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2:34 am EST        31°F (–1°C) in Mechanicsville, VA

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I have let another nine days pass between updates here because, as usual, I’ve just had way too much other shit to do. As I mentioned in my last update, I arrived at home later that day — January 22 — and proceeded right into said shit. I spent a fair bit of last Tuesday working on a project my parents had assigned to me a few weeks previously: start getting rid of old junk sitting in their basement if I no longer need it. I got a start on it during this past time at home, completely filling a large (outdoor-type) trash can with junk ranging from my 1995 federal tax forms to my March 4, 2002 speeding ticket from Shelby County, Ohio.

(Aside: It seems sad now, considering the money I make driving a truck, but in 1995, I just barely made $1,100 for the whole year. This was earned over 5½ months as a weekend-only busboy at the now-demolished Andoni’s Family Dining in Dearborn Heights, MI, at the rate of $2.62 per hour plus tips. Somehow, I ended up owing Uncle Sam a big, fat four dollars when I prepared my 1040A in early 1996.)

(Second aside, while I’m on the story-telling kick: I was bobtailing north on Interstate 75, a few miles north of the town of Sidney, OH, around 7:30 pm EST on that clear, cold Monday evening almost five years ago. For whatever reason, after I had dropped a loaded trailer near Columbus, OH and later couldn’t find an empty one at USA Truck’s Vandalia, OH yard, USA Truck sent me all the way up into Canada — specifically, to St. Thomas, Ontario — to get another empty one. The fact that I was bobtailing is quite relevant, because it means there was no way in fucking hell that truck was going any faster than its electronically-governed maximum speed of 63 mph (101 km/h).

I distinctly remember that I was going 61 mph (98 km/h) as I moved to the left lane, around milepost 99, and passed a slower USF Holland truck in the right lane. (For reference, Ohio’s truck speed limit, then as now, was 55 mph (88 km/h), although it has since been raised on the Ohio Turnpike only.) I apparently didn’t see Trooper J.P. Elledge’s charcoal-gray Ohio State Highway Patrol cruiser heading south; he executed a median turn-around a little bit down the road, came north, and proceeded to pull me over two miles down the road at milepost 101.

Elledge had to be a rookie, fresh out of trooper school, based on the way he acted. Rather than simply stepping to my window and asking me for my license and the truck’s registration and proof of insurance, he told me to grab those and step out of the truck! He would then proceed to frisk me by the side of his cruiser before instructing me to sit in its back seat. Needless to say, this is not standard traffic-stop procedure, and seeing as I was a rookie truck driver myself at the time, two weeks removed from training, he honestly had me fearing that I was being arrested and taken to jail for the heinous crime of doing six over. (Of course, one must remember that this is Ohio, where law enforcement apparently holds speeding on par with pre-meditated murder.)

The other thing that (in looking back) made it obvious he was a rookie, although I was so scared shitless at the time I dared not say anything, was his obvious mis-use of his radar unit. As I stated above, there was no fucking way in hell that truck was going faster than 63 mph (101 km/h) — that was simply not physically possible on that flat stretch of I-75. His Ka-band radar unit, however, displayed a speed of 68 mph (110 km/h) — and he insisted I had to be the one doing that speed.

Knowing what I now know about radar inaccuracies, I know exactly what Trooper Elledge did that night. His radar unit did pick up somebody going 68, but it had to be a faster car catching up to me from behind. He did one of two things: he mis-applied the lesson they taught in the academy about radar tending to lock on to larger objects, and erroneously concluded that since I was in the left lane, I had to be the one doing 68, without visually confirming it; or he simply said to himself, “hmmm, that’s only three over for that car, which is nothing, but that’s 13 over for that truck!! $$$$$$$$$!”

A few days later, I realized that the truck’s speed governor gave me an open-and-shut case to defeat the ticket in court. I had USA Truck’s West Memphis, AR terminal run an engine computer print-out for me, which showed that the governor was set at 63 and had never been tampered with in any way. This print-out also included the truck VIN, making it obvious that the print-out came from the same truck Trooper Elledge pulled over. I took this to my April 12, 2002 court date at the Shelby County Courthouse in downtown Sidney, only to learn that the Shelby DA had failed to subpoena Elledge to show up at trial. The ticket was thus dismissed, but I still extend my upraised middle finger in the general direction of Ohio to this day.)

Wow, that parenthetical aside went on for six paragraphs. Anywho, it was last Wednesday that I really started to delve into the huge project that was the nuking of this computer’s hard drive and re-installation of Windows and other programs. It wasn’t until Saturday night that I really had everything back to a serviceable state, and I’m still mildly kicking myself over my failure to have backed up a few non-essential but useful items, such as the desktop wallpaper collection I’m now going to have to go re-download. Thankfully, the complete nuking and re-installation did solve all of the software issues I had been having. Just remember, kids, if it’s not already too late (i.e., if Windows Update miraculously hasn’t yet forced it on you) for your computer, AVOID INTERNET EXPLORER 7 LIKE THE PLAGUE.

On Sunday night, immediately after I returned to the truck, I noticed the return of a terrible smell of exhaust that was most noticeable in the sleeper. (I had noticed it before going home, but not anywhere near as badly.) It turned out, upon examination of the whole length of the system, that a piece of flex-pipe immediately in front of the muffler (and right under the sleeper) had broken all the way around its circumference, allowing the exhaust to leave from underneath the truck. Thankfully, this was a simple one-hour fix for a nearby shop, and I have been back on my way without problems since.

My contact lenses are doing that annoying stick-to-my-eyes trick that both (a) screws up my eyesight and (b) tells me it’s about time to yank them out and get to sleep. That said, I think I’m going to obey them.