Imagine trying to walk in a field several inches deep in runny peanut butter. Not the chunky kind either. We’re talkin’ extra creamy oily runny peanut butter. Got the picture? Ok now imagine trying to drive in said peanut butter. Now imagine (if you can) trying to drive a 15 ton 18 wheeler in said peanut butter. You may even imagine that such a vehicle might get stuck in such a substance. Of coarse once stuck, the only alternatives are either putting tire chains on (meaning that you will now not only be walking, but also kneeling, and perhaps even laying in this substance), or asking your company to pay for a very expensive “wench-out” from a local heavy-duty towing service. Having done the later a couple times in my early days here at Interstate, I opted for putting chains on. I figured, what the heck; playing in mud was fun as a kid – why not now?
Yep. You guessed it. This is not just a hypothetical situation. The peanut butter to which I referred is none other than good ol’ Indianapolis, Indiana mud. Never mind how I got myself into it to begin with, let’s pick up at the part where I am getting out of my truck to play in the mud (I really like calling it runny peanut butter; “mud” just doesn’t do justice to the actual consistency of the stuff, so where ever I type “mud” just think “runny peanut butter”). As I took the first step into the mud it became apparent that if I did not fasten my shoes on more tightly I would very soon lose them. The mud sucked at my feet making a funny “sclop! sclop!” sound as I…walked? Trudged? No…ah, what the heck – as I “sclopped” to my chain rack to retrieve my tire chains. The mud caked to my shoes as well so my feet looked like giant clods. As I tried to work the chains around the tires, my knees sinking in the oozing sludge, it became apparent that the tires had sunk too far for the chains to fit around the tires. The textbook answer to this scenario is to dig space around the tired so the tire chains can fit tightly around the tire. Right. Dig. No problem. Just like digging melting ice-cream. Or hot fudge. That’s a good one; try digging a hole in a bowl of hot fudge sometime. See how far you get. Well, needless to say this stuff wasn’t hot (in fact it was beginning to snow at this point) and my chains weren’t exactly putting themselves on so I improvised and managed to find a way to temporarily fasten the chains. Then I climbed back into my truck and tried out my solution.
Two feet. Not bad. Only 68 feet to go. Of coarse now, having climbed back into my truck caked in mud, my driving area (seat, floor, brake pedal, throttle pedal, door) was (and still is) pretty much caked in mud as well. Well, I’ll worry about that later. I went to check on my chains, noticing very quickly that my temporary fix turned out more temporary than I had intended and my chains had now not only slipped off of my tires but had wrapped themselves around the axle like some gigantic poorly made chocolate pretzel (another food metaphor? I must be hungry…) I believe it was at this point, while I was trying to extricate my slimy mud-caked tire chains, that some concerned citizen passing by pointed out to me that once I got out of the mud I would undoubtedly be tracking mud all over this otherwise clean street and that I had better clean it up or the neighboring property owners would have something to say about it. To which I – as politely as I could – smiled and nodded and continued with my work. I kept wondering after that if the person had just failed to notice that I was covered nearly head to toe in mud, or didn’t care, or perhaps assumed I was enjoying myself (at the expense of their, until now, clean and tidy street).
After getting my chains free I had to step back and re-assess the situation. I decided I needed a new strategy, but what? I sclopped around my truck a bit examining the situation from different angles, guessing at whether or not a second attempt at putting chains on would be a.) effective and b.) worth the effort. I eventually concluded that it would be neither and got on the phone to my fleet manager to request a wench-out, but as I sat in my driver seat talking on the phone I gently rocked the truck back in the forth (as I had done earlier) to see if I could sort of wiggle the truck out.
At the first slight attempt the truck immediately moved another four feet and then stuck again. I told my phone contact I’d call them back. Here was a solution that I had written off too soon. It took another 15 minutes or more of additional wiggling as well as wedging various things under the tires for better traction (I looked for the concerned citizen but he was unavailable and probably would have made poor traction anyway) but after some time and effort I managed free myself from the mire and park the truck on the street.
Deciding it best to make at least an effort at PR on the behalf of Interstate, I took my fleet managers card and gave it to the property manager of the closest property and then went of my merry muddy way.
The moral to this story? Mud can be fun, provided there are no other stressful elements introduced into the equation, such as physical discomfort, hunger, fatigue, poor health, extreme weather, an eminent deadline, or mortal peril. When all is said and done, I have a bit of a muddy mess in my truck now, but it is confined mostly to my driving area and should be relatively easy to clean up once it dries. This hasn’t ruined my day or even my night and I am thankful for that. Well, I better run along. Happy trails, until I write again!