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Backing Up Well

To wrap her paintings for shipment to galleries my wife ordered a monster roll of bubble wrap that was so wide and heavy it could not be sent by UPS. 
It came by motor freight from Los Angeles. 
It was delivered way out here at Pack Creek by a tractor/trailer truck – the big kind you commonly see on the highway. 
And the driver brought his rig up our driveway – how and why I cannot say. 
But here he was.

With no room to turn around, he had to back down to the highway. 
If it had been me, at that point I would have quit my job, abandoned the truck, and hitch-hiked to town or called a taxi. 
He’ll never make it, I thought, imagining the truck overturned in the ditch, having wiped out half the trees along the way. 
Backing up is hard enough, but with a trailer – a big trailer? 
Down my driveway? 
No way.

He never paused between saying “Sign here,” and climbing confidently back into the cab of his truck. 
And as slick as an experienced seamstress threading a needle, he calmly and slowly-but-surely backed his rig around and down the driveway. 
With me walking along watching in awestruck amazement.

I gave him a standing ovation, but he didn’t see or hear it – he was long gone – all in a day’s work if you know what you’re doing and know that backing up well is part of being competent in your profession.

Backing up well is also a life skill. 
In all personal endeavors as well as driving.

I don’t mean turning around and returning the way you came. 
I mean backing up to parallel park or to get out of the garage.

I don’t mean withdrawing in defeat when you’ve no choice. 
I mean backing up when that skill is required so that you may continue.

As in poker, knowing when to fold and wait for the next hand is part of the affirmative strategy of a strong player who wants to stay in the game.

As in personal relationships when you’ve gone too far, and you don’t give up or turn away, but step back while still staying in touch.

Being able to reverse course with grace is a useful talent. 
Backing up well is having a strong plan B in your repertoire.

Backing up should not be a desperate move, but a strategic tool. 
But it takes practice.

So this morning I backed down my driveway twice for no other reason than to see if I could do it well. And I could.

- Robert Fulghum, 5/27/11