An addict is an awful lot like an eighteen-wheeler.
And when I say eighteen-wheeler, I am including the driver in the analogy because without the driver there is no point.
I saw it while I was eating my sandwich.
A guy--not even vaguely seeming like he belonged in the picture--was stopping traffic on a busy street in my town. He appeared to be one of those so-called good samaritans, or perhaps he was just drunk. That's the kind of thing I'd do when I was wasted--try to be too helpful, especially in situations where my help was apt to cause more harm than good.
The truck had not made its back end familiar with the roadway yet, cautiously waiting, stuck in place with its front end against the wall adjacent to the store he had presumedly just delivered to.
It was stuck ... real stuck.
But it wasn't so stuck as I've seen semis get who ignore the height limit signs posted on and around the old railroad bridge downtown. In fact, I've been behind trucks and watched them just drive right through--at a daring clip--and get torn open like a can of sardines. Nothing livens up this town like a stuck truck. If we had any criminals I'm sure they would take advantage of the police displacement.
So this guy--our random helping dude--stood bravely in the middle of King street and flapped open his hands--palms forward--to the cars who were slowly passing him dangerously close on either side of the double line. At one point, when he apparently had had enough, he mouthed the word "Stop!" to a blue Lexus. Said car stopped long enough for our man to turn his attention to the traffic coming from the other direction, at which point it creeped the ten feet it took to get by the nut.
At one point--about halfway through my sandwich--he had things seemingly under control. The traffic in the furthest most lane from the starting point (the one the trucker needed to back into and travel down) was stopped, the traffic closest to the truck was stopped, and now, our guy in the street was screaming at the trucker to move his ass and get going.
I must mention that the whole time this all happened I did not see anyone driving the truck, but my knee-jerk suspicion that it was a monkey is probably based more in my imagination than any real probability.
Our man in the street glared both ways, and each time he changed direction a car on the other side darted successfully around the truck and into the gas station which it was slowly backing out of.
At one point, after two cars on each side had made their way around the lumbering elephant and the truck had made forward motion impossible in the middle of a very busy, highly travelled thoroughfare, it picked up speed as it backed up further and perpendicularly over the white and yellow lines. The row of cars who had stopped in disgust were now at the mercy of a piece of moving machinery more than likely as heavy as all of them put together. A few craned their heads backwards in panic, silently sending out the alarm to the others behind them to back the fuck up or there was really going to be a hold up, and this one would involve the cops. And, like clockwork--albeit clumsy and unpredictable clockwork--the row of cars closest to me backed up ten or twenty feet or so, as the ass-end of the semi entered the area where the first Prius in the line had been moments before.
And then, with a puff of black diesel smoke and a mighty roar, the Peterbilt was on its way down King St., and hopefully towards the highway and away from the railroad bridge.
Our man in the street, who was thoroughly pleased with himself, dusted his hands symbolically together and just ambled on down the road in the other direction.
His work here was done.
So, you might say, Al ... that was a great story, but where's the payoff?
Well you see, I've been that truck.
I've found myself capable of traveling great distances on little sleep.
I have found myself tapping into reserves of energy that other people don't even consider--the second tank if you will. My vices have forced my legs, hands, and vocal cords to do things that they had no right to be able to do with the resources I had shored up.
My fuel was seemingly limitless, but its evidence of composition gave off a foul odor and color which could be seen and smelt by everyone but me.
I had room to carry an amazing amount of junk around with me. In my cavernous storage area I would stockpile all of my problems and excuses, my rationalizations and low expectations. Every so often I would get called on my actions, essentially being forced to stop at a weigh station and take my licks for the extra pounds.
I was restricted from places and freedom of actions that are taken for granted by those who have their quote/unquote shit together. I couldn't keep my speed up with the rest of the crowd and so I had to travel in the slow lane.
My rest areas kept me away from the others, and had me penned in separate quarters where my restrictions were commonplace. Instead of enjoying a well deserved day off in the middle of a busy tour by sleeping or reading or watching movies, I would hit the bottle hard, knowing that my services wouldn't be of use that night, but forgetting that this was a rare day off and on the other side of it was days upon days of gigs and long drives.
And worst of all is that if I decided to live on the dangerous side and not heed the warnings I was given--both verbal and non--and try to act like I was just like everyone else around me, forgetting that my personality lends itself to self-destruction, I would end up stuck with no way out on my own.
On one end, a brick wall ... on the other, four lanes of moving cars.
I would find myself not only stuck and unable to move forward, but the only way out of the situation I was in was with outside help. One or more of my friends would inadvertently end up paying my tab, carrying me out past the doormen and cops, stuffing me in the backseat, driving me home, and helping me upstairs and into bed where I would stay--safe and asleep--until I awoke--confused, cold, scared, and ashamed.
And then, of course, I'd do it again to forget about doing it in the first place.
Not to mention the people who had to put up with my behavior on either side of me who were perfectly content and on their own path until I came lumbering along. Some, realizing that time was of the essence if they didn't want to have to deal with the roadblock I was about to lay down, would dart around me and slyly move on ahead, watching the inevitable fracas in their rear view mirror. But the rest in the line on either side had to wait for me. They had to back up for me. They had to all agree to hang on and let me work my shit out before they could go on--some forgetting why they were there to begin with--shaking their head and wondering aloud why the hell I had gotten in that place to begin with.
Because I was different.
Because I could not live like them.
And every so often I would prove it to myself.
And then I'd go on and down the road I knew, until I came upon a place I wasn't familiar with ...
... and I'd get stuck again.
And I'd never really know the guy who stuck his neck out for me every so often.
Who the hell was he anyway?
Was he a stranger?
Was he my best friend?
Was he me during my many attempts to dry out?
Or was he all of the above, at any given time, using themselves as a decoy so I could live long enough to get my quote/unquote shit together?
Because by the time the truck had disappeared into a puff of diesel smoke, no one was mad at him anymore. Their attention had been displaced and put upon our man in the street, who had no business being there other than to try to help--albeit awkwardly--and get another human being out of a spot they should have known better than to get themselves in to begin with.
And there are plenty more low overpasses.
And there are still places to go where if I stop I may not be able to back out of easily.
But if I keep my eyes, ears, and both sides of my brain open I have a feeling I'll be able to stay in my lane and keep on truckin'.
And, if you've gotten this far, you can consider yourselves the ones who pulled down their fists in the air, essentially asking me to toot my horn.
Ten-four good buddy.
Thanks for reading.