In his guest post, Serendpity, Paul Curran referred to having saved six teens during his trucking career. My readers and I could not simply let that reference go! Here is Paul’s story:
By: Paul Curran
The Trans-Canada Highway approaching Moncton New Brunswick from the west was empty at 1 am on a Saturday Morning. I had a load of mixed produce aboard my temperature-controlled trailer (reefer) from the New England Produce Center in Boston, headed for a 2 am unloading appointment at Canada Packers on the East side of Moncton. The city bypass (Wheeler Blvd) was not yet complete to the west side, so I had to follow the TCH around the city and come back in on the east side through Dieppe. One hour was a conservative time to accomplish this – so there was no time to spare.
After the incident I looked back on this part of the trip and realized that it was around here – approaching Lute’s Mountain – that it all started.
At the time everything seemed innocent enough. There was an Irving Big Stop – an eastern Canadian chain of truck stops – at the top of Lute’s Mountain. The coffee and food were excellent, and the position of the truck stop was perfect – right at the top of a hard pull that would see the truck going slowly at the entrance and then a good downhill to get up to speed when leaving. The parking was adequate, the lighting good and it would not be busy this time of day. From somewhere deep inside me came the desire to stop for coffee. Coffee-time! But wait a minute – I did not have time to stop for coffee. My schedule was too tight.
Still the clamoring for coffee. I wasn’t tired, having slept earlier – I was alert, I was well hydrated. I did not want coffee, and I did not have time for coffee. As I passed the truck stop, I could feel the pull of coffee calling me. Once past, I had the feeling that I should have stopped for coffee. I would be unloading in ¾ of an hour now, and CP had a break room with coffee – if coffee was so damned important, I could get one there.
And still, the knowledge that I should have stopped for coffee. No way was I going to be late, so I grit my teeth and pushed on, turning up the local pop rock station CKCW.
The desire for coffee gradually faded away, and in its place came a suspicion that I had a flat tire. In an 18-wheeler, it is possible to have a flat or a slow leak in one of the duals that is very hard to detect while driving. Sometimes there is a big bang or a thumping or a vibration, but often flats are only discovered when the driver stops to the check tires – a regular activity.
So, I was now convinced that I had a flat tire and should pull over to check. Running a tire while flat could potentially ruin the tire – a $500 replacement versus a $20 repair. Time to stop and check my tires. Wait – I just checked them about 2 hours ago and there is no vibration or sound that would suggest a flat. And besides, I had an appointment to keep. The tires, flat or not would be fine for another half an hour. And so I turned up the tunes yet again and carried on.
Having decided that I was not stopping to check my tires, the feeling of a flat disappeared. And in its place came the need to take a piss. I needed to stop and take a leak. This was nuts, I had relieved myself about 2 hours ago and typically went about 4 hours between stops. I was not drinking any fluids, and I did not need to stop for a leak. I had to make my appointment at 2 am, and it was 20 minutes from now, and I had 20 minutes of driving to do.
The desire to take a leak disappeared, and this time an overbearing need to just stop, with no reason, took its place. This was getting monotonous – I couldn’t remember ever having had such a hard time driving for a simple hour. One hour without a stop, was that too much to ask? I was getting angry now, not being bright enough to put two and two together yet.
Still the need to stop built stronger and stronger, and I allowed my anger to build to match it – using the emotion to push through what was quickly becoming a wall requiring me to stop. I took the exit ramp for Dieppe and headed into the rotary where traffic could continue to Dieppe, head to Moncton, or take the new bypass that lead to the industrial area where my drop was located. I headed for the bypass. 5 minutes to 2 am, and 5 minutes drive to my delivery.
The traffic light where Lewisville Rd. crossed was green as I approached – it typically stayed green this time of night unless a car came down Lewisville Rd. This intersection was new at the time and there were no street lights on Lewisville Rd. – it just appeared out of the dark at the intersection. My windows were up and the air conditioning was rumbling, keeping the summer night heat out, while the stereo (150 watts per channel – very loud) blasted.
The feeling that I had to stop and RIGHT NOW grew so strong that I could no longer disobey it and my foot slammed down on the brake, bringing the truck to a shuddering halt at a green light in the intersection with no other vehicles in sight. At 1:56 am, one exit from my delivery.
I was sitting there completely confounded by my actions for less than second, when a blur shot by my front bumper on Lewisville Rd., going so fast that I didn’t even recognize it at first. One of those deals where your brain fills you in on what just happened after it has processed the images. I twisted my head to try and follow the blur and could see a four-door sedan with all the windows down, the lights out and six obviously inebriated teenagers jumping around and waving from the car. They were doing easily 120 miles per hour on the county road when they went through their red light and by my front bumper, so close that they disappeared from sight – as I sat stopped on a green light.
The overpowering need to stop evaporated – just disappeared, leaving a sense of peace and me sitting stopped at a green light.
Time stopped for an indeterminate period of time, and if I hadn’t been so aware of my appointment and clock-watching, I would not have been able to tell you how long I sat there. As it was, my next time check showed that it was 2:05 am. I had sat for over 5 minutes completely immersed in my thoughts and feelings.
If I had not stopped exactly when I did – on a green light – the car and teens would have gone under my trailer at 120 mph. The car would have been ripped apart and all six teens would have been beheaded. All their lives would have ended on that hot pavement in that intersection at 1:56 am that Saturday morning. All those young lives gone – except for one tiny thing: my inexplicable need to stop on a green light that overwhelmed my intellect and triggered braking.
With a click, the last hour fell into focus – I had been intellectually adding a reason to justify the need to stop for an hour now, a different reason each time, when the real reason was to not be in that intersection when that car load of teens came through the red light, drunk and speeding. I would never have been able to imagine, let alone believe, the real reason to stop – it would have been dismissed as an idea as soon as it occurred to me. I couldn’t be told the truth, for I would not have believed it. And all those lives would have ended. They would not have graduated, gone on to careers or university, found mates, had children. So many lives would have been affected and changed and so, so much grief and sadness brought into the world.
And the very best? They had no clue and would never have a clue, even to this day and beyond, that that fateful night, the only thing that stood between them and certain death by their choices, was a higher power – a power that had determined that it was not their time to die, and a power that acted accordingly – even through and against all apparent odds.
I continued to my delivery and arrived 10 minutes late, but they were running late as well, and I had to wait for 15 minutes to get an unloading door. And I wondered, having seen it just now, how many times of which I was not even aware that God had stepped in to save my sorry ass when I had made bad choices.
And still, to this day, I wonder how those teens, now adults in their 40’s, are doing. Do they have children? Do they still visit their parents? Are they happy? How has life treated them? And I thank God regularly that He was able to save those kids.
For this post, image credits are embedded within the images themselves.
EDITOR’S NOTE: With Paul Curran’s permission, I wish to dedicate this post to all those truckers and other drivers who were stranded on the New York State Thruway and other roadways around Buffalo, New York, during the snowstorms that occurred November 18-21, 2014.