An Answered Prayer?

This is going to be windy, since alot goes into this story, so please bear with me. Let me share one occurrence that happened to me during my most recent trip out on the road.

I had delivered a load of freight into Southern California, east of Los Angeles. My next load involved a couple pickups south of LA headed for Western Pennsylvania. Via satellite, along with all the information such as address of shippers, I received what is called a "fuel solution". This is a computer program's recommendation, after it decides my probable route, on where I should find the cheapest fuel enroute.

This computer program leaves alot to be desired, but from experience I have come to treat its recommendations as being partially valid. If I had access to all the information it does, I could beat it with a little common sense thrown in, but I do not have access to all the data it bases its recommendations on. You see, one benefit of being associated with the company I am contracted with is that I enjoy discounts on the posted price. I almost always get a discount off the price they sell to the general public, problem is I never know ahead of time how deep the discount will be. I only find out days later when I am charged for the fuel. This discount averages somewhere around 8 to 10 cents a gallon, but has run as deep as 38 cents per gallon from my personal experience. The computer knows the discount, I do not, so I rely on the computer.

However the computer is not perfect. It seems to rely on the "average" fuel mileage for big trucks. I enjoy routine fuel economy that beats this "average" by about 20%. The load I was picking up was also extremely light weighing in at just 15,000 lbs, so my normally only "great" fuel mileage was probably going to be "fantastic".

Anyway, the computer recommended I fuel up with 50 gallons of diesel in Hesperia, CA which should be enough fuel to get my to Kingman Arizona where the fuel would be cheaper. I thought this much fuel was excessive, but I planned on putting at least 20, perhaps 30, gallons on in Hesperia. When I pulled into the truck stop in Hesperia, the fuel islands where jammed up and backed up. Due to this reason, and a few others, I decided to fuel in the morning and found myself a parking spot to camp out for the night.

I did not set my alarm clock. Whenever possible, I sleep until I naturally wake up as from experience I find this helps keep me from getting groggy during the long stretches of boring road I deal with every day. Problem is I slept long past the time I thought I would. I had figured on waking up at around 07:00 or 08:00 East Coast time (04:00 or 05:00 Pacific) and I woke up at 10:30 AM. Perhaps I had particularly tired from fighting the Southern California traffic the entire previous day, but whatever was the reason I was already behind my schedule. I quickly got down to business, did up my logbook and put my truck into gear.

As I straightened my rig out on the entrance ramp to the freeway, I remembered I forgot to fuel before I left! My mind started racing. Turn back? What the heck, I could go against the computer and fuel in Barstow. Probably wouldn't be but about a penny difference in the price. But what about going for broke? Did I have enough fuel to make it to Kingman without additional fuel?

I need to go into my history briefly here. When I first started trucking, and bought my own truck, I was extremely price conscious of fuel prices. I didn't enjoy a computer making recommendations to me and I did not enjoy the advantage of discounts off the posted price. I tried to stretch my 200 gallons of fuel to the maximum to get from one cheap fuel location to the next. Once, I stretched the margin so far that my truck started spitting and sputtering as I hit the exit ramp to get fuel. My engine quit, starved for fuel, as I approached the fuel island. Lucky for me there was an empty fuel island and I was able to coast to a stop ready to put on fuel. I was giving myself ulcers in order to save a few dollars.

Back to Hesperia, CA. I decided to go for it. What the heck, I was pretty certain I could make it to the Arizona state line where I could always take on fuel in Lake Havasau if need be. Certainly Lake Havasau would be cheaper then Barstow. But I was going to keep a steady eye on the fuel gauge and try to make Kingman!

As I headed out across the Mojave Desert I noted, from the brush along side the road, that the winds were still. Last thing I needed was a headwind to cut into my fuel mileage. However the day was still early and the sun was not yet high enough to stir things up. From the weather eggheads I had learned that the sun was responsible for the winds. As the sun rises, it heats up the air at the surface. The amount of heat is influenced by the amount of cloud cover. With no cloud cover the surface temperature of the air is warmed and this warmed air rises creating a low pressure area on the surface. Where areas of cloud cover exist, high altitude air cools and tends to sink to the surface, creating surface high pressure areas. On the surface, air tries to rush from these high pressure areas to the low pressure areas resulting in the winds we experience. I was not experiencing any winds, but the day was still young.

