There is a surprisingly clear view from Mars

Last week I had a visitor from the MTA (Martian Trucking Assn.). He tethered his triples to the top of the utility pole at the corner of our office parking lot and just strolled in, small and green as you please. After helping himself to coffee and flipping through some back issues of the magazine, he wrapped his sticky little appendages around my wingback chair and (finally) got down to business.

"Mars is ready to enter the intergalactic trucking business," he confided in a wheezy whistling voice. "Mind if I ask you some questions about trucking on Earth?"

"Shoot," I said, wishing at once that I'd chosen a less-aggressive verb.

"We are trying to establish a payment system for our drivers. After careful study, we have deduced that your drivers must make vast sums of your currency, since they work so hard and are often away from home for so long," he said. "Just exactly how much does it take to persuade them to make this sacrifice for the good of all your citizens? One Martian Geewhiz is equal to $4.85 American dollars, or at least it was when I left home this morning," he offered as I reached for my calculator."

"Great question," I said. "So, what's next on your list?"

"We wonder about highways," he said referring to his notebook. "How does this so-called system work? Our researchers report that most adult humans get into their individual transporters at least twice a day, drive them to designated Interstates, and sit in long lines. Does not this slow down the transport of goods in your trucks? Why would people do this? Is it a punishment? Do you not have group transporters for people?"

"Sure, we have a few," I snipped, a little defensively. "But we prefer to sit parked in our individual transporters at least twice a day." He laughed so hard that my Starbuck's coffee came out his long green nose. "Wait 'til they hear this at the MTA," he wheezed.

My annoyance must have been showing because he offered a compliment to try and smooth things over. "Well, at least your efforts to pump all the black oil out of the ground and vaporize it into the atmosphere for purposes of global warming are coming along nicely," he said. "We are most impressed that even busy truckers try to make a contribution to this initiative by voluntarily idling their engines for hours at a time, often at great personal expense. Before you know it, Earth could be almost as brown and airless as Mars."

"Don't get your hopes up there," I answered. "We are not at all interested in becoming just like Mars, although we do hope to visit your planet one day. I'm sure it is a very nice planet."

"It's home," he sniffed. "Now please tell me the secret of trucking success on Earth. Why does it work so well in spite of all your problems? It's because you have organized most of your trucks into feats, isn't it?"

"Fleets," I corrected, wondering if he could appreciate his Freudian slip if I tried to explain.

"We like to call them feats," he insisted. "According to my Martian-Earth dictionary, a feat is a great accomplishment,a remarkable achievement. We have no feats yet on Mars, but one day we hope to have many feats, bringing goods of all kinds to our citizens - making their lives better every day. Is that not a feat of which to be proud?"

"You've got a point," I agreed. "Operating a successful trucking company is a remarkable accomplishment. I guess it's sometimes easier for an outsider to see things. Would you like more coffee before you head home? We have so much to discuss."