When I think of truck drivers, I tend to think of guys like that hooked-hand dude from Adventures in Babysitting. Remember him?
Handsome John Pruitt, that was his name. Oh those truckers and their irony! Half of the truckers in the world are also nicknamed "Tiny" when--in fact--they're actually really big!
But anyway, I think there are certain truckers who possess superhuman abilities. And those truckers are the ones who drive around in Manhattan.
I suppose if you're in Texas or Wyoming or some other place with--wait, what do you call it? Oh yeah, space. If you're someplace with space, it must not be that astounding to see a trucker make a right turn or back up a few yards without committing manslaughter.
But in Manhattan, the streets are so narrow and packed with cars, pedestrians, bikers, and those idiots who pedal you around in those stupid whatchamacallits, I often stare in amazement at a trucker pulling off what anywhere else would be a fairly simple endeavor.
For example, I was just outside of my office on the east side of 6th Avenue (and fuck everyone who actually refers to it as the "Avenue of the Americas"), and there was this giant 18-wheeler standing out one lane over from the curb with his right blinker on. (Also, in the window was this little chihuahua staring out; again, the irony! Trucker with a chihuahua! Call Alanis!). This truck was literally half as long as the entire stretch of curb from 39th Street to 40th Street, and since there was a FedEx van parked a little further than halfway up the street, I slowly came to realize that this truck was about to try to parallel park into the "spot" behind the van. Now here's where it gets interesting.
This was at about 6 P.M. on a Monday. In the middle of midtown. The amount of evening-rush traffic would seem to negate even the remotest possibility of success here. Think about it: Not only does the trucker have to handle all the traffic to his left going up 6th Ave. at this hour, he needs to back up across 39th Street, then move forward to get into the spot. But behind him are all the people walking across 6th Ave. He's fucked either way: If he waits for a red light at 39th so that the traffic going up 6th stops and he has the room to begin, then all the pedestrians start crossing behind him and he won't be able to back up before pulling in.
I know that large trucks such as this one make that beep-beep-beep-beep-beep noise when they back up to alert those behind them, "Hey I can't see you, so I hope you're not back there for the next few seconds!" But come on, that's not gonna stop a bunch of stressed-out, iPod-wearing, need-to-get-to-happy-hour-NOW New Yorkers at the peak of rush-hour insanity.
But this trucker, as I said before, was superhuman. Just after the 39th Street red light began, he pulled forward and to his left, creating an angle from which to begin backing up. As he did this, he came about an inch away from ramming an SUV stopped at the 40th Street light. Then, lightning fast, he threw it in reverse and starting moving. Back, back, back--holy shit, he's gonna run over all those bastards crossing the street behind him! Nope. Calm as a canary (?), he stopped. And not a split second after his full stop, one of the aforementioned iPod-wearing guys came walking out from behind the truck. It had missed him by about a foot, and he didn't even seem to notice. This lady who was standing next to me let out a little shriek before yelling, "Do you know what almost just happened to you?" iPod-wearing dickbag didn't notice her either.
Then, just as the last person was finished crossing and the light was switching to allow traffic up 6th to resume--I have no idea how he could be certain enough to begin again--he continues his backward march, fully crossing 39th Street, hooking the wheel as he barely misses the FedEx van and stops. All the traffic going up 6th has been flowing as smoothly as it would had this giant vehicle not been there at all.
He puts it back in drive and gently pulls up to about two feet behind the FedEx van, the back of the trailer a good three to four feet in front of the corner at 39th.
I have friends who claim to be excellent parallel parkers, but I've never seen a performance like this. I really don't know how they do it every day. Do you know anyone who's ever been hit by truck in New York? I never hear any stories like that.
I can only think of one other trucker I know who would be capable of this: