Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Long Thin Dawn

The title of today's post is a reference to an early Gordon Lightfoot song by that name, in which the narrator sings of catching a ride with a long-haul trucker through the night and experiencing "that long thin dawn" over the plains.

I had to admit that I did some hitchhiking, in college, although the very thought of it makes me cringe now.  Things seemed safer pre-1970, and seemed to take an ugly turn after that. In any case, you don't see people "hitching" any more, and that's probably a good thing.

I was thinking about Lightfoot's song last week when I was filling my car's tank, and one of those big gas tankers was at the station, filling the underground tanks with hoses that were easily six to eight inches in diameter.  The driver was watching them carefully, and when I caught his eye, said hello. I said hello back and went over and asked him how many gallons he carried on his truck.

"About 9200," he answered. If gas weighs what water weighs, that's 73,600 pounds or about 36 or so tons of gas.

"That's a lot of weight pushing on you when you go to stop," I observed.

He allowed as how improved braking and steering systems made the big rigs easier to handle than in the past.  "Actually, an empty tanker can be a bigger problem."

"Why is that?" I asked.

"Well, if you have an explosion with a full tank, there's a big fireball and everything is destroyed. If an empty tank blows up, it throws pieces of metal all over. It's much deadlier." He stopped for a moment and said wryly, "Either way, I'd be the first to know."

I asked him what his biggest problem was driving and he said drivers of cars who follow too closely or cut in front of him suddenly. "I can't stop this thing on a dime," he said.

I said goodbye, got into my car and drove off, thinking that none of us would get very far without people willing to do difficult, dangerous jobs like deliver gas.


  1. Which is something to consider when WE are on the road and are tempted to pass one of these guys without a lot of room to spare...I used to give out a factor-label problem when I was teaching that asked students to calculate what mph meant in terms of feet per second. Something to think about: if you are driving at 30 mph, you are moving 44 ft per sec. We all drive faster than that, but I'll bet we don't leave 4 car lengths between us and the car in front...

  2. Very cool, Mary! Thanks! You could make a lesson out of almost anything. What a gift you have!