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July 12, 2011

Stay Safe POPH Drivers

POSH – a word that for more than a century has been used to describe upper-crust members of British society – is according to that somewhat doubtful reference Wikipedia, a backronym. A bacronym, says Wikipedia, is a word that’s wrongly assumed to be an acronym with the associated reference a manufactured phrase. In the case of POSH, it’s widely accepted to be the acronym for Port Out, Starboard Home.

The reason that it’s applied to the wealthier members of British society is that in the days of the British Raj – the period between 1858 and 1957 when British colonial interests governed the Indian sub-continent – the wealthier travelers to and from the colony would select the side of the ship their cabins would occupy. In the days before air conditioning, it was a good idea to choose a cabin on the shaded side of the ship, hence port out or a northern-facing cabin and starboard home, again on the northern side of the ship.

Unfortunately, unless you’re driving a Unimog, where you can slide the whole driving module from one side to the other, such luxuries are not afforded to the truck driver, who is on the port side no matter what direction the truck is traveling.

I became very much aware of this when driving Denver to Los Angeles recently in a car with no air conditioning. Keeping the driver’s window down, enough air circulated to keep the car cool, but at the end of two days I had suffered significant tanning of my left arm. Apart from sloughing skin like a left-handed snake, no damage was done.

Ah. But is that really true?

Research from the St. Louis University Medical School shows that 53% of skin cancers are to the left side of the body. Researchers believe that prolonged exposure to sun while driving may be the cause. If that’s the case, truck drivers are significantly more at risk than other members of the driving population since they have so much more exposure.

The Skin Cancer Foundation has some things to say about this as you might suspect. Advice from them includes putting an ultraviolet-light absorbing film on the window. And believe it or not there are films that have the Skin Cancer Foundation seal of approval.

Of course, that only helps if you have the window tight shut. But one of the joys of driving a truck is the freedom to enjoy the balmy breezes of spring and the fresh air of fall blowing in through the open window. In the old days, you could enjoy the rap off the top of the straight stacks too, and after a lifetime of listening to a 318 Detroit, becoming a little deaf in the left ear to go with that left-side skin cancer. But that’s one of life’s pleasures that’s been legislated away, what with diesel particulate filters and such.

So a goodly supply of sunscreen is in order. The Foundation recommends one with an SPF of at least 15, and renewing it every couple of hours.

Also, the wearing of sunglasses to protect eyes and eyelids is recommended, I suppose for those times when the lowering sun slants in through the side glass. I guess those wraparound glasses so long favored by Smokey would be the most effective ...

Nowhere in this am I calling for any sort of rulemaking, legislation or other official nannying that has become so much a part of our lives. Drivers can choose for themselves what they should do.

Me, I think that tanned left arm is a manly thing. And there are plenty of other things that can get you before your time – like riding a motorcycle, free-falling from an airplane or climbing a mountain. And long may we be preserved from interfering lawmakers who would seek to make those pleasures and pastimes off-limits.

But you POPH drivers‒you know, port out, port home‒might just want to be on the alert.

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