Originally published in the newspaper, Hill Rag, August 201o.

Recently, while on a hajj to Potomac Yards, I made a great personal discovery. As with most great personal discoveries I wasn’t expecting it when it struck.

I was zipping along the interstate, weaving deftly between choking buses, indecisive taxis and disoriented tourists, when a mammoth dump truck rumbled past, boldly merged in front of me, and captured the dominant fast lane position.

The bulldogs on his mud flaps practically barked at me as he cruised along without a heavy load to drag him down. I could tell because his axel was riding high and the truck itself was spotlessly clean. I suspected a fresh detail job.

Angling for a better look, I pulled into the adjacent lane and increased my speed. For a beat I drove in the machine’s shadow and absorbed its beauty: its cab, the brightest of blues, two tall pristinely polished smoke stacks framing its sleek body, the gleaming chrome accents reflecting the golden afternoon light, like bright work on a yacht.

“That,” I said out loud, “is a sweet dump truck.”

I sped up alongside the cab. With my window open I waved. The driver didn’t see me. I waved again, adding a friendly “MEEP” from my polite little Mazda horn, and he turned.

“Wave,” I said over my shoulder to The Boy, “wave to the driver!”

Disregarding the driver’s confused look, I indicated for him to pull the air horn, which he did. A peppy double yank, two long base notes that vibrated in the air:


“What d’ya say,” I asked The Boy, “should we get the guys at Distad’s to install an air horn in our car?”

I turned to check on my normally truck-obsessed, gear-head son in the back seat, who was being oddly quiet.

Because he wasn’t there.  It was a babysitter day.


Quick as an Andretti I sliced across three lanes of traffic and disappeared down the DCA exit ramp before the truck driver could share any hand gestures of his own.  Once in the clear, I pulled over and called The Husband.

“You’ve developed a problem,” he chided, “Next you’re going to tell me you’ve signed up for tractor trailer school.”

“Don’t laugh,” I told him, ”that was my dream when I was seven.”

Back then I was inspired by TV’s BJ McKay (and his best friend, Bear) but now I have The Boy to thank for my revived automotive infatuation. He has awoken my dormant gearhead.

It all began last spring when our fair city replaced the water pipes on our street. Our entire block was ripped up, creating the kind of parking competition one usually associates with Manhattan. But amidst the chaos, one little resident fell in love.

One fine, loud, dusty morning I carried The Boy out of the house and into the fray of workmen and their trusty trucks and tools. His jaw dropped open. He was mesmerized. We immediately bagged the park and instead parked it on the front stoop. Thirty minutes passed and The Boy’s interest did not wane. He was transfixed.

After the water main job was finished we started cruising random construction sites. We’d skulk around the perimeter, hugging the safety tape. We’d cheer for a pour of the cement mixer or a mighty scoop from the excavator, but construction was merely a window drug.

Next up: emergency vehicles. We began visiting the firehouse with the same regularity caffeine addicts hit Starbucks. We gave a whole new meaning to the term “ambulance chasers.”

Soon after, we began our bi-weekly engagements with the ravenous waste removal truck. “Trash guys!” The Boy screeches upon hearing them approach, like Ed McMahon is at our door with a check. He rushes outside, his recycled recycling truck clutched under his arm, just in time to flap and yell at our amused Trash Guys. They wave and salute him with their horn, politely trying not to stare at the braless lady in the doorway with the crazy hair.

While we worship at the alter of the holy truck trinity – mighty dump truck, powerful digger and shrieking fire engine – it’s the stupor-inducing specialty vehicles, the unicorns of heavy machinery, that inspire our greatest reverence. Self-sufficient dump trucks with diggers mounted on their hoods, giant car carriers filled with shiny new pick-up trucks on their way to fill other gearheads’ hearts with joy.  But our greatest encounter to date was with a gorgeous, enormous, glossy red monster tow truck with clean lines and golden decal work, spectacular in its own right, but what made it breathtaking was the ease with which it was hauling a gigantic down-on-its-luck ladder truck.

In unison The Boy and I gasped, awed by this vision of metallic magnificence. Never before had I even considered how one towed a broken down fire truck, but now I know, and I feel fuller for knowing it.

As parents it’s our job to expose our children to this great big world and all its tricks and trimmings.  Still, from time to time, there are those astonishing moments when your child is able to show you something you’ve missed. They see the magical in the mundane, and if you pay attention you’ll find yourself sharing in a common passion for something you never gave a thought to before.

Someday The Boy will get over his truck fetish. I’m bracing myself for the day he no longer cares to share his interests with his dorky, cloying mother. “Cool band,” I’ll say to him, all casual, “Who are they?” He’ll roll his eyes and make a clicking noise with his teeth. “Mom, please,” The Boy will say as he closes the bedroom door between us and plugs in his earphones. I will recoil and return to…

Well, we’ll just hope I have interests of my own by then.