Making the Final Cut

If you were born in the back of a bus or if Daddy was a driver who was home long enough to sleep over before he got back on his horse, maybe the road is in your bones. Or maybe Mama was a driver. Anyway, somehow you got infected with the wanderlust and started jamming gears just out of the sheer force of it being in the family. There are a few guys out there who used to be airline pilots or captains of industry, but most guys are like you and me. I grew up listening to trucks pulling the first long hill on the Green Stamp, just about the 13-mile marker in the Keystone. Or maybe you grew up on the farm and spread so much manure you knew how to back up a honey wagon before you could read.

Now you are a real live truck driver, and maybe you never wanted to be anything else. Then again, maybe you wanted to be something else entirely. Maybe you wanted to be an electrician or a plumber or a carpenter, but, somehow, the road was always there, like a nerve curled around your insides dragging you away from all the other things you could possibly be. That nerve is probably still there, even after years of living nowhere and being nowhere, and it is still pulling you out. Truth is, maybe that’s the way you like it. A lot of guys want to be something else, but they just can’t do the 9 to 5. They can’t get up every day in the same house, kiss the same wife, pet the same dog, slam the same door. Call it independence, call it freedom, or call it crazy. There it is, and it rules you. Your independence rules you. Your freedom rules you.

When something rules you, you pay. You have a dream you won’t give up, you pay. You love a job that doesn’t love you, you pay. You love a woman who loves you back, you pay. And so does she. The phone rings, you ride off into the sunset, the soap opera of your life has another chapter, and you are the writer, ending this chapter like all the other chapters. In the name of freedom you do what is necessary to do. In the name of necessity, you free yourself from the problems of daily life. You take control of the time and the space you share with another human being, and you call all the shots. No matter what is happening at the house, you have to go. Great work if you can get it, and you’ve got it. Sure, you pay, but it’s your choice, ain’t it?

One thing about it: it sure is romantic. You are the brave cowboy doing whatever he has to do to keep body and soul and you and her and the family all together. You can feel good about that. As a matter of fact, you can feel self-righteous, like Mama is the villain because she can’t understand why you’ve just got to go. What does she want, anyway? She gets your check every week. Well, maybe she wants you to be a plumber so you can get to the Little League and the piano recital and read beddy-bye stories to little Tommy and little Sue. But, man, that just ain’t your style, is it? Of course, you love the kids, but you’ve got your job and Mama’s got hers. But sometimes it must seem to her like you’ve got the corner on the romance.

So you pay for your freedom. Like everybody else, you give up one thing to get another. Not much to complain about there unless you are just plain sour on life in general. You don’t have to be a truck driver to feel that way. Nothing is free, not even lunch. You’ve got your precious independence, and you’re not tied down to the family you helped create or the woman you love. You’re a man, and you do what men do. You get on your horse and ride, and when you come back, all the kids come running out into the yard yelling, “Daddy!” Your wife has a big smile and open arms, and you have a couple of good home cooked meals for a change. Ain’t it grand? For a few days, ain’t it just grand?

Like I said, not much to complain about, especially when the cookin’ and the lovin’ are flowin’. Not much to complain about when you gotta fire it up and go load, either. Best of both worlds, I’d say, exceptin’ when your wife gets her dander up about Tommy’s report card. But you’ve been out 10 days, and all you want to do is pop a cool one, watch the game and relax. Hey, your grades weren’t so great, either, and look at you.

So, your daddy was a driver, or you have your own reasons for being on the road. You love your job, and your wife knew what she was getting into from the get-go. It ain’t your fault you love what you love and have to do what you have to do. As a matter of fact, you’re lucky because you love what you have to do. But maybe that’s not it. Maybe it’s that you have to do what you love, and your whole life is all about you. It has a little room for the few people you love, but really they are just the supporting cast. You’re the star in this movie, and it’s going to turn out just the way you want. You’ve got final cut, and if somebody winds up on the editing room floor, well then, that’s show biz. You love them plenty, and you bring home the bacon. They will just have to understand how hard it is to be a big time truck driver and be away all the time when you’d really rather be in the middle of some other dream that would keep you home.

The Business Manual for Owner-Operators
Overdrive editors and ATBS present the industry’s best manual for prospective and committed owner-operators. You’ll find exceptional depth on many issues in the 2021 edition of Partners in Business.
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