Getting Connected

Name: William “David” George
Occupation: Truck driver
Location: Utah
Looking for: A lady who understands the trucking life. Must be honest and outgoing and easy to talk to.

The trucking lifestyle used to be synonymous with loneliness, difficult relationships and companionship limited to strangers at truck stops. If you were lucky, a waitress would get to know your name or you’d meet other trucker families through your company.

The Internet has created new possibilities for truckers to escape that isolation. Now, you can hang out online with a group where everyone knows your name, even if it’s only your screen name. Your wife can get home maintenance advice and vent about the life of a trucker’s wife with other women who know exactly what she’s going through. If you are single, you can search for the woman of your dreams, who may also be searching for you. If you love knitting or Nascar, you can sign up online friends who love the same things.

And, if you drive over the road, you have a better chance than the average person of being able to meet your online acquaintances in person.

SPECIAL INTEREST AND SOCIAL NETWORKING
Many websites devoted to a particular interest have a forum or chat room where you can meet to discuss things online. Truckers don’t necessarily identify themselves as truckers since the interest in the hobby is what draws them in. But sometimes it comes up. Carol “PK” Kiley casually mentioned in a Web-based quilting group that she was married to a truck driver and was active in a trucking family website. “Several women immediately told me they were either married to or dating truckers and wanted to know if they could join my group,” Kiley says.

Chat rooms and interest forums are a natural extension of online gaming, says Jessica Rovello, chairman of game site Arkadium Inc. “Gamedek.com offers a great way to stay in touch with loved ones who are far away and to meet new friends, all while playing games. Chat is an integral part of our website and is available in every game room and game. There’s even an instant messenger that allows users to chat privately and alerts them when game buddies are online,” Rovella says.

A small but growing number of social network websites exist for the purpose of helping people of like interests connect, such as the popular Friendster.com, Tribe.com or Google’s Orkut.com. Friendster, for example, allows you to search for a specific combination of interests, such as truckers who like Harley-Davidsons. Sexual preference, movie interest, job concerns or political affiliations are just a few of the common bonds by which you can link up with others.

Some trucking websites, such as layover.com and truck.net, have bulletin boards or chat rooms devoted to relationships. In the case of layover.com’s Family Center, the relationships among moderator Kiley and some of the frequent posters – mostly trucker wives – led to group outings. Kiley had so much fun planning the first get-together in Atlanta for her merry band of 14 women that she immediately decided to make it an annual event. This year they met in St. Louis, visited the Gateway Arch, lunched at Union Station and shopped at a flea market.

The women have scheduled online “chat nights” along with daily forum chatter. “We know what it’s like to be home alone, trying to cope with the loneliness,” Kiley says. Getting together annually adds to the closeness. “It’s fun to match up online personalities with a face and a voice. These are real friendships, and we are quite close. We laugh together, cry together, and work through problems together.”

Their typical chat usually focuses on solutions more than problems. “We help the new wives figure out what’s wrong with the washing machine or how to figure out a log book question. The most exciting part of any thread is when someone types: ‘There’s a truck in my driveway!'”

Kiley and her husband Jim get together with couples who participate in the forum. “There’s the trucking interest, of course, but we’ve always just hit it off with the couples we’ve met,” Kiley says.

LOOKING FOR TRUCKER LOVE
Once considered a last resort or predator-filled oddity, Internet dating has become a respected means for meeting like-minded potential life partners. Dating websites can be particularly suited to single truckers who don’t have the usual venues of meeting people and dating because of their schedules.

Long-haul driver William “David” George of Utah, has been divorced for three years and has posted on www.18wheelsingles.com and other dating websites. George, 47, hopes to find a lady who would be open to the trucking lifestyle or who at least would understand its challenges. “Sometimes they misrepresent themselves. You have to make sure they are not gold-diggers, looking for a man with a steady paycheck,” George says.

While most of the singles online are genuine, others are dishonest or unbalanced. So it’s not wise to give out too much personal information. And there are ways in most instant messaging and e-mail functions to block a user if you no longer want to communicate with that person.

