Monday, January 20, 2014

Where Am I?

Fog. Another winter driving hazard with which I’m all too familiar. Usually, when people encounter fog, either they run out of it in a few minutes, or they are not going that far so it doesn’t last long enough to affect them. Me, I’ve driven for twelve hours straight in fog so dense I could barely see the signs on the road. As a fellow driver put it one day, “I’m sitting out on the edge of the hood and I still can’t see where I’m going.”

Sure, I’d much rather have the fog than ice or snow, but it is still rather frustrating and nerve-racking, especially when spatial disorientation kicks in. For those who may not know the term, spatial disorientation is defined as the loss of a sense of direction, position, or relationship with one’s surroundings. The phrase usually refers to pilots but can also be produced in other situations such as through blindfolding or, by fog.

Pilots who suffer spatial disorientation lose the ability to determine the direction they are flying or their altitude. Despite their instruments providing them this information, they are lost - flying blind because they simply don’t believe the instruments. For truck drivers, this translates to believing you are traveling uphill when you’re really going downhill or vice-versa.

It’s quite a remarkable phenomenon actually, when your brain begins to override what you know to be true. And, it can be fun! Sort of.

The first time it happened to me, I found myself arguing with the speedometer. I knew I was climbing the mountain yet from all indications outside it appeared I was headed downhill. Then I started thinking something was wrong with my truck - I had to keep downshifting and was still losing speed. Now, all of this is perfectly normal when going uphill and still, I was convinced I was going down a steep grade. Keep in mind that even in the heaviest fog, I can still see mile markers and other roadside landmarks as I go by. I’d driven this road every day for years and knew every bump and curve. I knew exactly when to shift and the speed I should be going at each point on the road so I should’ve been able to determine exactly where I was. Yet, I could not.

Since that first time, I’ve learned to recognize when this starts happening - and try to not let it affect me. Just the other night, I was finishing up my run - in the worst fog I’ve experienced in a while. I couldn’t see where to turn but since this is my sixteenth year of driving for the same place, I knew precisely where it was by the contour of the highway. Still, it takes a little nerve to turn a loaded semi off the road into a vast nothingness. But just because the road can’t be seen doesn’t mean it isn’t there!

Feeling pretty proud of myself, I parked the semi, grabbed my stuff, and walked toward my pickup. Or, at least that’s what I intended to do. It took only a minute to discover that I was headed the wrong direction and was nowhere near my pickup. But which direction should I go?

Obviously, I did find it - eventually - and even made it home. But clearly, spatial disorientation is still alive and well! And still fun. Sort of.

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Bruce A. Borders is the author of more than a dozen books. Inside Room 913, Over My Dead Body, The Journey, Miscarriage Of Justice, and other titles, are available as ebooks on Apple I-Pad®, Amazon Kindle®, Barnes & Noble Nook® and Sony Reader®, Kobo, Diesel Books, and Smashwords. His books are also available in paperback at most online retailers or at The popular Wynn Garrett Series Books are now available on Barnes And Noble® at Bruce also serves as the Vice President of Rave Reviews Book Club

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