‘The more essential I’m gettin’, the stinkier I get’ — another week gone by …

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Nowheres to Shower , nowheres to set.
The more essential I’m gettin’
The stinkier I get. –LHP

Sometimes my mind reverts to the thousands of bathroom walls I’ve read out here. Who can forget the ubiquitous and unfortunately named “N.C. Camel Jockey,” whose moniker graced the walls of nearly every truck stop stall I christened throughout the South from the late-80s clear through the early aughts; or the scribbled admonition at nearly every blessed Union 76 upon whose pearl-white porcelain I happened to be planted: “Flush twice. It’s a long way to the kitchen”?…

Normally, if you saw that one, somewhere to the right you’d see: “Don’t look here, the joke is in your hands! Ha ha!” These days, I’ve resorted to composing bathroom-wall limericks simply as a means of not crying. Upon learning there were no available showers at the Walton, Ky., Flying J this past Thursday, due to the coronavirus, I wrote the aforementioned.

Said showers last Thursday …Said showers last Thursday …

OK, I know it’s not Carl Sandburg, but you get what you pay for, driver. I’ll say that cleaning showers at a truck stop is not a job I’d personally want right now. Truthfully, I can’t say whether staffing issues were the cause or not in this case. But let’s face it; if a Kentuckian takes a notion to leave, brother, they’re gone. I’ve never met a job-scared Kentuckian in my life. They’ll up and quit a gig like they had $30,000 worth of mad money in the bank.

Not too far away up in Sunbury, Ohio, the stoic Buckeyes were keeping the hygienic torch burning, with the shower facilities at the Flying J there wide open.

Speaking of reversion, Denise now follows me into every shower I take, making certain I follow the strictest sanitary practices recommended by the CDC. She ain’t about to lose her money maker.

Just kidding (kind of).

While I was wrapping things up, we overheard a shower attendant and a trucker talking in the hallway amongst themselves. The attendant was describing the vile, horrible mess that another trucker had just left him to clean up, and the driver was commiserating.

It had been an equally horrible week in our nation. On April 7 alone, a North Carolina-based trucker went on a stabbing spree at a Pilot truck stop near Knoxville, snuffing out the lives of three beloved female truck stop workers there while leaving a female bystander in critical condition. John Prine, perhaps the most revered songwriter in our nation’s history, left this world due to the coronavirus. An untold number of truckers were witnessing a precipitous drop in posted loads — one of my colleagues here at Overdrive told me it looked like about as big a single-week drop on the spot market as he’d ever seen.

I rarely speak of the macrocosmos, so to speak, here. Frankly, it’s a place I try to keep out of. But we’re living in an epoch of unprecedented uncertainty, and to suggest that it doesn’t make it hard to keep one’s head in the game these days by not talking about it would be a lie of omission.

Maybe former secretary of state Henry Kissinger put it best in his WSJ op-ed piece dated 4/3/2020, pointing to the chaotic closing-off acts of nations in this crisis as akin to the old walled-city model of the state. As he said:

The pandemic has prompted an anachronism… 

Anachronism indeed. My wife just became my mom. What is this, the Catalina Swim Club circa 1965? We don’t go in showers together, dear. Am I a nine-year-old kid? But there she is, fully clothed, eyeing me like a hall monitor. Still, maybe she’s right. Maybe there’s something to this whole herd-immunity thing. Maybe together, we can keep the sickness away.

I place an unprecedented denomination on the sink of the shower room. I look at her. She nods. “OK,” she says, then adds, “First thing we’ve agreed on all day.”

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