by Stephen Wayne Hampton Sr.

After twenty four years and two (plus) million miles*, I have developed a very severe
case of road rage. I hate the road! I despise the road! The road has become a demonic
entity, seeking to destroy me, a phantasmal apparition haunting me daily, pervading
every aspect of my life, waiting for me to make one little mistake. But, the road is also
my living, it is my life's blood, my passion and my profession.

One more year! That is all I need, one more year, then they will put my name in the
paper. "Twenty five years of safe, and professional, driving experience." Twenty five
years among the best of the best. Then, if I want, I could quit the road. But how could I?
After nearly half a century of intimacy (began driving farm tractors and trucks in early
1960's) knowing the road as I know myself, better than I know my wife - or anything
else - how could I just leave it?

"That will be easy." You are probably thinking, "Just park your truck, get out and go
home." "Quit!" And that will be the end of that.

But I wonder, just how long will that endless panorama of constant change, those vital
arteries of mankind's machines, the endless days and nights of roaring engines and
whining wheels and flashing lights, those countless sunrises and sunsets in perpetual
motion between the distant horizons where all the hopes and fears and dreams, the
goodness and the ugliness, the old and the new, the wealth and the poverty, all the living
and the dying of modern humanity on constant display, in an endless reality play for all
who travel there to see; Yes I wonder, just how long those highways will stay in my
heart, and my soul, and my mind - perhaps forever - perhaps beyond forever.

I drive a tractor-trailer rig for United Parcel Service of America in the southeastern
United States. Over the years I have seen a lot of senseless, unnecessary death on the
highways; and that is what I wanted to talk to you about. In fact I want to scare you -
literally scare you. Not to paralyze you with fear, but hopefully, to give you a healthy
fear of a very real danger.

You have probably seen those crosses and wreaths along the highways where you drive.
Each and every one represent a loss of life. Untimely, tragic and violent death - all too
many times - simply because someone fell asleep behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
At high speeds on modern highways, in comfortable, state of the art vehicles, there is a
certain listlessness, a hypnotic, trance-like state of sleepiness that is virtually impossible
to overcome - if you keep on driving.

Among many of us UPS drivers we refer to that trance-like state as the "Z" monster.
We laugh and joke about him, make up tall-tales about him - but, beneath the humor, we
know he is deathly serious. We know for a fact that old "Z" is an equal opportunity
killer. He will take out your friends, neighbors, fellow workers, and family members. He
will take out the highly trained, seasoned professional, as well as the inexperienced
driver. "Z" does not care who you are, how good you think you are, or how long you
have been driving - actually, the longer the better, as far as he is concerned, given
enough time, he will eventually get you. Give him just a few seconds (as you are flying
along approximately one hundred feet per second) and he will take you out - along with
any innocents who happen to be in the way -including those babies in their car seats.

I do not want that to happen. I do not want to see any more crosses, or wreaths, beside
the highways because someone was ride'n with monster "Z" and did not do the right
thing. When old "Z" gets in to ride with you, you have to stop. You must get yourself,
and your vehicle, safely off the highway and take a break. There is no other way to beat
him. If you keep on ride'n with "Z" and fight'n with "Z" you are going to loose. Give
him half a chance, and "Z" will kill you!

In case you are still not convinced, listen to this grim tale from my own experiences, and
the experiences of other professional drivers, as we do (at times) find ourselves ride'n
with monster "Z".

There are strange things done, on those long night runs
By the men and women who ride the road
I have heard strange tales, and I could tell you some
That would make your blood run cold

The big-rig lights, have seen weird sights
But the weirdest mine ever did see
Was a ghostly goblin, up round Warner Robins
A monster they call the "Z"

Well he's big and mean, with a hellish sheen
And his mouth is a blackish maw
His sickly breath, is whispering death
That will make your skin start to crawl

He will follow you, five hundred and two
Long and weary, dreary miles
And if you nod your head, you could wake up dead
Another victim of his ghoulish wiles

He's an apparition, of a changeling condition
In a voice soft and sweet he'll whisper
"Every thing's all right, go to sleep. I'll drive"
BAM! A terrible crash with twisting, mangling steel
And busting, bloody glass!
He'll rip out your guts! Tear off your skin!
Smash your flesh like Clay!  And squeeze! Out! Your! Blood!

From Jacksonville, thru the Piedmont hills
And then back home again
He's on the side, where death abides
(and you will give him a ride)
He'll wait for you to commit, just one little sin!

When your eyes grow heavy, all red and scratchy
Sometimes your whole body gets numb
You'll scream, and shake, and sing, and slap your own face
(anything it takes to stay awake)
And you'll wonder!? How far have I already come!?

Because you won't remember, crossing Suwannee river
The Georgia line or the Florida scales
You are in a trance, with his deathly dance
Ride'n twenty tons of cold, cruel, bone-crushing steel!
(not to mention rock-hard plastic, grating glass, and
razor-sharp, jagged aluminum)

(then you'll think)
"I'll be all right, if I could just see the morning light"
But friend, if you don't stop that truck, you are going to die!
(or you'll wish you were dead! With your hamburger flesh
and your busted up watermelon head!)

And latter on, toward the dawn
As you drag in that gate, just a little bit late
As you pick up that phone, thank the Lord above
That you survived, that you made it home

Then you can be brave, you can look at old "Z" and say
"Get the hell out of my truck!"
But "Z" replies, "All right, kiss the kids and the wife,
Oh. By the way, we'll see you again, tonight!"

That makes you angry, really tics you off! So you say,
"Listen to me "Z"! In nine or ten years
I'll - I'll have some seniority, I'll - I'll get me a day time run
Then I won't have to put up, with your sorry butt!

But old "Z" he just chuckles, "HA. HA. HA.
That's real nice. I am glad for you
Then you get to meet my brother
My big, bad, brother, the SANDMAN!
If I don't get ya in nine or ten

There are strange things done, on those long night runs
By the men and women who ride the road
I have heard strange tales, and I could tell you some
That would make your blood run cold

The big-rig lights, have seen weird sights
But the weirdest mine ever did see
Was a ghostly goblin, up round Warner Robins
A monster they call the "Z"

There is something more that you should know about the "Z" monster; he is not only
mean as a snake, he is also sneaky and slippery as a snake. He will be ride'n with you
before you even realize he is there.

After you have been driving for a while, you will get tired, everyone does. One of the
first indications of trouble is that you begin to stare at things - that is bad! very bad!
When you are driving, you must keep your eyes moving! You must be aware of
everything going on around your vehicle! You must be prepared for anything, and
everything! Expecting the unexpected is the only way to stay out of trouble, the only
way to stay alive on modem, high speed highways. You can not do it if you can not keep
your eyes moving! You must be alert to anticipate danger! You must constantly,
continuously be looking for trouble! Believe me, trouble is out there, if you do not see it
coming, it can be deadly!

If you find yourself hugging the steering wheel, staring at the white line, at other
vehicles, staring at anything, old "Z" is going to jump on you big time! Remember, he
only needs a few seconds to ruin your day, to ruin your life! He only needs a few seconds
to kill you!
Once again, at the first sign of fatigue, find a safe place to stop. Do not drive again until
you have rested.

Thanks for reading.

*I now have over thirty years and three million miles of driving experience -Z is still out
sunshinedixieland.com 2015