As the day wore on and I approached Needles I got into a discussion with some other truckers on the CB about fuel mileage. The conversation on fuel mileage got started on a long downhill stretch of highway west of Needles. We noted how the California state troopers liked to sit at the bottom of the hill and catch truckers who were letting gravity increase our fuel mileage. I had just completed noting in the conversation how headwinds tore my fuel mileage up, and how I seemed to get more then my fair share of headwinds, when I again checked the brush along side the road for evidence of winds. From the brush, I noted that once again I seemed to have a headwind. Damn the luck!

Let me clue you in to my discussions on the CB with my fellow truckers. I had discussed how it always seemed to me that if a wind is blowing, for me it is a headwind. With routine chance, I should experience a tail wind as often as a head wind. From my perception, I almost always seem to get the headwind. I even recounted to my fellow truckers how once I fought a headwind all across Nebraska and Wyoming and delivered in Salt Lake City. Picking up a load in Salt Lake City headed east, I expected to enjoy a tailwind. But the winds had shifted. I fought a headwind all the way back. Truth is I probably do get the tailwind as often as I get the headwind, but I enjoy complaining about my "bad luck"!

As I passed the California Agricultural Inspection Station (located on the westbound side) near Needles I noted they had a standard size American flag fluttering from a flagpole. While it is hard to interpret wind direction from brush, there was no doubting the flag. It was fluttering directly at me indicating that once again I had a stiff headwind. On the CB I broadcast, "Yup, once again I have my headwind, my apologies to you guys that are headed east with me."

Silently I said a prayer to God. It went something like "Lord, I really do not need a headwind right now. I'm trying to make it to Kingman. It sure would help me if the winds died down, or if I only faced a crosswind (which also hurts fuel mileage, just not as much) . I know this would probably be too much to ask, but a tailwind would be great."

A few miles later, I approached the Arizona Port of Entry. I was given the bypass while still on the highway (I didn't have to enter the scales). As I passed I noted they too flew an American flag. This time the flag indicated a crosswind from my right. To myself I chuckled and prayed again. "Lord, I do not want to seem ungrateful. This crosswind is nice, but if I am going to make it to Kingman without stressing out, a tailwind sure would help."

A few miles later I came to the Lake Havasau fuel stop and I noted my fuel gauge. It was going to be tight, but I judged, absent the headwind, I could make it to Kingman. I pushed on.

Not too long later, from the brush alongside the road, I noted the winds had shifted. I seemed to have a tailwind. Cresting a hill I spied a business flying a standard size American flag. The flag was fluttering directly away from me. I had a tailwind. Shortly after I came across a wind sock that the highway department puts up to warn travelers about crosswinds. I was amazed that it too seemed to indicate I had a tailwind that blew from directly behind me.

Could this be "Providence"? Perhaps God took pity on me and did not want to see me run out of fuel alongside the road? I am not real familiar with this stretch of interstate, I certainly do not know it like the back of my hand (like other areas), but I have traveled it several times. Seeking a "rational" explanation I questioned "Providence". After all, just because a farmer prays for rain and it rains does not mean his prayers were answered, it might have rained anyway, right?

I remembered that the Interstate 40 heads north shortly after the Arizona line towards Kingman. I glanced at my highway almanac. Sure enough, "eastbound" Interstate 40 dips south right at Needles. So if a south wind was blowing I would have a headwind. As the freeway approaches the Arizona line it turns east. As I passed the Arizona Port of Entry, if a southerly wind was blowing I would have had a crosswind. 10 or 15 miles later, the highway turns to the north towards Kingman, so if a southerly wind was blowing I would have had a tailwind.

Eureka! A rational explanation.

Only one problem. About the time I came upon my Eureka moment I again scanned the brush alongside the road. Once again the brush seemed to indicate I was headed into a headwind and I had not changed direction. It was as if God was saying to me "You ungrateful little shit. You ask me for a favor, I grant it, and instead of being grateful and saying Thank You, you try to rationalize it away. Explain this one then." Being stubborn, I doubted my eyes. After all, wind direction from brush can be deceiving.

Several miles later, as I crested a hill, I spied another American flag fluttering. This time it was one of the immense ones that some business flew from a large flagpole. It was fluttering directly at me. Silently I thought "OK God, I get the point. I am sorry." As I approached, and then passed this large fluttering flag, I watched as the flag slowly rotated to where I had a crosswind, and yes, even once again my tailwind. As if God was saying "I forgive you. Here is your tailwind back, as long as you know where it came from."

