A Year In New York

A Daily Bite of the Big Apple

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Day 39: Fear of the Truck Monster

August 4th · 1 Comment

Sometimes on the curb, when the light turns green and the white “WALK” guy appears, I hesitate and watch for the trucks. I guess I don’t entirely trust them.

When I say “truck” I don’t mean a Toyota Tacoma or a Ford Explorer but the big trucks, the 10,000-pound beasts that haul freight, gravel or regular unleaded. They are everywhere and are hurrying to make the light. The brakes squeal and the gleaming chrome bumper comes to a jerky, shuddering stop somewhere in the vicinity of the crosswalk.

Try to imagine, just for a moment, the avenues of New York as a big petting zoo. There are flocks of eager, canary-yellow taxis, an almanac of Corollas and Mercedes, and giant, inoffensive transit buses snuffling along like Great Danes. Then there are the trucks.

They are another animal altogether, like someone released a pack of rhinos into the children’s area and went off for a long lunch.

Don’t get me wrong – I like rhinos, and I like the trucks, for the obvious reason that they’re cool. Eighteen wheels and mudflaps and worn, dented steel are cool. They are just out of their element. In California the tractor-trailer’s native habitat is the freeway and the rest stop, and when they’re in the city they hang out in back, at the cargo-loading area.

New York has no cargo area in the back; often there’s no cargo area in the front. A truck parks, or double-parks, in front of the Food Emporium or a Rite-Aid, and the driver unloads pallet after pallet of Calistoga bottled water, dodging around women and their dogs.

I did a Google search on “Manhattan truck accidents” and most of the first 50 listings were for personal-injury law firms. For years the city has tried to figure out some way for these behemoths to stop scaring the elderly and tearing up the asphalt, but so far to no avail. There’s no getting around it.

If you want a gallon of milk or a serving of monkfish or a tin of Altoids in a city this crowded, the truck is your friend. One day we might beam our cargo, or suck it through a pneumatic tube, but until then, from my fifth-floor apartment I will hear trucks furiously downshifting at the yellow light. I wait for the explosion of glass, crumpled metal, woman’s scream. Haven’t heard it. Not yet.

Tags: East Coast v. West Coast · Sights & Scenes · Urban Survival

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Bev // Aug 5, 2008 at 2:22 am

    Please tell us that your windows are open when you hear this! A brand new apt. should have better glass than that. On the other hand, if you are constantly hearing such noise, we won’t have to envy you living there, having ALLLLLL these neat experiences, as much. Every cloud has a silver lining.

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