." I let off the throttle with puzzled curiosity.
Seconds later, the car was "merging" into me on the right. Instinctively, I veered off to the left. As I went past, I was sure that at least the trailer would sideswipe the car. I tried to keep the right front tire on the asphalt, as the left tires dug into the rain-soaked median. The rig took a hard left, and bounced violently. I expected the truck to roll.
As I crossed the median, I saw the headlights of the oncoming traffic. I was sure that my life and others' lives were about to end. With all I had, I turned the steering wheel to the right. There were a number of hard bounces, and I waited for the truck to flip. Terrified, I looked in the mirrors and saw that the trailer was still upright.
No one else was in the truck, but it was as if someone was telling me, "Downshift and pull this rig out of here!" I put the range selector in low, shifted to neutral, revved the engine, and shifted to fourth. The momentum kept the truck moving, and I was able to get the rig back to the southbound side of the interstate.
Applying the right turn signal, I waited for cars to go by. One woman slowed to speak to me. I could see by her hand gestures and the movements of her lips that she was asking if I was OK. I waved that I was, and pointed to the other side of the orange construction barrels. She pulled out of the way to let me over, and then I was able to get off the traveled portion of the highway.
As I got out of the truck, I noticed how still and quiet everything was, including my own soul. The well-lit interchange, with the high-level fog, gave plenty of light to see the two hundred yards of tire ruts in the median.
As I walked around the sod-soaked rig, a car drove up and a young man got out. Walking over to me with his hand stretched out, he asked, "Hey, man, are you OK?"
"I am fine, but the truck is full of mud," I replied. We shook hands.
"Hey, man, that was some good driving."
The young man walked back to his car and was gone.
I continued to walk around the truck, looking at all the mud and grass all over the rig. The windshield was covered, my clean mirrors were blotched with huge globs of mud. Mud and grass were hanging off the landing gear and between the tiresall eighteen of them.
As I stood there looking at the truck, another car drove up. A young man got out and walked up. "I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't know that there was no merge area and my driver's side mirror is broken." I walked over to his car and looked at the mirror. It was broken all rightthere was nothing left but a rusted bracket.
"Well," I said, "there doesn't seem to be any damage except for the mud, so I see no need to call the police." The man gave me his insurance information, and I took it down in case there was some unseen damage. As I copied it down, I remembered the prayer I had uttered just before leaving for work. "Lord, make this a safe trip."
Mr. Warburton is a member of Trinity Reformed Church in Bowie, Md. Reprinted from New Horizons, April 1997.