About 4 years ago I was closing a grocery store and my coworker forgot to lock the front door. As iIwas doing a final walk of the aisles a homeless man wearing a Halloween NASA helmet and his pants tucked into his socks jumped out of nowhere and handed me a menu from a Fuddruckers. It had numbers and letters circled and weird notes written on it, like something from the movie “A Beautiful Mind.” He then flipped me off and sprinted out the door.
I drive a truck and, when I hauled steel, I would often run on paper logs, drive all day and well in to the night. I’d do upwards of 1000 miles/19 hours in a day, and the tail end of those trips were always a little harrowing. When you get within 10-20 miles of your destination (and precious sleep), you get a sudden burst of energy. Just enough so that you’ll know you’ll make it and that the risk of falling asleep at the wheel is no longer present. It’s a nice feeling of satisfaction, but it doesn’t come without a price.
Hallucinations. For me, at least, that “last breath” of energy after a long run often brought with it some crazy shit. To make matters worse, places where one might deliver sheet metal coils tend to be right directly inside the buttcrack of fucking nowhere and reaching them involved lots of two-lane roads through the woods. Combine narrow, twisting roads, hallucinations, paranoia about getting caught running illegal, and just enough energy to be aware of it all and you’ve got what we like to call a “situation” on your hands.
One particular night stands out. The 800 or so miles had taken about 17 hours thanks to the hills and the back-roads I had taken to get there, to as close a place to “rural” as New Jersey likely gets, just across the Delaware from Philly. I was coming down from a back-to-back dose of Double Shots and was about 15 minutes away from the 4 hours of sleep I would be getting that night, so I was on edge and starting to see shit again.
My hallucinations weren’t really readily identifiable things like people, oases or giant stacks of bacon and such, but vague flashes of movement and light. It was as if a fox wearing a suit of strobing LEDs was about to dart out of the tree line. It freaked me out just enough that I usually had one foot on the clutch at all times in case I had to jam the brakes. I knew it wasn’t real, but it still bothered me.
In the midst of all of this, I was rounding a bend and saw about a quarter mile down the road a man standing in my lane. He had a green reflective vest on and was waving his arms. Too real and tangible to be a hallucination. I began to slow down, immediately wary of the situation, and the scene unfolded before me as I got closer. A midsize SUV was on its side on the other side of the road, and a little pull-off carved out of the forest was bristling with some sort of construction activity at the lively hour of 3am. I said, aloud, “What the fuck?”
Then, from out of the trees burst… A fucking bobcat! No, not a mountain lion, but one of those little four-wheeled mini-excavator things commonly used in landscaping. It darted about with all of the agility of its namesake, save for the moment when it turned to face the roof of the car, where it nearly tipped over. The Bobcat pushed the vehicle over and at least a dozen people crawled out. I stopped counting at 8. I was in a state of mental lapse and had no idea what had happened.
Finally, the guy in the vest let me pass. My last 10 minutes or so of driving were marked by a sense of calm as I saw every cop car and ambulance in southern Jersey fly past me in the opposite direction, knowing they had something better to do than check my logs. I got to my destination safely, and went to sleep.
Work at a truck stop. Saw a guy stumble in from the back entrance around 3am after being stabbed in the neck with a box cutter. So much blood…