Tow fast. Tow furious.
Well I spoke too soon on the truck fan motor being fixed. Before we even made it to St Louis to deliver our load it was barely putting out any air. And the brand new motor had developed this high-pitched whine that was absolutely maddening. Also, the first guys who had worked on it had completely destroyed part of the dash which was falling apart as we drove. Sigh. Back into the shop.
After another mostly wasted day — part of which was spent outside in the 268 degree heat — we actually have A/C pouring out the vents. I mean teeth-chattering cold air. Dig out your gloves air! They really did a good job the second time around. Man were we happy to be back in the truck and out of the heat. That’s one of the things about suffering like that. It feels so very good when its over.
A couple of years ago we blew the turbo on our truck. Somewhere in South Carolina. Miles away from any facility capable of fixing us up and shooting us back out onto the highway. Oh lord. That means a tow-truck. Our company at the time arranged everything and all we had to do was wait. And wait. But eventually the cavalry arrived to hook us up and drag us south. Oh lord.
The towing services in Mesa AZ driver was in his late 40s or early 50s. Thin and wiry. Looked like a good old South Carolina boy who had worked hard all his life, loved Jesus, and went coon huntin every chance he got. First, he hooked the truck up ready to be towed. Which is quite complicated on a big truck as it turns out. Especially as our trailer was loaded with about 30,000 pounds.
When we were all hooked up safely, he came over introduced himself properly and got us settled into his truck for the trip to the shop. Stace sat on his bunk in the sleeper on his Legend of Zelda sheets and I sat in the passenger seat so he would mostly talk to me. Stace is kinda shy. He finished a couple last-minute adjustments and hopped up in the cab ready to go. In that very first moment everything seemed quite normal. Then we headed out. Oh my.
The very first thing he did as we were rolling out was to grabbed what he called his “pimp hat” and slam it on his head. What a hat. Straight out of Shaft. It was a dark purple velvet with a very wide, floppy brim. And yellow fringe around the edge. Oh my. But you know. Who am I to pass judgement on some one’s fashion sense? I was wearing sweats and a ball cap.
Then we were rolling down the highway headed south. This rig was somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 feet long, with two separate pivot points, and had to weigh around 85,000 pounds. The speed limit was 65 mph. He quickly hit that and started passing trucks. Stace and I were just as startled as the driver of the truck he was passing when our driver — let’s call him Cooter – started making horrible faces at the other driver. His face contorted into what looked like agonized spasms then he started sticking his false teeth out at the drivers as he passed them.
He told us that he had recently had several heart attacks and wasn’t able to get medically cleared to drive a big truck any more. That’s why he was “only driving a tow truck” for a living. Then Cooter shared that his wife had left him recently so he didn’t care what happened to him anymore. Great. Just what I want to hear from this crazy guy making hideous faces at every truck driver he passed.
And he was passing them. Like they were sitting still. I glanced over at his speedometer and about had a heart attack. He was pegged out at 80 mph. My head whipped around to look at Stace. The wide open eyes and the Mr. Bill-like circle of her mouth told me she was also aware of our speed. What to do? Wasn’t real sure it was a good idea to complain about our speed to a guy who was obviously on the edge. The very edge of the edge. Hanging on by a hair.
Oh my! It was a weigh-station! I had never been so happy to see a weigh station in my life. It was open so he would have to pull in to get weighed. We got closer and closer to the exit ramp. He wasn’t slowing down at all. Instead he flipped on the CB. And blew right by the scale. What?!
Voice crackled over the CB: Driver you’re going to have to pull in here and cross this scale.
Cooter: I’m ain’t got time. I’ve got to get these ladies down to the shop.
CB voice: I’m not joking, driver.
Cooter: I’m in a hurry I tell ya.
He shut the CB off. And kept driving 80+ in a 65 mph zone. I was convinced the entire South Carolina highway patrol force would be on our tail any minute. But they never came. And he never slowed down. Until we reached our exit. When we hit the end of the ramp, Cooter somehow morphed back into an ordinary guy doing an ordinary job. He dropped the truck and came over to wish us goodbye. Then in a flash of typical southern kindness he offered to drive us over to our motel. I hope the horror we felt didn’t show on our faces as we refused politely and shook hands with him.
We watched him climb back up into his truck, slam his big purple pimp-hat down on his head, and wave merrily as he roared off the lot. Stace turned to me. I turned to her.
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
“Let’s never get towed again.”