Appreciation of a truck-parking joke — what’s it worth?

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Retired owner-operator Charlie Thornton of Walton, Ky., saw my brief blog post from May 29 in this month’s magazine and, when he called about it last Friday, wondered whether there was something ultimately meaningful, significant in past Overdrive Trucker of the Year Mike “Mustang” Crawford‘s taking $5 from another driver for his parking space at the truck stop. Regular readers will recall that Crawford was poised to leave already, when he saw another driver circling and looking for a space. He joked with the driver that he’d expedite his departure for him for $5.

The driver handed the money over.

As Thornton had it, “If we’ve come to the point of where truck drivers are charging each other for a parking spot” and that’s the true state of things between drivers, “we need to just park the trucks and go home. That’s just the way I feel about it.”

He wasn’t the only one with such a point of view. Commentary under the post two months back ran along some similar lines:

“This is not right. If I were leaving I would not charge someone to buy my spot. I usually would say to them, ‘I’m leaving in half an hour but you can have this spot now.” 

“This is a prime example highlighting the decline of this industry. Indicates that being an owner-operator of the year doesn’t take much into account of the actual values and ethics truckers once possessed. Thousands of times I have signaled to a fellow trucker looking for a parking spot that he could take mine when leaving. I will do it another thousand times free of charge as well. I have helped others with repairs both in lots and on the side of the road, again free of charge. All of this with no regard to their age or race.”

How I finished that prior post more or less accurately captures the details Crawford told, though most of the sense of exaggeration in his voice was probably lost in the translation. Apologies for that. Thornton guessed at the jesting nature of the tale, and did note he hoped too many wouldn’t “take that literally. I always thought the downfall of trucking was the downfall of courtesy between drivers – but [taken literally] this is way beyond the pale.” Here’s how the post ended:

The trucker squinted at [Crawford], not sure whether this was a joke or not. Crawford’s not so sure himself, truth be told, but to his ultimate surprise he did leave the truck stop that day $5 richer, he says, from the front lines of what may well be a new underground driver-to-driver courtesy tip market for the limited space out there.

I called the Mustang this morning and asked him further about the interaction earlier today. “We were both laughing” about the exchange while it was happening, he says of the moment the driver tossed him a $5 bill from the window. “It was basically a joke taken to its logical end,” by both parties, regardless of what it says about the parking congestion out there today.

“No big deal in my mind,” ultimately, he says. “I have fun with a lot of things out here.”

That $5, thus: The worth of the appreciation of a good joke, you might say, not a soon-to-be-empty parking space someone wants to utilize. As Thornton says — let’s hope against this being anything more than that.

Update: 7/30/2019
Mike Crawford adds, memory jogged by further discussion of this on a subsequent call — most of the contents of the call devoted to Crawford’s run into the hills out of 110-plus Fahrenheit yesterday with failing AC and feeling like he’d gone to heaven when he got to the top at 80 degrees — he dropped that $5 bill in a donation box at a stop down the line.  

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