Gilligan's Fuel Island
The One Hour Cruise. . .
On the evening of December 9, 1997, I set out to fuel my truck, grab some dinner and call home at the Flying J Truckstop in Resaca, Georgia.
Simple and quick. Or so I thought. This website is dedicated to telling the true story of the unexpected, life altering events of that evening and the on going ramifications..
For the full details of what happened that night, see my letter to the Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association (click here).
For now, just let me summarize the facts: I pulled into the Resaca Flying J on the evening of December 9th to fuel and get some dinner. I fueled, I pulled off the fuel island to make room for the next truck, went inside, waited in a long line to pay for my fuel, tried to call home while I was waiting and was finally able to pay my $183.42 fuel bill.
I went back to my truck and began circling the truck parking lot trying to find a parking space so I could go eat dinner. After two or three passes through the lot and finding no spaces, I pulled my truck into an area off to the side of the fuel island, in between two other trucks. It was marked No Parking, but our trucks were not blocking the fuel island or the driveway and I only intended to be there long enough to eat dinner, so I took the space.
Inside, I had just gotten my dinner ordered and was about to try calling home again when they began paging for the drivers of the trucks parked in the No Parking area. I went to the desk, cordless restaurant phone still in hand, and explained that I had just ordered my dinner and would only be there long enough to eat.
Well, the "lady" at the counter just blasted me in this really snotty tone of voice, saying "You move your truck now, truck driver. We have a tow truck here now and if you don't we will tow the motherfucker."
Well, needless to say, I don't like being talked to like that when I had been neither rude nor threatening. I had just asked if I could eat my dinner. Yes, I had parked in a no-parking zone, but my rig was not blocking the fuel islands nor the driveway. At a minimum, I expected to be treated like a paying customer who had just bought almost $200 worth of fuel and was in the process of trying to buy a dinner, not some pus-dripping sleazebag loitering aimlessly on their property.
I started back towards the restaurant to put the phone back and saying as I went that I was leaving and if anyone so much as touched my truck, I would sue them. My voice was loud enough for her to hear me as I walked away from her, but the only threat I made was to sue them if they touched my truck.
I returned the cordless phone to the restaurant and headed for the door when it occurred to me to get this woman's name and have a talk with management about their style of customer service.
So, on my way to the door, I stopped and asked this woman for her name. She pointed to her nametag and in the same snotty, sarcastic tone of voice said: "Here it is, truck driver. Can you read?"
At that I said that I could read just fine, and I said " it says T-A-M-M-Y.....spells BITCH". And at that I went on towards the door with this woman just a screaming at me to "leave now " or she was gonna call the cops and me saying "no problem" I was leaving.
That is exactly what I did. I walked out the door, past a male employee talking to someone on what looked like a two-way radio, asking for help, who then followed me outside. As I headed for my truck I turned and told him I was leaving and he could just go on back inside. But about a quarter of a way across the parking lot, he had been joined by three other employees who commenced pushing at me from behind and saying things like "You can fucking leave now, driver" and "Get the fuck outta here now".
This continued all the way to where the trucks were parked, with them pushing and yelling at me to "get the fuck" out of there and me saying I was leaving as I continued to do just that. . At one point I asked why they were following me and they said "they were going to gett the name of my company off my truck, so they could call and get me fired." I told them they couldn't get me fired, as I owned my own company.
As we got closer to the parked trucks and it was apparent that I was going to have to walk in the darkened area between the trailers and I started yelling at them to "get your fucking hands off of me", hoping to attract some attention to the situation.
And fortunately, there are at least two eyewitnesses. Unfortunately, it did not prevent the employees from jumping me when they had me alone in between the trailers where they broke my pager, my glasses and my right arm in two places at the elbow.
The gory details of their assault are in the letter to OOIDA. Sometime during their assault on me, someone had called the police. When the Sheriff's Deputies arrived they were told by the employees, one of whom identified himself as the manager, that they that I had created a disturbance and refused to leave and they had detained me for them.
