This has been one helluva trip. They’re all different and exciting in their own way, but this time out changed me. Up until this point, I had never experienced the discrimination against truck drivers face-to-face, I’d heard about it and read about it and been told some pretty incredible stories by my readers about it, but I had never had it in my own face. I had never felt judged, just for showing up in a truck, until we went to the Walmart in Lancaster, Texas.
George is very familiar with the Lancaster area, he delivers there often. Like any other trucker, he knows where his “sleep spots” are, and where he can go to get groceries and supplies for the truck without being hassled. The Walmart at North I-35E was one of these places. Or at least it used to be.
We have a standing rule in our house. If you can buy it anywhere other than Walmart, buy it there. We don’t shop at Walmart when we’re home. Ever. The only reason we frequent Walmart on the road is because it’s one of the few places we can get a truck in and out of without taking landscaping with us. Up until a few weeks ago, most Walmarts we’d tried were truck friendly, and we could get in and out easily.
When we pulled into the Lancaster store, George noticed signs everywhere:
NO TRUCK PARKING
VIOLATORS WILL BE TOWED AT THEIR OWN EXPENSE.
“That’s weird. I was just here three weeks ago and stayed the night in the lot. I’ll go in and talk to the manager, so we don’t get towed while we’re shopping.”
He parked (we only had the tractor – no trailer) and went inside to find a manager. We went directly to the front desk, and asked for one. George told the lady we were truckers (immediate eye-roll from her), and we needed to get some supplies. He wanted to make sure his rig didn’t get towed, while we were spending money in their store. She flipped out a walkie talkie.
“We’ve got trucking customers at the front. What do I tell them?”
“They have one hour, write the time down.”
She put the walkie talkie back on the clip.
“You’ve got one hour.”
As you can imagine, I was completely furious. I was hopping on one foot and smoke was trailing out of both ears. I wanted to drag her smug, eye-rolling ass across the counter and stomp some sense into her. George realized this and led me away from the counter before I went to DEFCON 5.
“I will be naked, starving and cold before I spend one thin dime in this craphole.”
“Babe, I’ve got to have a couple of things. We won’t buy anything that’s not completely necessary to get us to the next place we can shop, OK? Just be cool.”
I agreed to be cool, but I was so insanely angry it was completely futile. I just kept going back to the “one hour to spend your money” thing. We are not criminals. As a matter of fact, without our services, Walmart wouldn’t function at all. Sam Walton credited his success to his truck drivers. Sam would have pooped his pants to see the way we were treated here. I wandered around and thought about all the things on the shelves that my own husband had probably delivered to this very store. I decided I needed answers. I wanted to give Walmart a chance to defend themselves, because in my mind there were already horrific stories forming about a plague of biblical proportions coming upon this Walmart. I gleefully imagined the eye-rolling manager dragging her half-dead corpse to the door and begging the truckers to come bring the cure to the Walmart plague. It made me feel better. I calmed down enough to be reasonable and went looking for a manager to explain the sudden change of heart about truckers.
I found Ms. Eye-Roller, and very politely asked her if I could speak to someone who knew why the truckers were suddenly not welcomed. She told me the City of Lancaster was the reason they couldn’t let trucks park there anymore. When I questioned how the City of Lancaster could make rules about private property, she changed her story and said it was the new security service they hired. The new security service wouldn’t let trucks park. When I questioned why they let RVs park and not trucks, she gave me another big ol’ eye-roll and flipped out her walkie talkie again.
“Do we have a manager who can talk to a trucking customer available?”
Someone crackled back they’d “be right there,” and she left me to wait.
About five minutes later, another manager appeared. He was absolutely not happy to be where he was. His body language spoke volumes: Arms crossed, chest puffed out, jaw set. He was ready for a fight, and I was not going to give him one. I politely explained my husband had frequented this Walmart, and we were wondering why there were suddenly no trucks allowed. I mentioned that without these trucks, he wouldn’t have a job, nor would anyone else in the store. I mentioned I wrote for a trucking magazine, and would like to quote him on the new rules, to give Walmart a chance to defend themselves. When I offered to show him an article on my phone, he pushed the phone out of the way and said (and I’m completely ad-libbing here, this is in no way a direct quote):
“This is private property. You have two hours to get off the lot or be towed. And you’re not quoting me in anything. Rabbits eat lettuce and monkeys eat bananas.” (I’m going to let you deduce what he actually said, and what was ad-libbed there, so as not to ruffle any feathers about a direct quote.)
He then stormed off to the “little man” section of clothing to pick himself out a pair of pants. Kidding! He did storm off, and he was a little guy, but I’m not sure if he buys pants in the infant section of his own store. Anyway, he really upset me, and I forced George to wait until there was one minute left on our “leave or get towed” clock, just to be an ass.
We don’t have a lot of friends out there when we’re in the truck. People don’t want us around, until there’s a disaster somewhere, then the first thing that goes out is a call to truckers to spend their own time and money to get life-saving supplies to people in ravaged areas. They’re happier than hell to see a truck then. No one considers the poor treatment they get every other day of the year, they just know they need stuff and the truckers bring it. Too bad people don’t make that connection with everyday goods, like groceries and shoes and toilet paper. People should be ashamed, especially people who need the trucks to keep their jobs. Shame on you, Walmart. Sam would be absolutely livid.