Something bad, not murder robbery, rape, happened here early this morning in my hometown that I want to talk about. As you well know, on daily basis, strange dealings (rackets) are made made by U.S. cities and towns to generate revenue, sustain government. "Nothing new under Sun."
In Taylor Borough twice, you sat at our kitchen table, and likely gazed northeast into panoramic view of a parking lot, coal culm banks, baseball field, a playground, and Saint Ann's Basilica atop hill, Remember when I showed you how the Taylor Police Department stage check points across Union Street and wait for tractor trailers to approach, and pull them over for weight limit checks? Well, this morning, looking out kitchen window across Union Street, I witnessed such police action succeeded in collaring an overweight "18-wheeler" and its driver.
At around 9:30 A.M., the Taylor cops were gone, and it was about time to start my extra school bus run. Had some time so I crossed street and approached the driver who worked below his trailer, checked for defective electric wires and hook-ups. Getting close up, the driver emerged from beneath trailer, a tall man, maybe 6'5", wore safety glasses, his hands and clothes stained by grease. Introduced myself, and I offered sympathy for his dilemma; he stood straight, sighed, and with Hispanic accent, said, "I am good Mister, but the police just gave me a $750.00 fine!"
"That's horrible, Sir. What did you do to deserve such hefty fine?"
"Well, I dropped a load at the Kane Warehouse, and traveled Keyser Avenue south until I saw a road sign that signaled, "Interstate 81, Keep Left."
"O yes, I know exactly the sign you speak of."
"Well I turned left on Union, drove only 1/4 mile, and noticed a small black & white sign which read, 'Limit 10-Tons.' "
"Yes, I know that road sign too, it's small, black and white, maybe 2'x3.' "
"Yes, yes Sir, you are correct, and I took chance, kept going until I could find a good spot to turn my truck around, obey the law."
Unfortunately, the best place the driver could turn his tractor trailer around is the spot where Taylor Police Department had staked out. Upon arrival, they placed his unit upon portable scale, and found the vehicle illegally overweight for passage, and the trailer lights were not working. Having noticed accent, I asked the man his name.
"My name is Paulo Paredo, I am 54, and I come from Brazil. My wife and three children now live in Elizabeth, N.J., and this $750.00 fine will hurt."
"How long you been driving tractor trailer, Class A license, Paulo?"
" Sir, only 6-months. This penalty hurts me... not long ago I weighed 400-pounds, and finding and doing work was very difficult for me. But now I am only a little over 300-pounds on scale!"
"400-pounds? You should have walked-on at N.Y. Jets training camp, asked Rex Ryan for try out!"
"Ha, ha, you're funny man, Mister. What's your name?"
"My name is Carlos Orloski. I am a Polish American, and I wish the Taylor cops would have given you a break, Paulo."
"No, that was not God's Will. I pleaded with them to forgive mine error, allow me to turn around and carefully go back the way I came. Polite, understanding, the police did not go for that idea at all, they say it's unreasonable."
"Jesus! I feel very bad for you. I could never make it as cop, in fact I barely make it as a school bus driver! Uh, how about taking a little break, go across street, and I'll treat you to a sandwich and something cold to drink."
"My Sir, how generous of you to invite me into your home. But I can not, my company has dispatched a mechanic here in order to repair my trailer light system. I must not leave."
I reached for Paulo's the large hand to shake, and he withdrew, indicating "it's too greasy." Anyway, knowing the hand was that of a worker, calloused and dirty, I insisted on a hand shake, and Paulo gave thanks to Lord Jesus Christ. I asked the Giant if he might be a Catholic.
"No, I am not anymore. But I believe this crazy and expensive incident was God's Will. Maybe had I kept going straight on Keyser Avenue, I get in accident... hurt me and others. Who knows, Mister Carlos..., Destiny, eh?"
Prior to my departure, Paulo made an ecumenical point and emphasized that he really liked the new Pope Francis. He bluntly asserted, "Francis is shaking-up Vatican corruption, he wears only a humble wooden cross, and I fear he's going to be assassinated."
"You know the Pope plans to visit Philadelphia come September? Maybe you will cross river and see him?"
"Ha, ha! I would hope so, but I do not get much time off at my busy company, Hall's Intermodal."
"Did you say Hell's Intermodal, Paulo?"
"You're funny man, Carlos. I say HALLS, not Hells!!"
"Had you time and money, would you cross the border to see Francis speak in Philly?"
"Uh, possibly. But one thing for sure is I would tell Pope's motorcade driver to avoid passing through Union Street, Taylor, avoid getting over weight tickets! Ha-ha."
We laughed and I shook the Giant's hand one more time. A Swift tractor-trailer passed by parking lot, and I looked at the American flags attached to every telephone pole on Union Street, since Memorial Day. Dismayed, Paulo watched another tractor trailer pass by, and said, "looks like some drivers take big chances here, eh?"
"Their companies probably have special permits, and consequently, they don't sweat police check points."
"Ah, maybe my luck turns one day, and I drive for company who purchases such permits!"
"One never knows, Paulo. Maybe someday I will live in a place where local police would give drivers like you a break."
"God works in mysterious ways, Carlos, and every one knows the old saying, 'what goes around comes around.' "
Paulo returned beneath the trailer bottom to fidget with electrical hook-ups some more. I walked toward school bus #24, pondered his catchy phrase, "what goes around comes around" -- wished it were true. O Linh, I feel very bad for what Taylor Borough did to Paulo. If the latter old saying turns out to be at least 50-50 correct, the real robbers and outlaws of this country stand a chance to enter an unforeseen check point, and topple under weight of their decadent excess.
Thursday, June 4, 2015
- Linh Dinh
- Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of a non-fiction book, Postcards from the End of America (2017), two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), six of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007), Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009) and A Mere Rica (2017), and a novel, Love Like Hate (2010). I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). My writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.