Long-haul literary: Former owner-operator’s memoir of the life
Marc Mayfield (pictured) 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 long ago entertained as a possibility.
“I really enjoyed driving big trucks,” he says, which is evident in the long-haul portrait – warts and all – that is his new literary memoir In the Driver’s Seat: Interstate Trucking – a Journey. The book is a portrait of long-haul life unparalleled in its honest intensity, a quality many drivers will no doubt appreciate in spades. It chronicles his 10-year trucking career, a million and more safe miles logged from 1991 to 2001 as a company driver for and then leased to the same carrier, “dispatcher buster” of a tape recorder at the ready — and getting hard use.
Told in a muscular, viscerally impressionistic style (with plenty of humor to boot), the book’s quick scenes of over-the-road initiation roll hard from one to the next with years running Florida to Washington State, New York to Arizona to Colorado to Oregon and back and round again.
As his love for trucking grows, the job brings big self-insights in the thrill of process, flux, solitary time. A marriage is stretched to the breaking point, trucks are leased, sold, trucks break down, trucks are hit in parking lots, a wife joins her husband on the road, a wife gets off the truck. Accusations of negligence are fought against, lies are told, exposed, truths by the truckload revealed. It’s a wild ride of story, to say the least, told in a confident voice you just might recognize.
Mayfield’s been at work on the book – and getting it published – since he formally retired. “I know a lot of the guys who drive don’t have the luxury of making the choice I made” to retire, he says. “They have to be out there to work” and continue to negotiate on-highway and home life, a big theme in In the Driver’s Seat.
His goal with the whole project: to get the trucking experience form 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.
Mayfield was kind enough to give us the opportunity to share some of the book here in excerpts — from the opening chapter and Chapter 7, the latter situated at a pivotal point in the narrative, after he’s been on the road for two years. Enjoy.
From Chapter 1
People asked me, “What’s it like out there? What’s long-haul trucking really like?” They always asked twice, as if I had a secret, and my short answer was always the same: “You have to like being alone.”
What’s it like out there? What’s the long haul really like?
It is distances between loading docks and distances between people. Phone calls from truck stops on anniversaries and kids’ birthdays. Long-distance marriage and long-distance divorce. Over-the-road means away-from-home. Families take the hit. Truckers’ marriages survive on phone calls if they survive at all, and the strongest endure because they work for two or three nights every four or five weeks.
Sometimes there’s sunshine, dry pavement, and highway glory. Sometimes it’s all-night drives through blowing snow and days when wind, rain and the windshield wipers never stop.