Learning early from the ‘gentle giants’ of the highway

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Michael Irving wrote in with this excellent reminiscence of trucking through the eyes of a child, which follows. Irving once aspired to be a driver himself — “I love to travel and see what the world has to offer,” he says — but life took him in a different direction. He studied to be a teacher and today works in a bank, “though I think every day brings an opportunity to learn and teach.”

 Irving says he “always admired truck drivers for the discipline it must take to do their job and be so safe on the road. ” He lives with his wife and daughter in Knoxville, Iowa, where he writes, jogs, goes fishing and can “be a kid again doing those kid things like going to the park” with his daughter. His story follows. 


Trucks on highwayThe Mistaken Identity of a Gentle Giant
Growing up often being the shortest person in the room, I learned that I had two choices in life — either I could resent those taller than me or I could be grateful for the fact that gravity would be less kind to the taller folk than it was to me.  And if I chose to be resentful toward those taller than me, I would not only have to get used to the limited company of friendships with me, myself, and I, but I would have to become more adept at climbing shelves in grocery stores due to the fact that those I resented would be more reticent to help a bitter little old man like me. I learned, though, that there are gentle giants among the taller folk if I just looked up or took a glance in my rear-view mirror and smiled.

Childhood with an open mind teaches you that interstates and highways offer a plethora of game boards for a child’s entertainment.  From “I spy with my little eye” to “slug bug no slug-backs,” I believe even today’s most advanced portable gaming technology cannot match the creativity and originality of the spur-of-the moment traveling games of my youth. Yet, one game we are all familiar with helped me shatter my own preconceived fears and notions of the most prevalent vehicle on the interstates and highways — the semi. We all remember trips in our youth where we would vigorously pump are arms up and down when a semi passed our car with the hope that the driver would sound his commanding horn, which no other vehicle of the road could match in decibels or length. Yet I discovered that there was a deeper joy I experienced from this “game” of my youth than just the victory of the horn, it was the discovery of a gentle giant of the road – the truck driver behind the wheel. 

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I could have held on to my fears of seeing the giant beast-like presence of these vehicles in our rear-view mirror or turning to see them barreling down the road thinking they were some bully trying to push us aside.  But I did not realize that the weight of the cargo they were pulling for millions and millions of people like me that was their bread for feeding their families could elicit such a mistakenly menacing presence on the road. That was just it, the menace was not them, but our own misconceptions. If I was not able to overcome these misconceptions, then I would have not been able to meet and get to know a lot of true gentle giants. Yes I look at many of you as Andre the Giants of the road as you command your tip-top-shape giant semis with your even larger hearts. Therefore, like a kid on a small town corner standing in awe as a giant red fire truck goes by building a sense of security in his heart knowing that this vehicle, and especially its driver, keeps him safe, I will always feel like that kid when I drive on the road and see a semi passing by. I will feel safe, secure, and especially inspired, because I know that each and every driver endures a lot, whether it is bad weather or bad drivers, to name just two, to keep the rest of us safe. And your strong presence and smooth, yet often unnoticed, precision in movement on the road reflects the giant dreams of my heart contained in my short-statured shell. 

Yes, that is a 10-4 from the heart of this grateful 4’4”.  –Michael Irving

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