Another story from the road....

Discussion in 'Writing' started by Oldguy, Jan 18, 2013.

  1. Oldguy
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    Oldguy Senior Member

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    I was dispatched to pick up a load of synthetic rubber at a little warehouse in Port Neches, TX. The warehouse was right on TX-73, where Taft Avenue crosses it, and I'd been there before, several times. Today, 73 passes over Taft Ave, but I don't think that was the case then. It was a grade level crossing. Both sides of 73 were two lanes wide, separated by a broad center median where the freeway is now.

    This night, it was foggy as you can imagine. I was driving a cabover Freightliner and could barely see past the windshield wipers. I knew where to turn, but missed it and I knew it immediately. No problem, though, I'd just go on to the next cross-over, turn around and make a left on Taft Avenue, which I did without any trouble.

    Now, though, I faced a delimma: Sitting at the stop sign, with my destination just across the two lanes of eastbound 73, I couldn't tell if traffic was coming or not. It was just too foggy to be sure, so I hesitated pulling out. I rolled down both windows to hear better and waited until a car went by on 73, just to see how far I could see his headlights. It wasn't far. If I chose the wrong moment to go and got hit broadside, it could be bad. But, I couldn't sit there all night.

    As I sat there working up the nerve to risk it, a shadow passed quickly across my headlights from right to left. I recognized immediately that it was a person, running around the front of my truck to the drivers side door!

    I looked down from the window and saw a woman, probably middle-aged, in a complete and total state of panic! She screamed, "Help me! He's going to kill me!"

    Before I could say "What?" an Hispanic man rounded the front of my truck and reached for her with both hands. His eyes were wild and evil looking and the expression of hate on his face left no doubt she was right. He was going to kill her with his bare hands and do it right under my window! I've seen a few faces like that in my life, the rage, the lost control, and they're scary.

    She shrieked as only those in mortal fear of their lives can do and fled into the darkness and fog, pursued closely by the man. They ran toward the back of my trailer.

    I lept from the truck, flashlight and tire billy in hand, and went after them, but I never saw or heard either of them again. They both simply disappeared into the night. I stopped at the back of the trailer and called out repeatedly for her to come toward the sound of my voice, but she never answered and never came. I couldn't even hear their footsteps. I searched the ditches on both sides without success, but dared not venture too far from the truck for fear I'd lose it in the fog and not find my own way back.

    Eventually, I reluctantly gave up and made it safely across 73 to the warehouse. This was the days before cell phones and there was no pay phone outside the building, so I tried unsuccessfully to find someone on the CB to call the cops for me. I finally just gave up and went to bed, but I barely slept. The events of the night troubled me too much. They still do.

    Fast forward about 15 years.

    I saw a story in the paper about an Hispanic man who was executed for the murder of a Port Neches convenience story clerk, a middle-aged woman. The murder was committed in 1982, the year this happened, and the picture of the man looked very much like the man I remember. Though I only got a very brief look at him, his face is burned into my memory.

    Was it the same man? The same woman? Had she gotten away from him, only to be caught again and killed because I hesitated for a fraction of a second? Could I have saved her? I don't know, but the possibilities still bother me.
     
  2. Oldguy
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    Oldguy Senior Member

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    One more.




    The only place I ever went into Mexico loaded was at Tijuana. We had a customer there who hot capped truck tires and we'd sometimes take a full or partial load of strip rubber to them. Going in was no hassle as it simply involved picking up the paperwork at the brokers office in San Ysidro and crossing the border. Mexican customs never did anything other than look at the paperwork and wave us through. Coming out was no problem either because we were always empty.

    The only bad thing about the whole experience was that they were a COD customer and, at first, we might leave Mexico with $40,000 US in cash! That's a good way to get knocked in the head! Today, it would get you jailed. Later, we began picking up cashiers checks at the brokers, so that headache was eliminated.

    Over at Mexicali, we'd go in empty and come out loaded and that was a whole 'nuther deal. Going in, Mexican customs wouldn't even bother looking in the trailer. It was just "Adios!" We only took the trailers as far as their custom drop-lot and a Mexican driver would take on down into Baja to get it loaded. He was usually drunk by noon and if you brought him a quart of US beer with the trailer, you'd usually get it back quickly.

    Coming out, the broker sent a guy named Lokio down to shepard the trailers through. There might be one or two or three and we couldn't come out until all of them were there. Lokio would grease the process by carrying the paperwork into the office and doing something (probably el mordisco!) Then, we'd just be waved on across the little bridge to US Customs!

    Once, though, I was coming out alone and something was going on because the little office was full of brass from Mexico DF (Mexico City). Even Lokio couldn't prevent my being stopped at the last instant by a little fat guy with half his uniform shirtail hanging out and his hat on crooked. He ran out and hollered, "ALTO!"