I made it to Kingman with fuel to spare. After I fueled and continued on I noted that the winds for the rest of the evening seemed to come from the south. But I was pleased to notice that the next day, after the sun had risen high enough and the winds started up again, I enjoyed a tailwind as if God was providing me with an exclamation point to the previous day's lesson.

I do not credit/blame God for everything. For example, I have spent nearly $2,000 already this year trying to get my truck's A/C working and once again I had to return home early to get it worked on. But from my experience, God can make his presence known in ways that any reasonable/rational human being can not deny.

God might control the winds, but I still have to depend on a mechanic to get my A/C working. Grin.


Blogger Michael said...

Let me remind you:

Brother Consolmagno argued that the Christian God was a supernatural one, a belief that had led the clergy in the past to become involved in science to seek natural reasons for phenomena such as thunder and lightning, which had been previously attributed to vengeful gods... Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism - it's turning God into a nature god.


Natural phenomena. Co-incidence.

Michael Tam

6/23/2006 09:48:00 PM  
Blogger Little David said...

Yes, it might be only coicidence, but a rather amazing coincidence wouldn't you agree?

And if amazing coincidences then keep happening?

Let's say you win the lottery, where the chances of winning are 650 million to 1 that your number will come up. Tremendous good fortune, nothing more right? But then you enter the lottery again, and again your number comes up. You enter a third time and again your number comes up.

Now my first instinct would be to think that you were somehow cheating. But if you yourself know there is nothing underhanded afoot, how many times will you have to win before you accept that something you do not completely understand is affecting the results?

6/24/2006 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Umm, so a change in the weather than just happened to be helpful has a chance of 1 in 650 million? Or even anything even close to that?

And so no, I don't considering it particularly amazing. I would even categorise it as somewhat mundane.


Choose any random number between 1 and a billion.

Got it?

Wow, there was only a one in a billionth of a chance that you would have chosen that, a minor miracle!

What is wrong there?

A priori.

Michael Tam

6/24/2006 09:22:00 PM  
Blogger Little David said...

But what are the chances that the winds would shift by 180 degrees for a marked period of time right after I had my Eureka moment? Not just a brief gust of wind, but for a signifigant, sustained period of time? And then to shift back by another 180 degrees right after I made my apology to God for not being grateful?

Your example of me picking a number between 1 and 1 billion and then pointing to some brilliant conclusion I should draw is rather simplistic and self serving. A rather pitiful analogy in my opinion. I am rather disappointed in you.

While I do not equate the example I gave as a "sign from God", only perhaps a little providence or a simple prayer answered, I have enjoyed receiving more powerful instances that I do equate with being a "sign from God".

I won't go into them. I can not prove anything in any case. My claims would be met with skepticism while you (and other reasonable people) just thought to yourself "Yeah, right." In any case I am certain my "Signs from God" were only provided to me in private to prove to me alone that God exists. If the intent was for me to engage in public evangelism, the circumstances would have been different. If I was to start preaching about what happened I would only start sounding like the many insincere preachers I have witnessed.

I am not alone to have asked for a "sign from God" that he exists. One very catchy, popular, musical hit only about a year ago that enjoyed much airtime included this plea "Give me a sign to let me know you're here." Well I asked for my sign and I was granted it. Not satisfied with one, still skeptical, I asked for (demanded?) another, and another, and another, and... Each time what I would accept as being a sign became more and more rediculous. It got to the point where I became bored with asking for signs. But I am starting to sound like an insincere preacher after all, ain't I?

Let me just say that even though I "know" God exists, I can not prove it to you. If you need a sign, you are going to have to ask for one yourself. God may or may not grant you your sign. I can not venture an opinion as to whether or not this would happen. All I can witness to is that he provided me with a few.

One conclusion I have come to is that there is nothing "so special" about me, for me to receive signs, and for others to not receive them. I know many others have asked, and not received them. I have no explanation for why this is so. There is nothing "holy" about me. If I am honest with myself, I am a pretty wretched example of a human being.

Yeah, if I am honest with myself, I will also lay claim to a few virtuous qualities. But there is not enough about me to equate I am deserved of "special attention" from God. I will not go into my shortcomings. If you want to get an earful of them, you only have to enter into a conversation with my wife - grin.

6/25/2006 10:50:00 AM  

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