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Washington Voices

Doing right can be a tough road

Sat., April 30, 2011

It’s a rare spring day in which it’s not raining/snowing/sleeting/ hailing/blowing/thundering, and I’m driving on Interstate 90 from the Valley to an appointment downtown, enjoying the sun and light traffic. Then suddenly in the rearview mirror I see a semitrucker tailgating me so closely that I can practically count the compound eyes of the bugs on his radiator. Freaked, I change lanes, and the driver whooshes by me to dog another car who also changes lanes, and then another, with barely a car length between.

Now I’m not one who feels compelled to make sure society lives up to my personal expectations. Nor do I feel like I should deal with every public annoyance, like loogie-hawkers who lean out their windows and spray my car, or obnoxious young males who practically send me sprawling as they shove by. I put up with rude behavior all the time because we live in a rude society, and even tepid complaints from me will likely encourage hostility and – as sad experience has demonstrated – possibly scary retribution.

I don’t go looking for reasons to be angry, or spout off much when I am. Why, I’m practically as mild-mannered as Clark Kent.

But this truck driver is a public menace and has me steaming. Why is the highway patrol never around when I see stuff like this?

I memorize the company name – Acme Widgets – emblazoned on the back of his truck, and the license plate, as I follow him all the way to the Division Street exit, where I get off and quickly scribble the information down at the red light. Although I’ve never done anything like this, I’m going to contact his company and nail his sorry hide.

Once home, I look up Acme Widgets online and send a polite email detailing the trucker’s actions. Within a half hour, “Jennifer” writes back, sympathizing with my experience, and telling me that I’ve mistakenly contacted Acme Widgets Inc. in Louisiana. I’m probably looking for the Acme Widgets Co. in Seattle, she says, explaining that people often confuse the two. Jennifer has gone the extra mile and looked up the other company for me, informing me that the one in Seattle has changed its name to United Widgets Ltd., so she’s not sure of the outcome.

I look up United Widgets Ltd. and phone them. Its transportation manager tells me that when United Widgets bought Acme Widgets Co. three years ago, the company sold all of its trucks. My tailgating trucker could work for a Spokane company or be an independent. He suggests I report the incident to the Washington State Patrol.

OK. I’m trying to be a good citizen here and do a public service. I didn’t expect to take half the afternoon to file a simple complaint. Our cat wants attention and instead, I’m up to my eyeballs in widgets.

Onward and upward, however – that driver is seriously dangerous. I call the WSP, and the officer takes down the truck information but informs me that it’s best to call at the time of the incident so they can nab him. Uh-huh. You know who would have ended up being pulled over for a ticket, don’t you? Yup. Me. For using a cellphone while driving.

I guess I can say that I’ve tried to do the right thing, and in the process exchanged friendly emails and weather reports with Jennifer in Louisiana, whose kindness knew no company or state boundaries. The Internet superhighway is amazing, even if the Interstate hosts a terrifying trucker right out of “Duel.”

All in all, though, it’s not easy to be a concerned citizen these days. So keep an eye on your rearview mirror, OK?

You can reach Deborah Chan at

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