“It’s good to meet as soon as possible,” George says. “There’s got to be a physical connection as well as an emotional one.”

Like most truckers who line up dates online, he meets his dates at truck stops. “I cover the whole country, so I can usually arrange a meeting. Plus, it’s a safe environment to set up a date,” George says.

The singles publication 18 Single Wheels has been distributed through rest areas for 20 years, but its online version is growing fast, says Harlan Jacobson, who also publishes Country Singles from Sioux Falls, S.D.

“The Internet personals give them a chance to line up a date with someone they’ve screened and corresponded with,” Jacobson says. His website, like other Internet dating sites, offers help with writing the ads. The website caters mostly to truckers, but many of them, like George, submit ads to multiple sites.

It wasn’t a personal ad, but participation in an MSN.com chat room that led to romance for Kim Blackwell of Seneca, Pa. She and Bradley Blackwell started off conversing with everyone else in the chat room in 2000, but soon moved to private e-mail. That extended to phone calls, which went on for a year.

“One day, out of the blue, Bradley called me at work and asked me to meet him at a truck stop 24 miles from my city. I’d never even knew it existed,” she says. After first wandering around the wrong truck stop, feeling as if she appeared to be a lot lizard, she made it to the right stop. She and Bradley ate French fries, and she gave him a Beanie Baby she’d planned to mail to him.

They were shy, but the visit ended with a hug. A year later, they were married. Their baby girl was born on May 25, 2003. “Bradley still drives with the Beanie Baby on the dashboard,” she says.

Whether you’re looking to develop casual online relationships or connections that develop into real-life friendships or romances, there are more opportunities than ever to counteract the loneliness of the trucking lifestyle. A little luck and, as George says, “a lot of hope,” can bring you closer to relationships that will enhance your life.


INTERNET DATING TEST DRIVE
Andrea Orr, author of Meeting, Mating (…and Cheating): Sex, Love, and the New World of Online Dating, says there are some things you should and should not do when you venture into online dating.

DO

TRY IT. You may be hesitant about online dating, but it has become mainstream and will certainly connect you with a lot of people you would not have met otherwise.

POST A PHOTO. A lot of people only look at the postings that include photos, so find a flattering one and upload it. For the tech-illiterate, many dating sites will post photos that you mail in.

BE HONEST ABOUT INTENTIONS. If you are looking for marriage, friendship or just a lot of dates, there are plenty of other people looking for the same thing, so be up front.

BE POSITIVE. Too many people use loser lines like “I can’t believe I’m doing this” or “I haven’t had much luck in the bars.” Sell yourself!

BE SPECIFIC. Dating sites let you write about yourself – a far cry from the abbreviated format of print personals (SWM for single white male). Avoid cliches and list your unusual qualities and hobbies.

DON’T

NEGLECT YOUR HOME TURF. Don’t become so consumed with online dating that you overlook social opportunities offline. If your closest relationship is with your computer, that’s a problem.

REVEAL TOO MUCH. Guard personal information, especially about finances and where you live and work. E-mail and talk on the phone until trust develops. When you decide to meet, do so in a public place.

STAY IN A DEAD-END. While e-mail is a great way to get to know a person, your goal should be to take the relationship offline. If the interest is mutual, you should be ready to meet within a month.

TAKE ALL DATES TO THE SAME PLACE. Be discreet when dating more than one woman from the same town.

DATE IF YOU ARE MARRIED. Plenty of marriage-ending affairs have grown out of casual e-mail flirtations by people who were just a little restless or bored.


RESOURCES

DATING
www.18wheelsingles.com
www.date.com
www.yahoopersonals.com
www.americansingles.com
www.match.com
www.eharmony.com

TRUCKING SUPPORT
www.layover.com (family center)
www.truck.net (The Family Room, The Clubhouse Café)

SOCIAL NETWORKS
www.orkut.com
www.friendster.com
www.tribe.com

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