Every truck has its individual sound, whether moving along the pavement or at idle. Like a birdwatcher identifying various species by their song, I’ve no need to look out the window to know what teamster-borne commerce is flowing through my neighborhood. Each vehicle has its own voice expressed by its engine, brakes, doors, backup alarm and other elements.
When the produce or dairy delivery trucks double park in front of LaSalle Market, my local deli and convenience store, I can hear the low hum of the refrigeration unit. I know the beer truck delivering to The Fireplace Café by the distinctive machine-gun chatter of its Jake brake. A local contactor buddy of mine announces himself by the clank and rattle of the aluminum ladders roped to the roof of his van. The garbage truck emits a deep throated roar on its weekly rounds.
Beyond recognizing their sound, I find the noise each truck makes also stirs certain emotions and thoughts in me. The distinctive “put-put” of the mail truck, or the clang of the big brown UPS van’s sliding door fills me with anticipation of a special package. The high pitched whine of the ambulance siren is an ersatz cavalry bugle call, and I fear for my neighbors while simultaneously feeling relief that help is on the way. The same goes for the deep, animal-like thunder of Collinsville Engine 3’s air horn clearing traffic so the apparatus can hurry to a fire or other emergency. A pumping fuel oil tanker has a particular rising and falling rhythmic idle which reassures me no one will freeze in a winter blast, but also causes anxiety about my bank account.
I’ve listened to trucks a lot longer than I realized at first. As a child I had a large fleet of steel Tonka toys—pickups, bulldozers, dump trucks and payloaders—with which I moved soil and constructed mini cities in my backyard. As early as four years old, I repeated what I heard and gave voice to these Lilliputian vehicles as I moved them over rocks, through dirt piles, and past tufts of grass. I no longer make such sounds, but the low vibrations, bold rumbles, and metallic clangor still resonate with the sound of home.