photo c. 1961 [copyright Michael Koerner 1998]

Every few months, I drive from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia (and back again) on everyone's favorite WPA project: the PA Turnpike. It was on the turnpike that I made my first long-distance (300 mile) drive, that I first discovered my 1985 Volvo wagon could make it up to 100 mph, that I first felt the fear of running out of gas on a notoriously dangerous highway, thirteen miles from the next rest stop. And it was on the turnpike that I had my first experience with truckers.

It's not as cool as it sounds. Last July, I was speeding down the turnpike en route to my hometown, all windows down, thighs sticking to the Volvo's tan leather interior, eyes focused on the road, contentedly singing along to the middle-Pennsylvania radio station that plays "all the hits of the '80s, '90s and today" (a slogan that only now has begun to sound appropriate), when a trucker's horn interrupted my reverie.

I looked in my rearview mirror. There was another car behind me in the left lane, a little ways back. The truck, in the right lane, honked again as it crept up next to me. But nothing seemed unusual. The trucker didn't seem frantic; my car must not have been on fire. I checked my sideview mirrors to see if I'd left the gas tank door open. Nope.

next: more truckers say hello