My assailants let me up off the ground at the insistence of the Sheriffs' Deputy and the Deputy started to cuff me, I told him that my right arm was broken. He stepped back and shined his flashlight on me, noting the black eye and bruises, he asked who hit me. I pointed out Ruben Cody as the man that had hit me three times in the face. The officer asked Ruben Cody why he did that and one of the other men (NOT the manager) spoke up and said "because he hit me".
At that, the deputy shined his flashlight on this man and seeing no bruises or marks on him asked him, "Where?" and adding, "You don't look hurt to me." Ruben Cody then said "well, he is drunk". To which the Deputy stated that he did not smell alcohol on my breath and I did not appear drunk. The Deputy then escorted me to the cruiser told some of the other employees milling about to get some ice for my arm and black eye, and they said "NO" (can you believe that?) It was only after the Deputy ORDERED them to bring me some ice that they did, and then he took my statement. They also interviewed the two witnesses and the Flying J employees.
Escape From the Island
The Sheriff's Deputies who arrived on the scene called an ambulance that transported me to the Gordon County Hospital. The physical damage included a black eye, a right arm broken in two places at the elbow and various bruises.
The arm could not be casted due to the swelling. A splint was applied with instructions to see my doctor as soon as I got home. I had called home while waiting to see the doctor and my fiancée was already trying to locate someone to fly down and get the load delivered and bring me and the rig home.
Meanwhile, the Deputies took me to the Gordon County Jail where they had called in a Detective to interview me and the Flying J employees. I called home again from the Sheriff's Office and learned that my fiancée had managed to locate a driver. Chattanooga, TN was the closest airport and the next available flight left first thing in the morning, which would put him in Chattanooga by the next afternoon.
We discussed the options and saw no way to get the relief driver down to Resaca. Furthermore, we felt that my staying anywhere in the immediate area was probably not safe.
Given that the four macho men sitting in the jail cell had been so proud of their actions, we surmised that they were somewhat surprised to find themselves in jail. The prospect of them or their friends coming after me seemed a good possibility and spending the night parked across the street from the Flying J or anywhere nearby was seemed a bad idea.
And so, when the deputy dropped me off at my truck, I made my way to Chattanooga as best I could.
Initially, the broken arm kept me off the road for six weeks. By then, I had to get back out there as the situation had created a severe financial drain on the household and our company.
My arm, however, continued to bother me. Despite physical therapy I never have regained a full range of motion. From time to time I had and still have, numbness in the tips of my fingers and pain running up and down my arm from the palm of my hand to my elbow. Driving for more than a couple hours, lifting much weight or any kind of strenuous activity increases the pain. There are times when it hurts at night, making it difficult to sleep.
One of the most irritating results of the assault is that after enjoying almost 18 years of bow hunting in Michigan I find I can no longer draw my bow and may never be able to go bow hunting again.
It has also effected the type of hauling I am able to do. Pulling a reefer, as I was at that time, often required unloading services. Prior to the broken arm, I had usually had a choice of either unloading it myself or hiring a lumper. Now, when we could least afford it, hiring a lumper became our only option.
Eventually, we terminated that lease to try another type of hauling that did not entail loading and unloading. A brief return to expedited freight, however, served as a good reminder of why we had left that type of hauling early in the start of our business. We tried yet another company before finally arriving at our present carrier.
By April of 1998, my General Practitioner referred me to an orthopedic surgeon to try and figure out why the symptoms persisted. Since that time my orthopedic doctor believes they have ruled out bony particles or "loose bodies" as a factor, although the CAT scan does not tell them whether or nor there are cartilaginous loose bodies. It did show the beginnings of bone spurs.
He says an arthroscopy would be necessary to determine if there were cartilaginous loose bodies in there and provide them the opportunity to remove them and perform a chondroplaety if needed, but he also warned me that it could very well be that this surgery would not allow me a complete recovery of the elbow.
He also recommended I see a 'Physiatrist'__a physical medicine doctor, to assess the possibility of nerve damage. I saw that doctor last November. He finds that there is evidence of permanent damage to the nerve that runs through the elbow to the hand associated with the injury and that my symptoms are not the result of carpal tunnel syndrome.