Reefer gonna get ya’

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I’d like to begin by stating that I feel for the reefer and grocery drivers. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, they get the shaft when it comes to their load appointment times, and have to deal with the sanctioned extortionists (or lumpers, whatever you care to call them) more often than the rest of us do. They spend countless hours at the dock, waiting to be loaded or unloaded. There’s probably more time wasted on a reefer drivers clock at the docks than any other driver on the road. (Reason number 1,956 that the HOS cannot be a “blanket” rule for the entire industry.) They haul some of the most important items for the livelihood of the general public, because people won’t scream bloody murder when they don’t have cute shoes at the mall, but they’ll kick old people around over a package of pre-made cookie dough if the shelves at the grocery are even close to being empty.

That being said, we do try to avoid parking next to reefers, especially when it’s cool enough at night to put the window screens in and snooze to the sound of our little fan. We have a long running joke that it doesn’t matter where we park — we’re going to wake up with a reefer next to us. Nine times out of ten, it’s not one of the new, quiet reefers, but rather one of the old ones that cackle and wheeze like a 90-year-old emphysema patient all night long.

Precious in the parking lotThe theory was tested (and proven) at B&J’s off 212 in Alzada, Mont. You really can’t get much more off the beaten path than this place. It’s literally in the middle of nowhere, and if their claim to fame isn’t the B-1 bomber-size mosquitoes they have, it certainly should be. When we pulled in, we were the only truck in the lot. George took the spot closest to the edge of the property, and joked that only one reefer could pull in beside us. We got out to walk around and stretch our legs a little, and by the time we had made it once around the parking lot, we were both light-headed from blood loss.

These mosquitoes were not playing. I had one lick my eyelid and tell me to “put the lotion on my skin,” right before she bit the tar out of my face. (This may or may not be a filthy lie, I was addled from the loss of blood and loud buzzing in my ears.) These bugs were so big, when you slapped them, the carnage left behind required a medical examiner and CSI team to clean it up. I am prepared to state that the mosquitoes in Alzada, Mont., are the reason they find cows turned inside out – it has noting to do with the aliens visiting Devil’s Tower a few miles down the road.

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We staggered back to the truck and decided if we wanted to survive another night, we had better not leave the cab again. I saturated the screens with tea tree oil, and only sustained about 600 bites in the time it took me to get them in the windows. The legion of mosquitoes that didn’t make it inside the cab sat on the windshield all night, tapping the glass with their mosquito fists and laughing maniacally. I’m not sure if I mentioned it or not, but the mosquitoes in Alzada, Mont., are vicious beasts. Be advised.

I woke up about 4:30 in the morning, certain that a cloud of pests had made a nest in my ear. The buzz, wheeze, choke, cough was somewhat familiar, but given the experience we had gone through earlier, I wasn’t thinking “reefer.”

I was thinking, “OhmyGod we’re going to die from malaria.”

I jumped up to grab the tea tree oil, but a group of lingering mosquitoes had finished off the bottle and were singing drunk mosquito songs somewhere over near the driver’s seat. The windshield hoard had set up camp on the hood of the truck and were forging tiny battering rams out of twigs and screaming, “Through the glass to Valhalla!” (Again, filthy lies are a distinct possibility here, things become hazy when one is dying from exsanguination.)

The situation seemed dire and I almost woke George to flee the area until the reefer beside us gave a choke and chuckle and burped out a puff of mosquito-deterring smoke. The camp on the hood immediately lost about 40 members and the drunks inside the cab took notice and quit singing. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to know that no matter where we park, a reefer will find us.

I lost 25 lbs. and a large portion of my cognitive skills in Alzada, but I gained a new respect for the reefers. All joking aside, thanks for what you do. It ain’t easy being wheezy.