While not the only reason, one that factored into my retirement from teaching after 32 years in 2005 had a lot to do with an increase in gazes out my Room 16 classroom window in the St. Marys Memorial High School that only exists in the memory banks of those who shared experiences with her.
Essentially, despite finding the work with my young people valuable and rewarding, I grew more and more restless and yearned to join the day-to-day beyond my four work walls.
You see, I grew up watching my steel-selling father occupationally live the life of a road warrior. While so many of my friends’ fathers left for work each morning and, after eight or so hours at one location, returned home each evening, my father often left the house to begin his work week on Monday morning and wouldn’t return until Thursday or Friday after traveling his Central Steel and Wire roads across broad swaths of Ohio and Indiana.
I knew when I left teaching at just 54 years old — my, how young that now sounds — that I wanted to continue working beyond my newspaper work and my bar shifts at the Knights of Columbus that I finally left behind at the end of 2017. And, I wanted something that would get me out on those roads a bit to live a bit of the life the man I admired so very much.
Fortunately, I had the right connections to land a position as a customer service rep with a cleaning contractor, a job that has me helping to service accounts driving many of the same roads in the same two states my dad once did. Those who know me well know that travel is one of my great joys. And, while leisurely sojourns are my favorite, I also enjoy occupational travel.
Now, part of my fondness for the open road is rooted in the fact that, despite my having done it for a half century now, I’ve yet to grow tired of driving. As a matter of fact, unlike my Lady Jane, who absolutely loves the passenger seat where she can engage in one of her great passions of looking at maps or the atlas that I always keep on leisure trips for her wedged between the seats, I’m not a big fan of being in a passenger seat.
My love of the act of driving, no matter the incalculable miles I’ve driven in my life, has never waned, so I guess you might say I have zero interest in all this talk of these driverless cars that are becoming more a part of the automotive landscape these days.
As I drive roads that unfurl like ribbons before me, one observation I’ll render is this: I think many truck drivers’ skills have diminished somewhat over time. During rain-slickened or icy road conditions, times when pretty much all car motorists slow our pace, it seems truckers have no qualms about taking to the left-hand lane and ramping up their speed, creating all sorts of visibility issues as they go by. I try to be understanding of their difficult life on the road and their deadlines and certainly would never denigrate their important freight-moving job, but, please, guys, when the weather and visibility are both poor, please help us little guys sharing the road in our own pursuits.
Another truck-related concern I have, and, of course it isn’t the truckers’ fault at all, is my ever-present fear that one of those tires on an 18-wheeler will shed and come shooting back at me. I see the large sections all over the roads I travel, and that reinforces the apprehension I have that somewhere, sometime, one will come flying straight back at my windshield.
Speaking of that fear of something striking the front of the car, I always cringe each time I see all too frequently a dead deer that didn’t have enough instinct to stay in the woods.
Of course, those silver highway patrol cars are frequent sights, often lying in wait in the median U-turn lanes to be used only by emergency vehicles, and I always get a bit of that pit-of-my-stomach rollercoaster feeling, if I don’t see them quickly enough to instinctively tap the brake to knock a few mphs off.
I’ve often thought that feeling of power to cause a whole bunch of people to instinctively go for the brake must be kind of neat. Sometimes I feel I’d like to be in that position. Don’t get me wrong, though. I don’t want to whole job and the inherent dangers that go with it, just that going-for-the-brake thing!
Of course, like most people, I suppose, I don’t like being passed all that much, but as I get older, it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it used to. I eventually loved it just a few weeks ago when that black Kia with the dented fender whizzed past me going, I’d estimate based on my 75, around 90. After stopping in a rest stop for a comfort break and getting back out onto the road, I saw something that gave me a real sense of perverse pleasure. There ahead of me were those frightening blue lights flashing just behind that very same Kia now pulled over with a young driver inside awaiting a reminder that while we’re all trying to get places as quickly as we can in life, perhaps traveling at that rate of speed isn’t such a good idea.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.