My favorite father-in-law ever, Scotty Burleson, was a truck driver. Before that, he was a radio announcer and before that he was a lot of other things. My brother, Paul, still is a truck driver. Before that, he was a diesel mechanic and before that he was a toddler. I thought about Paul and Scotty at 6:06 this morning. That’s when some trucker throttling down on Highway 36 about four hundred feet from my bedroom window decided to use his Jake Brakes.
I believe that Jake Brake is a particular brand of compression braking system. If I was listening closely and remember correctly when Paul explained it, compression braking forces the back pressure of the exhaust system back through the cylinders to slow the speed of the vehicle. The by-product is an extremely loud and irritating noise combining the endearing qualities of machine gun fire, chainsaw exhaust and elephant flatulence, all amplified by a factor of ten on the decibel scale. The intended benefit, for whomever is paying for the maintenance issues of the truck, is that it saves some wear on the conventional braking components, presumably extending the life of pads or linings.
Another result, and here opinions differ on whether or not it is a by-product or intentional primary benefit, is that it allows truck drivers to immediately irritate anywhere from two to two thousand people, depending on time of day and population density. This morning, I was one of a dozen or so, presuming that I’m not the only person in Blair, Kansas, who was still trying to sleep.
Like the truck driver, it’s often easy for me to focus solely upon my own needs, issues and concerns at any particular time. It’s easy to become fixated on my benefit without thought or consideration of the impact on others. That’s why my neighbors might have heard my planer or miter saw running after ten o’clock at night one time or another.
It’s actually pretty rare that I do something for the sole purpose of afflicting someone else. While it’s not impossible, I think it pretty unlikely that this particular truck driver was thinking, “This will really irritate that ole badger trying to sleep in the house on the hill there.” He probably had the Jake Brake switched on and simply lifted his foot off the gas pedal because he was turning off the highway.
That’s why I decided to return blessing for cursing: “Dear Lord, please bless this driver with a very close inspection from the DOT today that will ensure that every single piece of equipment on his truck is in excellent operating condition and that will determine whether or not there is the tiniest little detail out of order in his log books.”
I’m not sure that’s exactly what the Lord meant but I’m working my way there… I really do like my sleep.
There is a highway about two and a half miles across the corn fields from our house and when the temperature is above -10F, we like to sleep with the windows open. At that distance, Jake brakes are just another sound of the night.. On the other hand, the grass between the woods and our bedroom window is a hunting ground for screech owls. You haven’t lived until you hear an owl stun a mouse with sound – two feed from your bedroom window.
I enjoyed your essay.
Hi, Greg, thanks for the comment. I heard screech owls when I was growing up in Kentucky, but never at the close range you describe!