Long-haul literary: Former owner-operator’s memoir of the life
“Westbound, you look good back to the state line. What’s it like over your shoulder?”
“I ain’t seen nothing’ since I left New York.”
“Friend, we’re in Utah.”
“Like I said, I ain’t seen nothin’ since I left New York. Night before last.”
Near Evanston, Wyo.
A westbound driver said, “I’ve got a load of Rice Krispies from Canada. Been listening to them all the way across: ‘Snap, Crackle, and Pop — eh?”
Ten miles east of the truck stops at Youngstown, Ohio.
“That chicken sandwich you bought back there. How’s it taste?”
“Kind of like chicken.”
Near Moriarty, N.M.
A woman said, “Sweetheart, my exit’s coming up. It’s sure been nice running with you.”
Sweetheart’s comeback was the sound of a big, slobbery kiss, a real wet smacker. The woman laughed and said, “What’s that for, darlin’?”
“Honey,” Sweetheart said, “you just put that where it’ll do you the most good.”…
Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right. –Henry Ford
I was talking with a friend in my living room, telling him road stories, telling him that trucking was the best job I’d ever found.
“It’s great,” I said. “I’ve never been so at-home with my work.”
“Yeah, but are you making any money?”
Not really. No.
Pay started at 22 cents a mile. A six-hour grunt-work unload got you $40. At most a Linehaul solo driver in 1991 might gross $24,000 during his first full year after training and that took more luck than brains, but I didn’t complain. I was there to learn and my labor came with a bonus that didn’t cost my employer anything: I was able to keep almost completely to myself.
I never ate at truck-stop lunch counters — too much friendly banter, too much whining, too many know-it-alls. I hardly ever keyed up, and, once, faked partial deafness to avoid a conversation in a truck-stop coin laundry. I tapped an ear and shouted, “Sorry! Left both aids in the cab! Can’t hear a thing without them!”
When I had to, I’d share a few words with a dispatcher, another driver, or a cashier at a fuel desk, then climb back into the truck with only my thoughts for company, but I craved seclusion and I lived for the perfect anonymity of the days when I didn’t talk to anyone. Gayle didn’t realize at first that I had a problem. I kept it hidden, but after two nights at home I was climbing the walls, I needed to be alone again, I needed to get back to the highway.
“You’re hooked,” my terminal manager said. “You’re a run junkie. Just what we’re looking for.”
He had no idea.
Trucking had grabbed onto me and whether it was more drug than fever I couldn’t say. I was as devoted to my in-cab isolation as any addict is to his habit. Above all else, truck driving meant solitude to me. And time. Time to roll and reflect. Time to rub the veneer from lies I’d been telling myself for years. Time to get below the surface and relive every wrong turn and discarded relationship. Time to revisit my failures and awkward moments, public and private. Small stuff, really. Little ticks in a life. No big deal, no one got killed, just disappointed. In me.