Former owner-operator’s new trucking memoir nails the on-highway experience
Marc Mayfield didn’t set out to write a book when, after a lot of college — “some of it was wasted time,” he says — and several less-than-successful, half-hearted career choices, he jumped into a job choice he’d entertained as a possibility.
“I really enjoyed driving big trucks,” he says, which is evident in the long-haul portrait — warts and all — in his new memoir In the Driver’s Seat: Interstate Trucking — A Journey. The book is a portrait of long-haul life unparalleled in its honest intensity.
In 1990s trucking, the then-happily married 45-year-old Californian found his mistress, taking a company driver’s job with one of the rising stars of the trucking world, called “Linehaul Trucking” in the book. He bucks the trend in soaring driver turnover to remain with the fleet through thick and thin, his “dispatcher buster” of a tape recorder getting hard use time and again, for a decade. From driver orientation to achieving a million miles, he finds a near-perfect fit in the work.
Told in a muscular, viscerally impressionistic style (with plenty of humor to boot), the book’s quick scenes of over-the-road initiation pile up over years running Florida to Washington state, New York to Arizona. As his love for trucking grows, the job brings insights into Mayfield’s own character in the thrill of process, flux, solitary time. “The past was in motion,” he writes. “I thought of it as psychological warfare, and I had time for the fight, all the time I’d ever need. I just had to drive a truck and be myself — as soon as I found out who that was.”
But after he comes close, it’s clear he’s “not paying attention” to something else of vital importance. The book shines light on a central paradox of many a long-haul life. “We love driving, we love being out on the road, but at the same time we’d like to be with our families,” Mayfield says. The hard fact of it is, In the Driver’s Seat ultimately suggests, “you can’t do both at the same time,” he adds.
He’s been at work on the book — and getting it published — since he formally retired in early 2001, 10 years and more than a million miles behind him. His goal: to get the trucking experience from the driver’s perspective on the page so that the world can see the job for what it is, not the “tired trucker” portrayed in the mainstream media.
“Other than [Bryan Di Salvatore’s Truck Stop] book, there’s nothing I felt that I’d found that was written by drivers that really brought the whole thing out there in front of me, three-dimensional and in full color. I was hoping to really write something that would be taken seriously by the industry and by regulators, law enforcement folks, academics, and I also wanted to touch educated, general readers.”
And mostly he wants to hear from you, he says. “I’d like to know if somebody wants to punch me in the nose and tell me I’m full of bull or that I nailed it. I’d love to hear from drivers.”
His email address is on the book’s back cover.
From Chapter 1 of In the Driver’s Seat,
by Marc Mayfield
Most of the truck drivers I met out there were intelligent, hardworking men and women, some with formal educations far beyond high school, many with the common sense no college degree ever conferred. Everyday people. The usual assortment of human and political persuasions. Rednecks. Liberals. Rush Limbaugh devotees. Some were openly gay and some were probably lesbians.
Straight or not, a woman in the driver’s seat scared some guys and they gave it up on the CB.
“Ain’t you got a husband to do the work?”
“Why don’t you get back in the bedroom, where you belong?”…
Crap, all of it. Trucking takes all kinds and if you stay out here long enough, you’ll meet them. Drivers who talk to themselves in parking lots. Hyper-social types who can’t shut up in restaurants and truckers’ lounges. Quiet, self-assured old hands. Cowboys who can’t see past big hoods and chewing tobacco. Arrogant newcomers from white-collar fields who think they’re smarter and better, who are nervous about getting down with the rest of us, who don’t learn to truck faster than anyone else.
Check out the Aug. 20 entry on the Channel 19 blog for more from the book.