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The first time I ever saw a lot lizard was at an early morning press conference in the middle of a truck stop. As politicians, trucking association executives, photographers and truck journalists gathered, a drunk, filthy prostitute was hauled out of the restroom. One cop held her feet and the other one held her shoulders as they swung her past the assembled dignitaries. We averted our eyes and continued to discuss fuel price increases.
I’d heard about lot lizards. Anyone who has spent any time in the trucking industry knows about the lowest rung on the ladder of the oldest profession. I always figured that they were a harmless, almost colorful part of the trucking culture. And like drugs, gambling and any other vice, subject to market demand.
Working on the prostitution stories for Overdrive changed that perception. There’s nothing harmless about them. The collateral damage they’ve caused continues to haunt me. Many stories I’ve heard are not in Overdrive or on eTrucker.com because the men and women telling them have children and reputations to protect. Some of the stories are second-hand, hard to verify. But the common themes of sorrow, devastation and ruined lives run through them.
What are the untold stories? Many are similar versions of the same old story: A woman thinks she knows the man she married and had children with. She would say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, he’d never rent the body of a lot lizard. And then, when the lab tests come back positive and the doctor shrugs his shoulders, she faces single-parenthood and poverty.
One woman wrote that she went to the doctor with her husband because she was worried about his lower back pain. When it turned out to be not one but two STDs, she was in shock. Her small children depended on him for the roof over their heads and the food on their plates. She was wracked with feelings of rage, grief, depression and hopelessness. One day she wanted to go to the truck stop and hunt down the diseased prostitute and the next she wanted to file for divorce. She’s still struggling over her next move, but one thing she’s sure about: She’ll never trust him – or any man – again.
Another story came from a woman who caught her husband cheating with another female driver. They reconciled, but talk of lot lizards makes her uneasy. She said she doesn’t think he’d do such a thing, but once the trust is gone, you never know for sure. She is torn between staying home with her teenage children and going on the road with her husband to keep him out of trouble. Not an enviable choice.
The stories of contracted diseases, unreported robberies and unshakable regret
originate with one bad decision in a weak moment. Many stories end with the lament: Why me? Some blame the availability of prostitutes or the lax attitudes of local law enforcement or certain truck stops. Health professionals point out the ignorance of sexually transmitted diseases. Chaplains blame pornography. Wives say companies could do more to get their husbands home. And everyone knows about the loneliness of the trucking lifestyle.
There’s some truth in all of that, but the bottom line is: Prostitutes would quit knocking on doors if nobody opened them.
I never talked to a lot lizard, but I asked everyone I talked to how they felt about them. After all, I can’t help thinking that they are someone’s mother, daughter or sister. At one time in their life, they could have chosen a different path. The appalling life they live — scurrying between trucks to avoid authorities, turning tricks for a few bucks, risking their health and life for a quick hit of crack, cannot be the life they dreamed of when they were little girls.
Most truckers and their loved ones responded to my queries with disgust and repulsion. There’s little sympathy for what many consider the scourge of the industry. And those in a position to do something about it have increased their efforts to drive prostitution away from truck stops and rest areas. As more married teams and female truckers demand better conditions, those efforts will increase further. Maybe one day the lot lizard will become an endangered species.
For the sake of the faceless, nameless storytellers, I hope so.