You know what’s crazy? I’ll tell you what’s crazy.
Being the most hated man on FACEBOOK.
We are on I-65 North heading to North Nashville. We are working a story about a 70 year old woman who met a con man on a senior’s dating site and was influenced into picking up stolen cell phones bought with fraudulent personal information.
As we merge onto I-40 West, known as the inner loop, we encounter a sea of brake lights.
We slow, and pull to the shoulder, just before the over-pass.
“What the f….”
I’m staring at a truck wedged into the bridge overpass. 2/3 of the highway is choked off, as motorists, who have come to a screeching halt, begin to merge single file to the left, driving on the shoulder.
I stare at this colossal mistake. It’s a bright yellow Caterpillar Dump truck on the back of a wide load trailer. The dump truck is twice, maybe three times the size of a normal dump truck.
The massive machine is wedged into the underside of the bridge. It has choked off the sunlight, turning the overpass into a dimly lit cave. As I walk past the bright yellow truck, with the sound of a thousand cars on the interstate above me, I marvel at the truck tires, easily as tall as a man. There are chunks of freshly displaced concrete littering the road.
I gaze at the underside of I-40 where the top of the dump truck has become part of the bridge infrastructure. It’s dark, but I can see a definitive outline where the canary yellow truck has violently collided with the main metal beam that supports the massive bridge. I quickly deduce that the truck was going highway speed, and then metal and concrete merged in a hot molten mess, the truck wedging itself into the bridge, stopping like a bullet, rapidly decelerating inside the barrel of a gun.
I point my camera at the surreal scene and click. I look at my screen. Wow, I think to myself. The truck has torn through the metal bridge beam like a big metal toe that has ripped through a worn boot.
I quickly begin taking pictures of the disaster and posting them to FACEBOOK.
I alert the station to check my page and begin sending out traffic warnings to motorists.
“This is going to shut down the interstate all day,” my trusty photog hollers to me, spraying video of the super truck wreck before us.
He’s right. I look around and realize this is perhaps the busiest stretch of highway circling just inside of downtown Nashville. I see the exit sign for Demonbreun ahead. I see the Adventure Science Center behind me.
OMG. This is bad, I say to myself.
Not only is rush hour approaching, but tonight is game one of the Nashville Predators versus the Winnipeg Jets. Saturday is the Music City Marathon.
I quickly recognize this scene is fresh. There is no police presence, no TDOT trucks marking the location.
The Wide Load drivers are out, inspecting the wreck. Meanwhile motorists slowly inch bythe colossal mistake wedged into the bridge like a nail banged half way into a 2 x 4.
I look at the mutton chops inspecting the truck and trailer. They have as much chance of unsticking this wreck as they do calculating the sum of three angles of an isosceles triangle.
They are hapless mopes who are suddenly naked and exposed to every motorist now severely inconvenienced.
I walk up to one of the men, surveying the damage. The dump truck has shifted awkwardly, almost at a 45 degree angle pointing upward into the bottom of the bridge.
“What happened?, I shout.
It’s a sentence I utter almost every day of my reporting life.
WHAT HAPPENED?: it’s like the universal journalistic hello.
I am not aggressive or judgmental.
I simply ask a question I ask every single day.
The man at the trailer yells to me, “The bridge is too low.”
I thought I heard him say the bridge is too low. Surely that’s not what he said.
I inch closer.
“What?,” I shout over the roar of engines and city noise.
He turns to me and says again, “The bridge is too low.”
In my head, I’m wondering if he really means this.
THE BRIDGE IS TOO LOW means that he did nothing wrong.
THE BRIDGE IS TOO LOW means the overpass has somehow shifted over time to make passage for a wide load such as this impossible.
In that nano second of conversation, I wonder how this driver made it through the other over-passes, and got caught under this one.
Maybe he’s right.
maybe THE BRIDGE IS TOO LOW.
Then I innocently ask.
“Maybe your truck istoo tall.”
I don’t mean it as anything more than a qualifier to the possibility that either the massive structure of this overpass has shifted over time and is too low, or this guy is driving a truck that is not regulation and he made the driving mistake of his life.
THE TRUCK IS TOO HIGH?
The driver looks at me and walks away.
“I mean you did make it through other bridges,” I say trying to re-engage him.
