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With every summer season comes more traffic, more road repair and more time planted in the seat due to increased congestion. Traffic congestion is a major annoyance and aggravation that brings added stress, something no trucker wants because there’s already enough of that.
At this time of year I remain especially alert behind the wheel. I know from experience to expect the unexpected.
On a recent clear, cool evening, I was trailer trucking in the righthand lane along an interstate within a heavy, but at-speed, flow of traffic. Up ahead, I observed a minivan on the right shoulder with a gaggle of young children running about.
As is my habit whenever I see an attended vehicle alongside the road, I attempted to move into the lefthand lane to give a wide berth. I was unable to do so because of the steady stream of vehicles passing me in the hammer lane, so I slowed down and kept a sharp eye on the kids, who I now saw were throwing a large rubber ball back and forth. These kids obviously had no real understanding of vehicles and traffic. My concern for their safety was heightened when I didn’t spot an adult anywhere near them.
As I drew closer, one of the kids missed catching the ball and it bounced into the highway. Thankfully, the kids didn’t go after it.
I pulled my rig safely over, got out and hurried back to the minivan to see what in the world was going on. Before I got to the vehicle, I took a couple of deep breaths to calm myself. I didn’t want to go off mad and be too candid about what I had to say about the stupidity of using the shoulder of a highway as a play area.
As I arrived, I saw that the children were back to playing catch with another ball while their father (I supposed) was trying to remove the right front tire, which was flat.
I told the father I’d be glad to give him a hand, but the priority was to get the kids to stop playing ball alongside the highway. I suggested he gather them up and have them sit still behind the guardrail. His reply: “Good luck with that. I can’t get my kids to do anything they’re told.”
That response immediately brought to mind something I heard shortly after getting married: “The behavior of some children suggests that their parents took to the sea of matrimony without a paddle.”
I told him I’d have a go at getting the kids to obey, and employed some “management skills” my parents used on me and my brothers when we were young terrors. When yelling didn’t work, I turned to “bribery” and got the kids to settle down.
I then changed the tire while offering the father advice on traffic safety and getting in some jabs about good parenting. (I couldn’t help myself.)
After we got the kids safely back into the car, I took the father aside and tried to instill upon him how dangerous the sides of roadways are and the importance of watching out for his children’s safety — always.
As he drove off, I could see that even in a confined space, he wasn’t able to keep his kids under control.
I headed back to my rig and wondered what I would see next that would have me once again shaking my head in bewilderment.