Honor. Personal honor, is essential. It is why the best men act in the best ways. Honor between men allows the world to operate more smoothly. When another man comes to me, even a stranger, and with urgence explains how I have been in error, I am likely to believe him, to accept that I have been at fault.
Today I was wrong to believe what another man claimed to have seen me do. My acceptance of a personal failure based upon another man's word was in error.
After one year of driving I was obliged to be sent out for a road test with a burly toothless man named Mark with an official title of OSR. As it goes with acronyms, they once stood for something but are now simply letters. This OSR was to test my driving ability. They are also safety professionals who interview and evaluate drivers after accidents.
This OSR Mark gave me a challenging test of buttonhook turn after buttonhook turn around Love Field in Dallas. I knew company policy was for double-clutch shifting, so I tried to do some of that to start but soon stopped as I realized Mark, the OSR, was an alright guy, a driver of many miles and years. He said nothing about my floating gears. He was a driver after all and we both knew company policy on double clutching and being out on the road were quite different things. Everybody who fucking knows floats, I thought to myself. Let this motherfucker fail me for floating without a single goddamn grind then. I knew he was honest enough not to and he didn't say anything. I had shown a few double clutches to start and now the floating was understood.
We came back to the syrup plant after the test and met a long line of trucks waiting to enter. I put my flashers on and we waited on the roadway and me the OSR and talked. The security guard came out from the plant and said it was shit show in the yard, which was already very tight for parking but was now nearly impassable with trucks and trailers.
After nearly an hour on the road waiting we finally were able to enter the plant and a tight turn against a backed up truck was the start of it. Sure enough, it was goddamn shit show in there. I weasled in between some other trucks and there were a couple spots to park my trailer but near impossible blindside backs would be required. I continued on. No doubt the drivers ahead of us had passed those up too.
There was a spot then along the fence but I would need to turn the truck around to not go blindside into it. It was going to be very tight to turn between the rows of trailers but it was possible. I told the OSR that was our spot and started the turn, lining up the trailer as close to the parked trailers on the far side and then slowly bringing the cab around, watching the cab ferrings as they came closer, closer, closer, now nearly against my trailer. Now my cab was going to clip the trailers parked on the other side of the yard. It was damned tight. I stopped to back it up a little.
"You're gonna hit the wings." said the OSR.
"Its alright," I said. I back it up a bit. I'm watching the ferring, which he was calling "wings" which I had not heard before. I didn't need this genius to tell me what to worry about. I backed it up just to give room for the trailer at my bumper and pressed the ferring even closer to my trailer.
"The wings," he said.
This OSR was a worrier.
"The ferrings are fine," I said. "There's room." I pulled slowly forward with just centimeters of clearance on my bumper on the trailer in front, my eye on the ferrings of the cab on the passenger side--still undamaged--but right damned now flush with my trailer, and I pulled the trailer as tight as a motherfucker between those two rows of trailers and free to go back and properly park that trailer in the spot behind us. It would not be a blindside back into that spot now. All those other drivers had passed up that spot because they couldn't spin a trailer around between the rows. It was my spot now. Fuckem.
Then I see this negro company driver gesturing at me. He was behind me as I was turning and now in front as I came back towards my spot. I rolled down the window on the OSR's side.
"What the hell you think he wants?" I said.
The negro rolls down his window. "You hit that truck," he says.
"Your trailer hit that truck back there," he says.
I stop, throw on the air brakes and rush out.
Behind us there's a white day cab, company truck, nobody in it, parked nose in along the wall. I know with my tandems all the way forward I have a lot of tail swing and tail swing I can't see on the driver side on a tight right turn. I knew I would be near to that day cab on the turn but didn't even consider that I could touch it.
I inspect the day cab. There's a big dent in the side of it.
The negro driver is driving off up the ramp. I wave him down. Did I dent the side of the cab, I ask him. No, he says. He says I clipped his mudflap. I go take a look at the mudflap. It looks a little bent, perhaps like something has clipped it. But the bracket is undamaged. Also the distance between the mudflap and rear tandem tire is only a few inches and the tire is untouched. If I had gotten the back edge of my trailer in there on the turn it was only by the slightest of margins. Still, this fella said he had seen it. I went back to the cab.
"He says I hit him," I said to the OSR. "I guess I got to report it." I couldn't believe it.
"Yes," says the OSR.
So begins the company process of accident reporting. I call a number, give my driver number, the number of the other truck, and explain the accident. Of course, I didn't see it. Some guy I don't even know his name or truck number saw it. I take a picture of the creased mudflap and send it in to the investigatory unit.
I go back to meet the OSR and sign paperwork for my one year driving test. He has to fail me on account of the accident.
But it was a fluke, he says. He doesn't believe the accident even happened. I said I didn't either. How could that guy have seen it from his tractor? he says. How could he have seen what was for him the blind side corner of a trailer on the tightest of turns clipping a mudflap from 100 meters away?
"He didn't believe I could twist the trailer around to take that open spot in the yard," I said. "And you didn't believe it either," I said to the OSR. "You thought I was going to fuck up the ferrings."
"I thought so," he admitted.
"You didn't say nothing about that other parked truck," I said.
"I don't think it happened," he says. He puts out his pen and and keys on the table in the positions of where we were, the day cab and the other driver. The way our trailer twisted it would be impossible to see any clipping of the mudflap by the other driver.
"He didn't think I could twist it around for the spot," I said. "That's all. He didn't want to believe that I could do it."
The OSR then had me take an accident and re-training course on a computer. I had to put on headphones and watch an animated man in khaki pants and a blue shirt explain safe driving techniques. While I was taking the course the OSR interrupted me and said he was going to make a phone call and that I shouldn't listen or be disturbed by him talking beside me during the accident course. He asked me for my accident claim number. He asked for the company accident report number and made a call. I listened to him explain to the person on the other end that he was an OSR and was in the cab with me and that he believed there had been no accident. He wanted his testimony put down as evidence for the accident investigators. He tapped me on the shoulder when the call was finished. He knew I had been listening.
He was 19 years in the company and a long time OTR driver. He had seen immediately what kind of driver I was. He knew of the injustices. But I knew that he had to protect himself. He had to make me report on myself for an accident he doubted had occurred. Now, perhaps, his conscience as an OTR driver and not as an OSR company man had been activated. Still, I had reported myself and he was fully protected.
Later that night I realized it was now necessary to un-report this accident. I had been in error to accept the anonymous negro's report. The negro, I realized, had seen nothing. Nobody in the investigatory unit even knew his name or truck number. I had reported upon myself out of some errant sense of honor, an honor I assumed other men had of themselves. I realized it may very well have been something else: a man watching another driver execute the tightest of whip around turns between rows of trailers for a spot numerous other drivers had passed up in frustration and not believed was possible. The next day I would have to call my dispatcher and demand that I be un-reported for the accident. It would be the only honorable thing to do.