He wants nothing more of me and walks under the trailer to the other side of the rig. I watch as he and his partner continue to re-inspect the trailer and the dump truck.
This dump truck is wedged into the bottom of the bridge tighter than a cork in a champagne bottle. This CDL reject has as much chance of fixing this mess as a janitor at NASA has of calculating re-entry telemetry for the space shuttle.
Whatever. I tried to talk to the man. He declined. I don’t care either way. Nobody is dead. It’s a traffic snarl. I’ve done thousands of interviews, long and short. This one ranks one step above ho-hum and just short of so what.
We lucked into this massive mess and as video journalists were practically ordained to stop and shoot 10 minutes of video. And we have. And we have warned the station and everyone who follows me on FACEBOOK.
WARNING: find another way into town. BRIDGE IS TOO LOW. TRUCK IS TOO HIGH. Either way, good luck motorists, and don’t forget to tip your bartenders and waitresses on your way home.
I’m done, with this story. As far as I’m concerned, I still have to get the reaction of the woman who has been stealing cell phones off people’s door steps.
We are the first to arrive on the scene and we are the 1st to leave. All before the first police car arrives.
Then a funny thing happens.
My post on FACEBOOK begins to percolate. One share becomes a thousand. It is replicating across the globe faster than political sleaze in a Washington D.C. swamp. It is spreading like ebola vapor sneezed out of an angry monkey ass, inhaling Russian Pepper Sauce.
Suddenly, I’m an asshole. I’m degrading. I’m a liberal media douche bag.
I look at the posts coming in rapid fire and wonder what the hell is going on?
All I did was go to a wreck? I’ve been to more wrecks in my career than most people have been to the grocery store.
A wreck to me with no injuries is about as eventful as a cleanup on aisle 3.
So F**king what?
But this moment is going sideways, like a bad wreck in turn 4 at Talladega.
I look at the pictures I posted. Big monster truck wedged into bridge. Pretty self explanatory, I think to myself. Are the pictures too complicated for the internet to understand?
Did the simple essence of my interview with the Catepillar Rocket Scientist not get through to the people in Peoria, Portland and Liverpool?
“If I was that truck driver, you’d be picking yourself up off the concrete,” One message reads.
Threats of violence toward me begin to surge. My phone is chirping with each direct message of rancorous venom.
Suddenly, I am the bad guy. Kill the messenger.
I sense a global witch hunt where uninformed villagers grab pitch forks and head into the night prepared to burn something.
Apparently my 10 second interview with the driver about the bridge being too low and me responding that perhaps his truck is too high has become some sort of Frankenstein monster.
I am accused of being demeaning and all things pejorative.
YOU HATE TRUCKERS!
I am a smart ass, and suddenly trying to win fame and fortune from this so what bridge calamity. One person accuses me of trying to win an EMMY.
And the EMMY for best truck stuck under an overpass goes to….
Get real internet. Are you really that stupid?
HOW CAN YOU LIVE WITH YOURSELF?
YOU ARE GODLESS.
YOU HAVE NO SOUL.
Did I ask a truck driver what happened or did I rape a farm animal?
Hey internet? Can anyone read or think or not subscribe to group hate speak?
And so many threats of violence.
The messages are coming through faster than I can count.
It’s like grains of space dust pounding a Geiger counter on the side of Sky Lab.
F bombs and over the top rhetoric spit across my FACEBOOK page like a car wash of phlegm.
I begin trying to block some of the angry miscreants who have access to a computer, a smart phone and half a brain.
It’s like trying to hold back the ocean with a sanitary napkin.
I normally don’t care about FACEBOOK, but this insane ride is making me a little bit nervous.
“You’re a super star,” the internet lady screams across the newsroom.
I look at her quizzically.
“Have you seen how viral your post has gone?”
I don’t find comfort in the words.
For a semi-public figure, I don’t mind my anonymity.
“And people are so hateful,” she adds with a diminished smile.
I’m suppose to be writing and editing my story about the senior citizen who stole 30 cell phones for internet con artists.
Instead, I find myself constantly checking my FACEBOOK messenger.
I’ve become a magnet for all the angst the internet’s swirling toilet surge can muster.
It’s as if all the truckers of the world have put up a bat signal in the clouds and rallied support for the idiot who didn’t have the proper paperwork or permission to drive in downtown Nashville. More on that in a minute.