    So, I alto-ed and a gaggle of high ranking officers strolled out and gathered up at the back of my trailer. Lokio stood there looking confused while the little fat guy stood right at my drivers side headlight watching what they were doing back there. I didn't have a clue what was going on and it crossed my mind that someone may have loaded something illegal into my trailer and I could easily end up in a Mexican jail!

    Let me tell you....that's a sobering thought! I was in THEIR country, not mine, and their criminal justice system isn't based on English Common Law like ours and the accused is considered guilty until proven innocent. They have no habeus corpus nor any obligation to charge you with a damn thing. They can literally hold you for life without your ever knowing why. The US was just right there, about a hundred yards away across a little bridge (or, so I thought at the time), but it might as well have been on the moon right then.

    The Jefe's were all around the back of my trailer and some underling was directed to go underneath it, where he squatted down in front of the first axle. Fat guy waved me on, so I released the parking brake, at which time they all jumped out and hollered, "ALTO!"

    I alto-ed again and they went back to whatever it was they were doing. Fat guy waved me on again and we went through the same routine except this time it was "ALTO, GODDAMIT!"

    The last thing I wanted to do was tick them off!

    This whole affair had been going on now for about 10 minutes and Lokio appeared to be as clueless as I was...so I started planning my escape! I was ready to abandon the truck and try to outrun them across that little bridge to the safety of the US Customs gate at the other end. There were two roads which led from that gate, one up the hill to the left and the street, and the other up to the right to the Customs inspection shed. I didn't learn until later that the border wasn't actually until the top of the hill! The point being, though I didn't know it right then, is that even had I made it to the gate, I'd still be in Mexico and they'd have gotten me right there! And, of course, after having run from the truck, it would have been far worse for me! Oh...the missed opportunities to REALLY screw up your life!

    Finally, they let me go and I got out of Mexico intact.

    But, a few weeks later I was down there again and discovered just how bad my escape plan REALLY was! My chances of having made it across that bridge afoot were far, far worse than I'd imagined!

    This week, some drug cartel had publically threatened to snatch a US officer right off the border and kill him, so both sides of the border were crawling with cops of all kinds. I'd never seen that many guns since the Army!

    Anyhow, while I was sitting there waiting for Lokio to do his thing, a uniformed officer stepped out of the Mexican customs office carrying the biggest rifle I ever saw. It was HUGE! It looked sort of like a BAR on steroids and was so heavy he carried it on a strap around his neck. It had a wooden stock and a barrel as big around as my thumb. The magazine was unusally long in both directions and I don't doubt it was at least a .50 calibre! I don't have any idea what it was and I've never seen one since.

    What struck me, though, was the thought that had I panicked and ran away from the truck that other day, I'd have never made it across that little bridge, not with that thing available for use! They'd have cut me in half long before I reached the US side!

    Oh, the joys of international truckin'!
     
  3. midcan5
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    midcan5 liberal / progressive

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    Your first piece reminded me of Camus's 'The Fall,' When we were in Paris I had to walk the Pont des Arts. Camus was a big influence young.

    While fiction, you have to read 'CivilWarLand in Bad Decline.' Saunders short stories, often hilarious writing, would fit into some of your days behind the wheel. Only a lot more crazy.

    'The Fall' Albert Camus

    "The sound of screaming was "repeated several times, [as it went] downstream; then it abruptly ceased. The silence that followed, as the night suddenly stood still, seemed interminable. I wanted to run and yet didn't move an inch. I was trembling, I believe from cold and shock. I told myself that I had to be quick and felt an irresistible weakness steal over me. I have forgotten what I thought then. "Too late, too far..." or something of the sort. I was still listening as I stood motionless. Then, slowly, in the rain, I went away. I told no one."

    "Several years after the apparent suicide of the woman off the Pont Royal — and an evidently successful effort to purge the entire event from his memory — Clamence is on his way home one autumn evening after a particularly pleasing day of work. He pauses on the empty Pont des Arts and reflects: "I was happy. The day had been good: a blind man, the reduced sentence I had hoped for, a cordial handclasp from my client, a few generous actions and, in the afternoon, a brilliant improvisation in the company of several friends on the hard-handedness of our governing class and the hypocrisy of our leaders. ... I felt rising within me a vast feeling of power and — I don't know how to express it — of completion, which cheered my heart. I straightened up and was about to light a cigarette, the cigarette of satisfaction, when, at that very moment, a laugh burst out behind me."

    see link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fall_(Albert_Camus_novel)
     
  4. Oldguy
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    Oldguy Senior Member

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    I'll have to find that. Thanks for the tip.
     

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