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Life in the fast lane: Three types of experiences behind the wheel

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The other day, I had the distinct pleasure of having breakfast with five of my buddies from our old Southwest Philly neighborhood. During our pre-meal banter, one of the guys mentioned how bad traffic has become in the vicinity of his current home in New Jersey. My mind immediately flashed back to those many years I spent as an outside salesman and manager which required me to drive thousands of miles per year to fulfil my obligations. On the road, I experienced situations and events that I’ve remembered and discussed on lots of occasions.

I can classify many of these driving experiences into three major categories: Aggravating, Funny, and Exciting.

It’s not too difficult to recall the aggravating trips. One of my favorites was the time I had to drive to Elkton Virginia, to visit a Merck Pharmaceutical plant. I was seeking to provide a new polyurethane floor coating we had developed, and that was currently in use at their facility in West Point, Pa. The trip should have taken about five hours from my home in Cinnaminson. Upon my arrival at the King of Prussia entrance to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I immediately joined a westbound standstill traffic jam. As the cars crawled along, I decided to tune my radio to KYW-AM to get the traffic report and see what was causing the problem. When the report came on, I cringed at what was said by the reporter who described the problem while uttering the three words that all outside salesmen both feared and hated:

Roving PennDOT crew!
Whenever you heard this phrase, you knew your drive time was going to be both extended and miserable. Sure enough, after we inched our way for a mile or so, squeezing into the only lane that was open due to the strategically placed 200 traffic cones, I saw two workers leaning on their truck enjoying the sunshine and their coffee. I guess they appreciated my dirty look because they just smiled at me. The Roving PennDOT Crew claims another victim!

Another one of my favorites recurs just about every day in almost every residential neighborhood. I have been victimized many times by chatty school bus drivers. It usually happens when I am just about home and have to drive through several developments. Please understand that I love kids, and think it is a very cute thing to see them get onto and off of their buses. But after the kid gets off, must the mother or father start up a conversation with the driver? How about a quick goodbye or thank you? I must confess that I have given them a “let’s break it up” beep or two. That usually gets me a dirty look but I usually don’t smile back like those seasoned veterans at PennDOT!

As far as humor is concerned, I can’t help but laugh at a situation I was involved in just recently. While driving north on New Jersey Route 130, a major highway in our area, I happened to be following a dump truck that was probably hauling debris from a construction site. On the back of the truck was a sign that read, “Construction Vehicle Do Not Follow.” Maybe the construction company had something against me and wanted me to turn around and go back from whence I came? After some deliberation I ruled that out and had just enough common sense not to take the sign literally. Still I feel badly for those poor souls who choose to look around for someone else to follow in order to comply with the sign’s command!

Regarding the excitement aspect, of all my sales trips, one stands out above all. I was into my third year of sales which would have been in 1985. I was driving to a farm, just outside of Norristown, Pa., about 20 miles from my home in Drexel Hill, Pa. I had intended to demonstrate a degreaser which could be used to clean the farmer’s tractors and other equipment. I was given this “lead” by an existing customer who was the cousin of the farmer. My customer told me all about the farm and what the farmer grew, his family and a whole lot of other stuff. He did, however, leave out one detail that I wish he hadn’t and this was the source of the excitement.

As I pulled into the farm’s driveway, I noticed a long cable about 8 feet off the ground and stretched for about 50 yards parallel to the driveway. As I went to open my trunk to get my product, I heard a somewhat squeaky noise behind me. As I turned around, I saw the biggest barking Rottweiler God had ever created, and the pooch was attached to the cable via a long leash that allowed him to run the entire length. By now he was about 25 yards from me and headed my way. I barely made it into my green 1978 Chevy Malibu, jumping inside while rolling up the window just before the monster got up on his hind legs and put his massive front paws upon my door. I decided to let the ol’ farmer find another way to clean his equipment because I took off like a driver in the Indy 500. I used to like watching the old TV show “Route 66.” Those two guys had a different adventure every week as they traveled the country in their spiffy Corvette.

But they never had to deal with an 8-foot Rottweiler!

Charlie Sacchetti

Charlie Sacchetti is the author of three books, “It’s All Good: Times and Events I’d Never Want to Change;” “Knowing He’s There: True Stories of God’s Subtle Yet Unmistakable Touch,” and his newest, “Savoring the Moments: True Stories of Happiness, Sadness and Everything in Between.” Contact him at worthwhilewords21@gmail.com.

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