I was filling up with gas on a rural highway in Arkansas, on my way to deliver in Fayetteville. I had been to Fayetteville in North Carolina, but never the one in Arkansas.
A car came screaming by honking, followed closely by a big rig semi truck. But the truck was getting progressively slower as it neared me. It had two flat tires and was limping until it came to a complete halt very close to where I was pumping.
A huge woman jumped out of the truck and waddled towards me, screaming and cussing up a storm. She had a red solo cup in her right hand, and was wildly gesturing with her left hand. "I've had it! That's it, no more! All of them need to be caught and killed." I did my best to pretend I didn't notice her, but she kept walking straight towards me. Why oh why am I a magnet for the wacky people of the world? "Hey you! That's right, I'm talking to you! I have just about had it with all you four wheelers."
"You were speaking to me?"
"Who else would I be talking to. You're just another low down, no account four wheeler."
"What's a four wheeler?"
"You, and all those like you, who drive a car or pickup or minivan or some such. Those who don't have the skills and pride to drive the 18 wheelers like I do."
"Oh? Is that all you've got to say? You don't even have the good manners to introduce yourself to a lady?"
"Hi, my name is Bill Thomas."
She went from outrage to homespun warmth in the blink of an eye. "Madge Ferguson, seriously damn glad to meet you." She grabbed my hand in a painfully firm grasp and shook it for all she was worth. Then she spit into the cup. I could see she had a very big chunk of tobacco in her cheek. "Did you see what that fella did to me?"
"I just saw him fly by honking his horn."
"A honk of victory, but that victory was hollow, let me tell you. He had cut me off, and I don't cotton to that kind of behavior. No siree bob. I had to teach him a lesson, but he got tricky with me, and next thing you know I ran over a pile of cut wood on the shoulder of the highway... and well, now it looks like I got me two flat tires." She spit into the cup.
"Road rage is getting out of hand."
"His rage, not mine, I am a down to earth lady who treats others like I'd like to be treated myself. Until they cross me. Do not cross Madge. No sir."
"Mind if I ask you a question?" In retrospect, I should not have asked the question.
"I might, but go ahead anyway."
"Sometimes when I'm driving down the highway at 70mph, I come up on two semi trucks one behind the other. Just as I get to them and am about to pass, the one in back jumps over to the left lane. And just goes side by side with the other truck at 60mph. It backs me up and all the other cars that are behind me. And sometimes they just glide along side by side for ten miles before the one in the left lane finally moves back over to the right."
"Oh, well that's easy. Some truck have a governor on the engine and can only go so fast."
"Then I wonder why once the truck moves over he speeds up and I have to do 80 to pass him."
She threw her head back and let out a loud guffaw. "Well then in that case, they're duckin' with you."
"I'm trying to use less profanity. They's messin' with you is all."
"I don't think they'd purposefully mess with you on accident."
"Cuz they're bored, and cuz we are superior to all you four wheelers.The way you all try to drive all the way up to where the lanes merge into one before a construction site. That's when we ride the middle line and stop y'all from doing that. Hell, we're more effective than the police at teachin' lessons." She spit into her cup.
"I often think of the big rigs as Imperial Starships, and the cars like me are X wing fighters."
"I get that reference, but Darth Vader pretty much crushed your little rebellion, now didn't he?" She giggled to herself.
"I think his son Luke led the charge to victory and defeated the Empire."
She shook her head and let out a hoot of laughter. "Boy, it's clear that you need to brush up on your Star Wars. You got it all ass backwards." She spit into the cup, then wiped her hand across her face to mop away the juice.
"Maybe we can all just find a way to get along out on the road. What do you think?"
Madge glared at me. "You don't want to know what I think. That's what I think!"
"I just see so much hatred and violence and nastiness among folks every single day. I pray for peace."
"I'm a praying woman myself, but you are a fool if you think you can make a difference. Or that any kind of peace is possible." She sneezed into her hand, and then used the hand to brush her hair back.
"Is there anything I can do to help you, Madge?"
"Yes sir, go catch that asshole in the four wheeler who cut me off and kill him for me. Could you do that?" She waddled off towards the mini-mart portion of the gas station, and I topped off my tank and got back on the road again.