Advocate

Caroline Taylor | August 01, 2011

Breaking the Mold

In her book, CB Lingo: My Life in a Big Rig, Marilyn Cochrane Hoffman describes busting through driver stereotypes

“Mrs. C” was pretty much your ordinary truck driver, with one notable exception: She doesn’t fit the image of a long-distance trucker who has 20 years of driving experience.

And that’s what 70-year-old Marilyn Cochrane Hoffman aims to portray in her book CB Lingo: My Life in a Big Rig, where she discusses her experiences on the road.

“The whole time that I was driving, I wanted to explain to people that not all truck drivers are like the people in the industry that the media focuses on,” Hoffman says.

Marilyn Cochrane Hoffman

 The book includes cartoons, dialogue between drivers on the CB radio, CB terminology, a quiz and safety information aimed at adolescents. She says the book focuses on the “CB lingo” because it is the language that holds the business together on the road.

“The CB radio showed an entirely different world of how we talk to one another,” Hoffman says. “Sentences and words have to be shortened because you only have a few minutes to talk before you lose connection.”

The book explains comical but essential on-the-road terms that have been tweaked to save time: “city kitty” means local police car, “on your donkey” refers to a driver coming up close on your backside and “safety award” means speeding ticket.

But, most of all, Hoffman wants to remind others that truck drivers are “mothers, daughters, sisters; fathers, sons, and brothers.”

“I could ask a stranger on the street what they thought my profession was,” Hoffman says. “Never in a million years would they expect me to say that I was a truck driver.”

She says the key for women to succeed in the industry in the 1980s was to remain professional, even when men didn’t appreciate their roles.

“You have to look at it as just another business,” Hoffman says. “You are the business person and you are running the show.”

In 1983, Hoffman switched from the medical field to trucking and began hauling cross-country for Mid-Western Distribution in her 1983 Freightliner cabover.

“Back in the ’80s, there were very few women driving,” Hoffman says. “Once the men could see that you were in there, loading and unloading your own trailer, driving the maximum hours per week, they started to accept you.”

Before she retired from U.S. Xpress 2003, Hoffman drove more than 1.5 million accident-free miles, became a captain for America’s Road Team in 1999, Truckload Carriers Association Company Driver of the Year finalist in 1996 and winner in 2000, a panelist for the National Transportation and Safety Board, and a spokeswoman for the American trucking industry.

Published in 2007, her book can be purchased at major bookstores, online or for iPad, Kindle and Nook devices.



A ‘Trucking Pulp Fiction’

’Mother Bear’ ends successful run on Chicago stage

It’s a modern-day Western, but instead of riding horses, the cowboys drive big rigs.

“Mother Bear” is a comedic thriller that follows the lives of a gang of truck drivers, the Disciples, from southern Utah who have been suspected of hijacking trucks, murder and selling contraband.

Chicago’s Mortar Theatre Company produced the two-hour play, which ran from May 26 to June 19 at Chicago-based Athenaeum Theatre, and critics continue to hail “Mother Bear” as a trucking-themed pulp fiction for the stage.

Playwright Jayme McGhan and director Jason Boat hash out a gritty, “pedal-to-the-floor” rendition of a truckers union lawyer in a bygone era who disguises himself as a long-haul trucker to recruit Mother Bear, the leader of the Disciples, to join the union and strengthen the transportation industry.

McGhan and Boat set the play largely at the fictional Coyote Pass Truck Stop, for Disciples only, and where the brotherhood engage in wild-wild-west-style debauchery.

In an interview with BehindTheFringe.com, McGhan says the idea for the play came after his U-Haul broke down in Green River, Utah. During his 12-hour wait, McGhan sat at a truck stop and listened to the stories the truck drivers told each other.

“I began to get the sense that these guys are really modified cowboys at heart,” McGhan said. “Wild sojourners traveling the conduits of America.”

From penning ideas on a napkin to its production two years later, McGhan says, thematically, the play is about his inner wrestling with his faith-based attraction to pacifism.

With diner shelves stocked full of Penthouse magazines and Jesus candles, Boat says that his goal was to give the production an air of authenticity. “All of the production elements are quite realistic, from the beautifully designed set to the freshly-cooked-omelet combat,” Boat says.

As far as reviews go, Boat says the audience shouldn’t expect a dull evening.

“’Mother Bear’ will have you laughing, gasping and maybe even covering your eyes,” he says.

To find out more about “Mother Bear” and potential restagings, check in with Mortar at mortar­theatrecompany.com.

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