But facts and reality don’t matter. That horse has left that barn. This is an unchecked wild fire burning through a methane plant and the brilliant blaze of a billion stinky farts is unmistakable and unstoppable.
According to the gurgle of swamp gas firing through my internet machine, I hate truckers, and couldn’t do their job. The internet seems pretty consolidated on the fact that I should break down on the interstate and get no help for a long time.
ASSHOLE. DOUCHE BAG. FAKE NEWS DICK LICKER.
I am amazed how rapidly this roller coaster has gone off the tracks.
I spent 10 minutes at this accident scene. I spoke to a truck driver for 15 seconds.
And suddenly my hate meter is a tilt-a-whirl in some child molesting funhouse smoking crack.
At one point, I see a message from someone in England.
He is using words for trucking and shipping that are not immediately recognizable to me in the English hate lexicon of the spew factory known as the internet.
At approximately 3pm, some 3 hours after the collision with the bridge that is too low, OR truck that is too high; answers materialize.
The THP come out and say the driver is at fault. The THP says the driver had neither proper permits or permission to drive this rig on this route.
TDOT says the bridge is perfect, and the truck driver is at fault, and he admits he made the mistake. TDOT says the truck driver only had permits to move this wide load on roads some 40 miles from Nashville, far from these bridge overpasses. For some unexplained reason, the wanna be rocket scientist was driving under bridges that he had no business driving under.
Was he headed to a Lower Broad Honky Tonk?
Was it Deja Vu fellas?
The driver who thought the bridge was too low will be charged with multiple counts of driving while stupid.
Yet, for the rest of time, etched indelibly into the fiery fabric of the internet, I am the Godless, soulless douche bag who doesn’t deserve to live, or at least to drive on the interstates of this great nation.
I post the full interview of the THP and the TDOT Commissioner on my FACEBOOK page as a source of pure information. I am hopeful it will help assuage the run-a-way anger that is permeating this seemingly simple story.
In the past, when I’ve had a large influx of negativity about a story, I’ve just maintained the ship and paddled forward and posted more stories, hoping that the top of the page moves to the bottom of the page, and then out of sight from the main page, and hopefully into stories that are old and forgotten.
But this story is different. The brother hood of truckers is keeping the rancor alive. The wide load driver can’t be at fault, so let’s condemn the messenger who asked him what happened and then pointed out that his truck might be too high.
My boss hears the THP interview and yells, “your interview with the truck driver is even more relevant!”
“Have you seen all the hate spewing forth on my site?” I ask.
He smiles, pushing his glasses back on his nose. “If you had video of truckers pouring gasoline on a basket of kittens and lighting a match, you’d still be the bad guy,” he says.
I laugh at the intense imagery. But he’s right. There’s a brotherhood of truckers, and they will stick together and fight the big bad media man who obviously is spewing fake news on his little tiny market 27 FACEBOOK PAGE.
It’s amusing and sad all at once.
It’s amusing because of the gang mentality that spews forth. It’s amusing because of the obvious images of wrong doing that are dismissed. I’m the bad guy, when the truck driver who broke every driving rule in the book has literally affected hundreds of thousands of people and cost the state millions in overtime that will be paid while insurance companies figure out how to settle.
It’s sad because people can be so quick to judge, so quick to foam at the mouth like dogs that licked their own hind quarters then French kissed their mothers.
It’s sad because they said I jumped to judge the situation when all I did was post pictures of warning to my community. All I did was ask a simple question of a driver; What happened?”
It’s sad because once again, it proves that the unfiltered, untethered, unhinged ability of anyone with a colon to get on line to voice any thought at any time about anything, is neither productive nor good.
That guilty truck driver could have told me anything. He could have told me no comment, or a squirrel jumped out in the road or whatever. Instead he said something really really dumb.
My job is to document the reality of the situation.
Close to a million views later, I am the dog crap on the shoe of society.
I thought about removing the post. Then I thought to myself, why? I did my job. I was neither biased or emotional.
F*** the internet. The internet can kiss my ass.
That’s the way it goes in news. Kill the messenger. Call him Fake News. Be quick to call him a douche bag who should die.
Hey truck driver.
After careful consideration of the facts; I think your rig was too high.