Thursday, January 19, 2012
Bewildered and Bewitched in the Big Apple
You know what's fun about driving around in a big truck through heavy traffic and big cities? (And by fun I mean not fun at all.)
Our truck is over 70 feet long, 13' 6" tall, and 102 inches wide. There are 18 wheels, 10 gears, and we weigh 80,000 pounds fully loaded.
We cannot start or stop quickly.
We cannot zip around and make a U-turn if we get lost.
In other words, we need to know where we are going before we get there and good signage helps us do that.
Our first time through New York City was quite the experience. The quickest route to New England from pretty much anywhere, is through NYC and it is decidedly not truck friendly. Heavy traffic, bridge, tunnel and parkway restrictions, and bumpy roads built by the pilgrims, all conspire to make it a nerve wracking adventure.
One thing we knew for sure, was that we did not want to get off the interstate. We had heard trucker-horror stories, of getting stuck someplace where the roads were either too narrow to make a turn or clearances too low to get under. The prospect of backing up a crowded NYC street or running into a low bridge or having to be towed out of a situation did not appeal.
So imagine our delight at seeing this sign in Brooklyn:
What do you think this sign means?
Well, we assumed that it meant that if our vehicle was over 12'2" (and we are more than a foot taller than that), that we should use that exit because going beyond that point would surely result in a truck decapitation.
Himself and I debate it quickly. It didn't feel right but the sign seemed clear. Did we want to take the chance?
We took the exit.
It was not the correct decision.
I don't know what kind of sadistic people there are at the NY Department of Transportation, sign making division; they probably can't afford NYC and have to live in New Jersey and so they are filled with hate and self loathing. I don't blame them there, but I don't think they should take it out on truckers.
But I digress.
As we came to the stop sign off the exit, we were confronted with crowded narrow streets and no signs directing us around the low clearance to get back onto the interstate.
We frantically looked for a way back to the interstate with the fewest turns possible. Himself, ever cool under pressure, spied the route ahead and we forged on.
We were sitting at a red light when we noticed the overpass straight ahead was marked with a 13' clearance. There was nowhere to go. We had to go under that to get back on the interstate.
Insert cussing. Lots of it.
Himself jumped out of the truck, crossed 2 lanes of traffic and knocked on the window of a NYC cop car. The light turned green and a great cacophony of honking ensues as cars moved around us.
I mentally prepared myself for jail, wishing I smoked so I'd have cigarettes to barter with. I'd have to get a tough sounding nickname and learn how to make a shiv out of a toothbrush. Not the life I planned at all.
The cop gets out of his car, stands in the middle of all the NYC traffic, and puts his hand up for everyone to stop. Amazingly, they do.
He tells Himself that he sees trucks going under that thing all the time, no problem. Just go slow.
Himself jumps back in the truck and we creep under that overpass, cringing, just waiting to hear the screech of metal against concrete. Nothing. We made it.
We made it!
At that moment I want to kiss that NYC cop on the mouth. In fact, I feel like kissing NYC on the mouth. I want to sing New York, New York! at the top of my voice. I don't have to go to jail, yippee!
We're old hands at driving through NYC now. We ignore signs all over that city and stay on the interstate now, no matter what.
What I assume they mean with those signs to exit are that if you have to get off the interstate use that exit to do it.
Then you're on your own and good luck with that.