Friday, March 7, 2008

‘Gee our old Lasalle ran great’

Do we have a presidential candidate? Do we have a president? Is it November yet? Can I unbury my head from the sand?

Don’t get me wrong. One of the utmost privileges of being an American is the ability to vote. Countless lives have been lost in past wars to ensure that our rights and freedoms are held high and I do not take that lightly. As a military vet, I know firsthand of the sacrifices. That should be able to allow me to lend credence to being able to offer an opinion. An opinion that many may share, but are afraid to voice. I am not afraid.

The choices of candidates we are faced with have traits that do little to distance themselves from their competition. Call them Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative, on and on. The same painting with a different brush. Just meaningless names by people looking to box a candidate into a category where they really don’t fit. In my opinion, there is little difference between any of the people running for office. Qualifications, background and respectability all run short of distinguishing any one of them from clinching the vote.

I hear “great speeches,” heralded by the press as the answer to our hopes and dreams, but what do they promise? Where are the fixes, where are the answers and where the heck are the guarantees that any of this rhetoric will last past the inaugural speech? There are none. It’s business as usual, with the kissing of babies, big talk and mud slinging to ward off the opposing candidate’s same level of muck and mire. Not one has offered insight into our infrastructure, transportation issues or the problems of the transport industries.

Do I seem disgusted? Do I seem bitter? Not really, considering that with this election, just like so many of years past, we have been given the same choices of the “Lesser of Two Evils.” Some choice. Why is that we can never find a candidate – or 3 – that befit the title of something more grand than “Lesser of Two Evils.”

Why is it we can have 50 candidates for Miss America and the selection process is a good bit better, smarter and, dare I say it, entertaining, than that for the president of the United States. And you never hear the Miss America candidates trashing the competitors. They win on their own merits and though a good selection process, not the least of which is a swimsuit competition and some sort of entertainment such as a song, dance, yodeling or playing the accordion.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we should adopt the total packaging from Miss America to the POTUS selection. Lord knows, Hillary in a swimsuit, Obama playing the flute and McCain doing a soft-shoe could send even more voters running for the hills. Even the mental images are quite painful, so don’t blame me if you get nightmares. And considering the likelihood of dangling chads, voting dead people and the usual political cronyism, anything would be an improvement.

In my head I can hear Archie and Edith Bunker singing, “Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again.”

Wake me in November when this shipwreck is over.

God bless America.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Everybody in the whole cell flock

I looked up into my rear-view mirror and saw a scene that’s becoming ever more common. Dude’s on his cell phone with his right hand, holding a big foam cup of coffee in his left while resting that hand on top of his wheel and steering. He sorta looks in the sideview mirrors and slides into the left-hand lane, without signaling. Who knows how – maybe used a knee? The vehicle shimmies more than it should, a result of road vibration jittering his coffee-clutching paw through the wheel.

It was, sad to say, a “professional driver” at the wheel of a flatbed, hauling construction supplies. Since it was a daycab, I guessed he was some local wheel-holder running from a warehouse to a job site or retailer, maybe.

Sadder to say, cell phones daily seduce a growing number of truckers. Guys and gals who used to scream into the CBs to “hang up and drive” are too hung up now on their own chatting to even turn on the CB. Much less pay attention to basic professionalism and courtesy such as signaling lane changes, flicking lights to permit other drivers to do so, staying aware of the road around them.

I can’t help but wonder how many of them are also texting while toodling down the road, or squinting at tiny video or Internet images. Maybe watching a movie they downloaded to an MP3 player?

Some years ago when I first got into the truck journalism biz, I helped redesign and relaunch a venerable trucking magazine that had long been published in a digest format – similar to Reader’s Digest. We got some unhappy feedback from drivers who liked to stuff the small volume in a pocket. More than a few said the smaller size was easier to prop on the wheel and read while they drove.

I laughed then, but now I wonder, especially after hearing how team drivers would change places on the move, how many solve the problem of potty breaks with those infamous yellow jugs, and other shenanigans. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility at all – I mean, heck, you gotta look at maps and directions, and it’s not always convenient or safe to pull over.

Still it’s distressing to see bad habits migrating up from the four-wheeler level to the elevated heights of big-rigdom. It gives us less room to talk when boasting of our professionalism and criticizing the driving of our smaller neighbors.

Monday, March 3, 2008

You can help me by ... handing over your cash

After Christmas, I blogged about helping strangers, weird-acting strangers who seem to be in need, just too peculiar for you to step right up and say “sure, how can I help?”

I got a lot of good feedback from readers. One clever person even sent me a sound file of a little voice saying “help me help me.” I wonder if the sender knew I would recognize the creepy insect voice of Jeff Goldblum from that movie “The Fly.”

It isn’t as easy as seeing a person in distress and jumping up to help. It’s really a head-scratching judgment call these days. It’s risky and sometimes you have little time to gauge that risk before you choose to help? Maybe you won’t have time to even choose whether you want to help or not.

That’s what happened to one truck driver who was robbed at gunpoint Sunday after two hoodlums asked the trucker for help. The good news is the trucker wasn’t killed, and the bad news is the crum-bums are on the loose.

It seems the trucker was at a southbound Interstate 65 rest stop northern Clark County, IN. It was early in the morning, about 5:30 a.m., when it happened. The Indiana State Police reported that the trucker, who drives for an Indianapolis-based freight company, reported he was walking around his tractor-trailer when he spotted two men.

Here’s a guy on the job, taking care of business and here come a couple of dudes asking him for help, claiming their vehicle was “out of gas.”

Before the truck driver was able to say anything, one of the men jerked out a gun and demanded money from him. After the robbery, they hightailed it.

According to the police, the trucker was not able to provide any vehicle description. Both suspects are black, approximately 6 feet tall, of medium build, and were wearing dark hooded sweatshirts and blue jeans.

Anyone with information is asked to call ISP Sellersburg Trooper Matt Marshall at 812-246-5424.

Kentuckiana Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in this case. Reach that group at 502-582-CLUE.