That Ed finds it still amazing is interesting to me, given that he's been doing this for over twelve years. I am still amazed by almost everything I see out here and this is one aspet of the job that I love most and one that still boggles my mind; how much ground we cover in a matter of days or hours. It's sort of like the first time I discovered how the fax machine works. Nowadays, it's no big deal, but back in the eighties, when I got my first fax from Japan, I was totally freaked out that a person put a piece of paper in a machine in Japan and it came out of a machine right in front of me in New York. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?
OK, back to trucking. So, in addition to the miles we drive, we get to haul a lot of interesting freight. The company we lease our truck to has one of the largest military contracts in the industry, so we've done all kinds of military stuff, from taking temporary housing units up to Alaska to delivering submarine components to naval bases up and down the East coast.
We don't have any dedicated runs, so we never go back and forth along the same route but we have hauled for particular shippers many times, taking their items to different parts of the country. And we get to haul a lot intersting freight too, everything from honey bees to Humvees.
We also do a lot of aircraft parts. Last year, we hauled a five million dollar engine up to Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada for their Maple Flag 40 event. The Canadian Air Force Maple Flag Exercise is modeled after the United States Air Force Red Flag Exercise which is conducted at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada. Below you'll see the casing they typically ship jet engines in:
A few months ago, we had seven of these containers on our truck. Two of them were large like this one, but others were smaller and odd sized. All were empty.
We were in Virginia and as we often do, pulled into a mall parking lot to hit one of the adjacent restaurants for dinner. Malls always have a lot of parking, which is necessary for us to easily get the truck in and out and this place, the Short Pump Town Center, was an especially nice place. As we were pulling in and preparing to park, a lady in an SUV was sort of circling our truck. We saw her drive around twice, looking at us. We figured she was intriqued by the freight, since people often are when they see something unusual.
The second time she came around, I happened to catch her eye and she gave me the little "roll your window down" hand signal. So I did. She looked up at me and said, "Can I help you?" I thought that was sort of weird and out of place since I figured she wasn't "in charge" of the mall, so I just said, "Uh...no thank you." and rolled up my window. I figured she must have thought we were lost or something.
But she continued to watch us and I had the feeling she had more to say, so I rolled my window down again. And in all seriousness, she said, "Are you guys terrorists??"
Of course, I figured I didn't hear her right. And in the split seconds before I answered her, a few things went through my mind. The first two things I thought to say were, "If we were terrorists, do you really think we would tell you?" and "How many terrorists do you think stop at a mall with high end stores like Nordstrom's and Neiman-Marcus, to shop and get a bite to eat before they blow the place to smithereens?"
Of course I was pleasant with my answer, saying something to the tune of "No, no, no. These are just old empty containers." but what I was thinking was, "Are you kidding me, lady??" Did she actually think we, me with my MAC Lipgloss slicked lips and Ed with his twinkly blue eyes, were terrorists?? And that we chose her mall to leave our bomb laden truck at?
Seriously, can a person be that delusional? This is exactly what the fear farmers, those who plant seeds of fear in your head, want you to believe. That every person can be a terrorist. That every person who looks different than them is up to no good. Lord only knows who she might have called had I been wearing a turban; you know, the kind that are de rigueur for terrorists.
This kind of paranoia is just unbelievable to me. We travel this country more than three hundred days a year, in and out of military bases, airports and container ports. Crossing borders and traveling on ferries. Picking up and delivering in every major city in the country. And we have never once even seen something that would raise suspicion.
This woman, asking that question, reminds me of how people are insulated in their own little communities and don't have the opportunity to really see or experience what is happening in the whole of the country. They hear words like "terrorist activity" or "terror cell" or "security breach" and get all flipped out. They rely on programs like Fox News for their information, an organization that spins stories out of control by ratcheting up the terror factor in every newscast.
Next time you see terrorists going out to dinner, don't ask them if they are terrorists, especially if you're repeating something you heard on the news; it makes you sound dumb.
And terrorists love to eat dumb people for dinner.