I struggled against the wind and rain, in the dark, driving across the cattle plains of South Texas. Squall lines roared in off the Gulf of Mexico. The inky, black emptiness of the prairie made the refinery lights look like cities across a big lake. Biblical torrents of rain filled ditches and slathered the road. Air cushion shocks make my ride nice and smooth, but with every gust of wind, the cab lurched on its squishy platform. Right after, the trailer leaned over like a schooner digging her leeward rail. Each squall line brought its own series of sickening double lunges.
Then two lanes funneled down to one and shifted off center in a construction zone. I hurtled through a swerving, narrow pass only a roller coaster masochist could dream up. There was mud and gravel to my left and a continuous line of Jersey barriers to the right. The rain gave everything a sinister reptilian slickness. In the skittering gleam of my headlights, it all rose and fell like the ribs of a cement and asphalt striped lizard.
Flying through, my forward motion animated the ruts and ravines of construction mud. A flash and crack of lightning woke the beast and tentacles of mud began to writhe. Every ditch was a mudbound kraken waiting to pull me into a slimy abyss.
On the right, the ghosts of a thousand traffic fatalities howled against the barrier surfaces; like hamsters clawing at aquarium glass. In their deafening silent screams, I heard the story of each hellish demise. Their agony could only be mitigated if my trailer clipped the barrier with a staccato ricochet and I joined their plaintive chorus after my own diesel fueled apocalypse.
In real life late night driving, if the tires on just one side of my truck got into that mud, I might as well be drug down by giant muddy tentacles. Likewise, in the pinch points of the curves, too tight a turn could cause the trailer to catch on a barrier. The impending disaster would be dramatic and just as likely acrobatic. I was hauling a light load down to McAllen, but still must have had 40,000 or 50,000 pounds of momentum twisting, turning and lunging.
When a driver concentrates too much too close, the tension builds with every yard of asphalt. Pretty soon, the steering wheel is jittering back and forth in a thousand desperate micro-corrections, while the foot unconsciously lifts off the accelerator. Every driver panics the first time through or they're lying about it.
You have to start with faith in the system. The construction workers are going to set it all up so that trucks can make it through. How could they not? Besides, a hundred trucks have already gone through ahead of you. If there is no wreckage blocking your way, they've made it.
After that leap of faith, the key is to take a deep breath, slow down a little if you must, and look a little further down the road. If you steer to the curves as they come toward you, rather than worry about what's up close, you will make it easily. Success comes with smoothly anticipating your way rather than reacting in a panic.
Life is a lot like getting through a construction zone at night – in the rain. Take a deep breath, trust you can get through and then steer toward the curves that are a little further down the road.
Image used without permission. Lifted from http://ozplasmic.deviantart.com