The Traffic Circle

Today was a very busy and furious one with myself running from the gravel deposits to the job site, one minute to load, six minutes to drive and two minutes to dump and clear the gravel residue from the rear of the truck before returning for another 35,000 lbs. All would go well if it weren’t for the ill-placed traffic circle! Why did they have to place it 500 yards before the site? And why was there a shopping center a mere two hundred yards away? And why was there a main road just off over the hill and why did the highway exit lead directly to it? And how in the world did I get myself into this quagmire of congestion?

I suppose that it started out innocently enough when the owner of our company “drafted” me for three days to “help” out. On top of the gravel he already had, I was needed to transport an additional 600 tons per day which worked itself out to roughly 24 trips within the given time frame. Ok, I said with a thumbs up attitude! (Some of us never learn!) At exactly 07:00 AM, my truck stood near the precipice looking down into a somewhat large gaping hole about 70 feet down, but I didn’t have to go down for my loads were coming off the sides from the top of the pit. The front loader was a Liebherr with a four cubic shovel which only meant that it could scoop up 16,000 lbs with little effort and in no time I was rolling down the gravel ramp and back up the other side until my cabover crested the last ridge and I could see daylight! Hallejula! I saw the light! ( And that song would become more than repetitious as the day progressed!)

After leaving the pit, I turned left on the secondary road which led me directly to the Autobahn entrance/exit from which I would take a left after first making sure that I wouldn’t become squeezed between the oncoming/outgoing morning traffic! (The traffic laws are somewhat different here in Germany) After traveling a very short distance at maximum warp, I mean speed, I needed to turn left on the main road which led to the town of Haslach/Traunstein, and that is where the rubber leaves the road if you understand me!

Let me tell you about traffic coming from the right-hand side, sometimes they’ll have their blinkers turned on, but most of the time they are ASSUMING that I know that they are planning on making a left hand turn around my nose and when I say nose I mean they are cutting it very thin! And they’ll even have the audacity and time to give me a glaring look of self-righteous indignation because I have forced them to turn three inches more than they want to! (We do have those white lines with the Stop shield, but they expect me to keep back twenty feet so that they can cut the corner more easily!) I’m not too obliging on that matter! Some of the worst ones will SLOWLY approach me with their blinker on while the traffic from the left hand seems to be moving at slow-motion light speed and I swear I’m watching the Twilight Zone from my perch 9 feet above the road!

Now my truck is primarily an automatic although I can easily move it into a semi-manual mode with a flick of the switch and whenever I can, I try to do rolling stops because these trucks have a tendency to roll back a few!? feet even as the pedal is depressed until the gears lock. That’s why we have handbrakes on our right-hand side, and no, they are not a place to hang your baseball caps! To help enhance the vision, our windshields are huge and made of one piece so that our view remains unimpeded and we have enough mirrors to signal the International Space Station whenever it flies overhead! And as for power, my truck has roughly 600 horsepower and then some and that is a lot for a three wheeler with a tag/lift axle/roll on/roll off container/dumper, and the reason is that it pulls four axles or more low beds for excavator transport, wheeled or tracks, to different sites and the maneuvering room can be very tight! And last, she is bright red so that my “friends” on the road can not say that they didn’t see me when they, in fact, did, just before the first crash and the ensuing back and forth “discussions!” (Thankfully, I haven’t had that kind of pleasure, yet!)

So here it is, 07:07 and I’m impatiently waiting for an opportunity to break out even as the cars behind me are “urging” me to make a run for it like I can go from 0 to 30 mph in two seconds? At length, I see a tractor coming around the corner with a line of cars behind it on my left side and from the right, no cars in sight! So I snap the handbrake and at the same time press the pedal, and with a deep rumble, my MAN truck pulls into the road, but whoa! Where did that motorcycle come from? He just shot by from my right side in a blur of movement and my face just turned a whiter shade of pale! Damn it! Was he or she looking for an early grave or what? I have owned several motorcycles and enjoy riding them, but suicide jockeys do not earn my respect! At any rate, I’m clear, and acceleration is complete for the next three miles, and so I relax a little by listening to a group called “Santiano.” They sing songs about the sea with a rock rhythm, and I like it! Some of the songs are in German and some in English, but they all take me to places far from here!

