Fiction posing as fact at the Counter of Knowledge

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Truckers have a vast compendium of knowledge. About everything.

Enter any truck stop in the United States that has a “Counter of Knowledge,” sit down close enough to hear what they’re saying, (but not so close as to be expected to participate in the conversation), and listen for a few minutes. You will be amazed and, quite possibly, revolted enough to forgo your bacon and egg entree.

Listen closely at a truck stop diner and you’ll hear some interesting things.Listen closely at a truck stop diner and you’ll hear some interesting things.

I’m a spy at heart. I love to sit in a restaurant and listen to snippets of conversation from other tables. I can’t help but be riveted when I hear someone say things like, “Killed him instantly.” I will suddenly develop bat-sonar-laser beam hearing to listen to the rest of the conversation.

It’s a terrible habit and I should mind my own business, because I mostly just end up being horrified by whatever it was that “killed him instantly” when I could have minded my own business and skipped the whole thing. I’m also pretty sure I’ve been viewed as, “the weird chick listening to our conversation” in more than one Denny’s dining room. It’s embarrassing.

Sometimes, the squatters at the Counter of Knowledge are so engrossed in whatever happens to be on television that conversation takes a back seat. This is rare, because about 99 percent of the televisions at those counters are permanently affixed on Fox News Channel and the commentary on the state of political affairs is loudly, um… let’s say, debated. Because “diatribe” is such a strong word.

Anyway, we happened to be in a Huddle House in Limon, Colo., where the Counter was full, but completely silent. There were five burly truckers, black, white, old and young, and they were riveted on the television while they silently ate their meals. The DreamWorks animated film, “How to Tame Your Dragon,” was on and it was a critical part of the movie where the kid is learning to ride the dragon. You could have heard a pin drop. Not even one suggestion on how the kid could get better fuel mileage out of his dragon. It was a beautiful moment.

When I first came out on the road, I took a lot of what I heard to heart. It took me a few months to realize about 85 percent of what you hear in truck stops is complete crap someone totally made up. I will never forget sitting in the Denny’s outside of Amarillo and listening to a guy telling his trainee about the horrors of trucking. George had gotten up to use the bathroom and wash his hands. I was eavesdropping, as usual.

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“That fan can kill you, don’t ever open it while it’s running. It shears off, you’re in trouble. I heard of a guy once, fan sheared off and killed him and the guy standing beside him.”

What? Where is there a fan this powerful? Oh my gosh, I should probably know this. I can’t turn around and ask, because I’m eavesdropping like some weird chick in Denny’s. This is my face when George gets back to the table: O_o

“What’s up, babe?”

“Ohmygosh, there’s a fan that can kill you and the guy standing beside you. You shouldn’t open whatever it’s in while it’s running. Where is this fan? You don’t open it when it’s running, do you?”

(This is furiously whispered, because, eavesdropping…)

“Uh, I’m not, I’m not entirely sure what you’re talking about. Who told you about the killer fan?”

(More furious, not-weird-at-all whispering, accompanied by spastic, non-attention-getting pointing.)

“That guy is a trainer, he probably knows what he’s talking about. He was telling his trainee about a fan that can shear the eff off and kill two people.”

This statement caused him to laugh uncontrollably for some reason.

“Babe, you gotta stop listening to anything you hear in truck stops. And being a trainer doesn’t mean he knows anything.”

This was confusing to me at the time, but I was still worried about the man-killing fan, so we left it at that. I have since learned a whole lot about trucking, and filter about 90 percent of the things I hear through the bulls**t meter, but it doesn’t make them any less entertaining to hear. Long live the Counter of Knowledge.

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