2008.05.29 Pilot Man encounter

Written by David Green.


I don’t mind keeping to myself. I lived alone for years before I was married. I’ve traveled alone many times. I’ve even read books all by myself.

So when I went to the Vreba-Hoff Dairy public hearing Thursday night, it didn’t bother me at all to quietly sit by myself.

When I first took a seat in the bleachers, a couple minutes passed before I noticed I was sitting just a few feet away from a dairy owner I’ve known for years. I don’t just know him, I even went to his 50th birthday party.

Oh great, I thought, now people are going to think I’m sitting and siding with the dairy owners. “No wonder he hasn’t written about any of the on-going controversy for a long time; he’s friends with them.”

And then I saw a rather vocal dairy critic walking my way. I’ve known him for years, too, due to his business. Oh, no, he’s going to sit next to me. I sat next to him at another hearing once and was probably immediately branded as “one of them.”

He also sat two rows in front, but to the left side. I guess I was safely in the middle.

Before long, I decided I was going to get a backache taking notes for an hour or two in the gymnasium bleachers, so I went up to the top row to rest against the wall and sat alone.

That’s the working man aloneness—separate from the crowd to appear neutral to both sides, which probably neither side believes.

On the social side, I’m just generally not the outgoing type. I don’t walk up to a stranger and start a conversation just for the sake of starting a conversation. I suppose that’s why I was so surprised when Pilot Car man shouted out, “Am I late for lunch?”

Colleen and I were driving south to Berea College for Rosanna’s graduation and we stopped for what might be described as a picnic at a rest stop on I-75. I think it was the stop just before the Big Jesus Coming Out of the Ground, as you may recall if you’ve driven to Dayton.

I had already made some wise-guy comments to Colleen about the man with the green shirt and green shorts walking a  little animal on a leash (“Is that a dog or one of those Mexican sewer rats you hear about?”)

And suddenly there he was talking to us from the next picnic table down the way.

We had such a weird lunch—fetid cheese and romaine lettuce in pita bread—that I didn’t even want him to come over and look at what we were eating.

Colleen packed, and she currently has deep affection for feta cheese cubes mixed with olive oil and....I really don’t know what else. Lemon juice, maybe? I’ve never been much of a feta cheese fan, but I was hungry and the sandwich was OK.

It wasn’t long before our visitor and his little companion were over in our area to talk about things.

How long will it take to get to Lexington? Are we still in Ohio? He seemed a little confused for a pilot car driver.

At some point in the conversation, he had pointed over to his vehicle—the one with the lights on top—and mentioned something about a pilot car.  I knew just what he was talking about.

A few weeks ago, I studied up on pilot cars before calling someone in the Fayette area about writing a story.

Pilot cars are those vehicles that travel ahead of and behind the big oversized loads on the road. I think it would have made a very interesting story, but the Fayette guy wanted no part of it. I’ll have to find another pilot in the area.

My I-75 pilot car man would have made for a fascinating story. In the few minutes we spoke, I learned that he and his wife had been accompanying a large office on wheels used by an oil company.

They were returning to Texas and he hoped to pick up another truck to guide on his way home.

At one point he bent down and grabbed his little rat dog and told us that Amber has been in a movie. She made $300 a day, which is better than Pilot Car Man did as an extra. He served as a customer in a bar for only $200 a day.

Between the traffic noise and fetid feta ingestion, I couldn’t follow all the details. There was something about an actor named George who also sings and Pilot Man never got the autograph he was promised. Someday he’ll find George on stage and he’ll get his promise fulfilled.

The moral of this story is obvious. Watch your back, but don’t be so shy; there are Pilot Men to encounter and odd stories to hear.

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