“No Truck Entrance” the sign said.
What a stupid sign. “No Truck Entrance.” It is right in front of place where I need to make my delivery. Right by a gate clearly large enough to accommodate a commercial vehicle. Why isn’t that a truck entrance?
Signs are my Achilles Heel. All throughout my training, instructors would ask, “We just passed a sign, what did it say?” Shit. “Nope, didn’t catch that.” I would never even try to fake it, I always just owned up and confessed that I had missed it. I have since learned that signs will save your life. Quite literally, especailly if you are a trucker. Signs are important. However, there’s too many.
We have too many useless signs, pointless signs on our roads. Here in California, it is the worst. “Report Drunk Drivers” is an oft repeated sign. Well, duh. What about sober people who still drive like maniacs, shouldn’t we report them? That guy who passed me doing 100 mph, can I report him too? No? Just drunk drivers? Ok, fine.
All the useful, important signs are being crowded out by silly, unimportant signs. I don’t need to know this is the “Randall Q. Whomever Memoiral Highway.” I’m sure Randall Q. Whomever was a swell guy, but his sign is distracting me from the signs trying to give me crucial information.
“So, where is the truck entrance?” I was yelling from across the street where I had stopped.
The guy looked like Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top, if ZZ Top had been formed in the 90s. He had that long beard, but it was almost black, the Leonardo DiCaprio haircut from around 1995, and sunglasses that I know I saw in Spencers Gifts. He didn’t say anything, just looked straigh at me, then pointed back towards the sign that said “No Truck Entrance.”
“So, where is the truck entrance?” I yelled again. Still not saying anything, he pointed back in the general direction where I had just came from. Then he got in his car and drove off for lunch. Brilliant. All I saw back where he pointed was a small street with a sign that said it was an entrance for a steel manufacturing firm. Which was not where I was supposed to be delivering to. I had stopped right in the middle of the street, and by the time 90s ZZ Top guy had driven off, there was a stack of cars behind me. I put it in gear and managed to park a quarter-mile up the road. I got out and walked back to try to talk to someone, anyone, about what I needed to do to get into this place.
“Yeah, that small street, it looks like it’s the entrance to that steel plant, but you go in there, towards the back, cut right across the railroad tracks, then come down a little road back up to here.” Luckily, there was another truck driver there who shared the secret Indiana Jones style pathway leading to the receiving dock. All I needed to do was make a delivery. Somehow, I ended up going on an adventure. “Yeah, there’s no signs.”
This has been the theme of my week. Simple tasks, made difficult by fate. And people. And traffic. And weather.
Friday should have been a good day. In fact, it was mostly a good day. I finally made that delivery, then picked up another load in Chino, California to go up north again. I was early, and that was good, because then I could shut down early for the night. But, no. Fate, and weather, had caused mudslides going over the Grapevine, which closed the I-5 northbound. I had given myself a margin of 4 hours to get 100 miles. I ended up sitting in the I-5 parking lot for 3.5 of those hours. The CHP rerouted everyone over through Lancaster. I didn’t have the time on my clock to drive through Lancaster.
But, I didn’t have time to argue with the CHP officer, either.
I ended up following everyone down this lonely two lane highway, my driving clock running ever closer to zero. In my truck I shouted a stream of profanity that would have made a merchant sailor blush. I had done so well, budgeting my time. Bugger.
Suddenly I spot this little country store. I’m sure they were used to having 12 customers a day. But that night, a good portion of I-5 traffic were crowding out their place of business. I grabbed a Mountain Dew and waited in line. “Hey, man, I’m a truck driver, is there a place around here I can just stop for the night?”
He could have easily said, “Nope.” and sent me on my way. In fact, that’s what I was steeling myself for. But, nope, he smiled and said, “Over on the side is a big dirt lot. It’s all ours. Go ahead and park there if you want.”
“Really?” I just needed to double check I heard that right. “Sure, not a problem.”
You, friend, just saved me from a DOT violation. You just saved me from having to drive through Lancaster. You are an angel.
Another road angel. I keep meeting them, people who share kindness as easily as exhaling air. When I started this career-changing journey I didn’t know what to expect. I certainly never expected to meet so many wonderful, kind people. There is good in this world, don’t be fooled, or manipulated into thinking there is not.
I had talked before about truck stops being noisy. That spot next to the country store was the quietest night I have had in a very long time. And then I woke up to this sight through my windshield.
What an adventure.