No one is trying to overtake me because the road is very curvy, and the trees crowd the sides, and as I lean into them, I grin like a little kid riding my chopper bicycle down East Sutton Road so many years ago, but this time I’m riding on air suspension all the way around, and it’s great! It also feels like I’m sailing again off the coast of Maine with the regatta! But quick enough, the first traffic circle comes into view, and I apply the motor brakes, 1,2,3,4,5, and they are so powerful that I don’t need to use the foot brakes! This first traffic circle is incomplete so that I can just “roll through” and accelerate without too much loss of speed, but the next one is not even remotely friendly!

And coming around the bend, what do my wondering eyes see? A LONG line of traffic backed up coming in from the left, and the right is just as long but moving very quickly into the circle with one-third of them bearing off to the right going into the small city and the remaining two-thirds going around and heading past me towards the Autobahn! And do you know what that means? Yes! The traffic from the left is having a hard time slipping into the circle, but when they do, I don’t have a chance if I have to start from a stopped position! Remember what I said about rolling back and the need to use the hand break? Well, here is a prime example of that in action! About one-third of the left-hand vehicles want to go towards the Autobahn, that is the direction from which I just came, and the rest want to go into the small city called Traunstein. Behind me there must have been thirty cars, and other types of transport and ALL OF THEM are waiting on me to make my move, and I’m trying to spot an opening in the mechanical avalanche, but aside from a heavenly miracle, I’m just a wee short on luck! I’ve got my right hand on the hand break ready to snap it, my right foot dancing on the acceleration pedal, my left keeping the beat to the song, “God Must Be A Seaman” by Santiano, my eyes working like lightning bolts trying to read the milliseconds that briefly become available between the cars and their drivers with whitely clenched handgrips on their steering wheels and all the while hoping that the gravel hasn’t run out on the site! I need to make at least six rapid runs to stay ahead, and I’m still on the first! After an eternity, but more than likely one minute, I spotted my chance! A UPS driver put his blinker on and has purposefully slowed enough to give me the precious three seconds that I need to begin pulling into the circle! My trucks rumble’s to life as she slips into the path of a snorting big gray colored 750 BMW whose driver makes no pretensions as to his lack of character as he mouths some indescribable words and makes several noteworthy gestures, but I’m really to preoccupied to give him more than a passing glance as I use my blinkers to let the others know of my intentions and move around the circle until I can veer off to the right, and as I do, I happen to glance down into a car that was about to pull into the traffic circle and saw a little girl waving at me with a big smile on her face and so what did I do? I smiled back and blew the air horn! She must have loved it, but perhaps her mother just got jolted out of her seat!

After a third of a mile, I took a right and then another right and then pulled into the site and spun the truck around and backed up to the gravel depository and proceeded to unload. In one minute it was all over, release the locks and I rolled out to repeat the process many more times over throughout the day. The traffic circle would test my patience over and over as did the intersections, but it’s part of my job, and I like what I do, despite the constant distractions, interruptions, tests, and provocations!

The new friends, the new challenges, the new stories, the laughter and yes, sometimes anger, it’s all part of the job, and it’s a job that I do well. I have always tried to do the best that I was able to do, and because every job is different, the learning curves never end, and thus the challenge to betterment is always before me. Men at my age begin to think of future retirement, but I’m planning on the next adventure that I know will be one of my biggest ones yet, a childhood dream that calls me to the sea even as I work in the mountains!

But I tend to see the steps in life as a school of continuous learning, and the more I learn, the thirstier I become, and the dreams become more vivid and the challenges more inspiring! I try to write to share with others the humor in life as well as the seriousness, the potential we all have and the waste of it unused, the faith of our Christian Heritage and the fallacies of cast away wisdom. I try to encourage the use of common sense instead of relying on a multitude of experts, and I’m trying to show you that you are worth far more than what you think you are. I’m not saying that my life is exemplary for God knows it’s not, but I never gave up, even when confronted with certain defeat and though I have a multitude of enemies, even from my own loins, yet I am rich through the friends that I have gained and the experiences that I have lived! And that includes the story of the Traffic Circle!

So let your life become a story, an inspiration for your children and grandchildren and don’t think to yourselves that you have nothing to offer, because you do, YOU are the one they are looking to, you are the one they are listening to and you are the one they love, regardless of how you see yourself! And if the little ones see something worthy in you, then give them from your heart your life and watch how their lives unfold and produce fruits before your eyes, And from the dust comes the gold and that gold is you and your stories. Think about it,