For most of my life, and I would argue most of anyone’s adult life, we are used to compartmentalizing our lives into basically two factions: work time and non-work time.
Trucking completely obliterates that wall between those two. Since I’ve started in trucking, I’ve been trying to fit this job into that paradigm, and it just doesn’t work. Trucking devours your life in ways I’ve never experienced before.
I used to go to bookstores. I used to go to the movies, and to Starbucks. Photography used to be a huge, necessary, part of my life. I know I speak poorly of my previous job, but I’ll give it this one thing; the hours were pretty great. I had weekends and holidays off, and work rarely encroached on my non-work time.
It could be argued that I didn’t really think this career transition through. That would be a fair argument. Know this, however, I would prefer to never go back to any office job. I like driving this truck. There is something unique about it that I enjoy. And, more than that, those times when I’m cruising down some deserted highway, no other vehicles around me, and just a ribbon of quiet highway ahead of me, that’s just poetry. No other way to put it. I know that sound ridiculous coming from someone with only four months of driving experience but, like love, you know it when you feel it.
Here’s what I don’t like. Truck stops. I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s easy to get discouraged when you have to brush your teeth in a sink where a hundred other truckers have spit in, coughed up into, or did that thing where you plug up one nostril and blow out all the mucus from the other nostril right into the sink. I mean, right into the sink with their rocket propelled snot. It’s horrifying.
Next, having time totally dominate my life. The weekends I am home, my time gets filled running errands and taking care of tasks that I usually can’t get to when I’m on the road. Every calculation I make anymore is directly connected to time.
Lastly, these last few weekends I’ve been home, I’ve barely gone out. And, if I do, it’s just to run errands, not to see people, or visit places I haven’t been in a while. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to avoid the Vegas heat. Or, more likely, that I just really need to rest and recuperate before I go out on the road again.
Anyway, it’s a drag.
On paper, I have no reason to complain, really. This job ticks most of the right boxes. I mean, really close to perfect. After being stuck in a windowless office getting yelled at by customers for 5 years, what did I want?
1) To be outside. See the sun set. Not be stuck behind a desk all day.
2) To not get hassled by people.
3) To be left alone to do my work.
4) To travel.
So, why am I not happy? Well, Doctor, do you have a lot of time? I mean, that’s a pretty loaded question.
We’ll come back to this.
One story before I close. I’m driving southbound, I-5 through central Oregon. On the side of the road in the distance I see a pickup truck that has broken down. I see the driver get out and walk towards the back of the truck, facing oncoming traffic. He’s about six foot, burly, big long beard, and when he gets to the back of his truck he plants his feet. I mean, does the full planting motion for both feet. And, with a deadly serious look points to my truck. Just planted his feet, froze and pointed straight to my truck.
Wait, what? Was I supposed to stop, I’m thinking? Is planting your feet and pointing the universal signal for stopping? Should I have know that? I drive past, obviously, because I’m going 55 mph and it’s tough to stop on a dime when you’re at 75,000 lbs. But, I panicked a little.
There are so many things they don’t teach you in CDL school, it would not surprise me that one of the lessons they left out was that you have to stop for Oregon Wizards in broken pickups when they plant both feet and point to your truck.
I watch him as I pass. He looks at my truck, then points directly to the car behind me, who also doesn’t stop. OK, that’s good, I think, because if that car had immediately stopped, then I knew I would have been in trouble. Word would certainly get out that there is this newbie driver who doesn’t know to stop for Oregon Wizards in broken pickups. But, maybe it’s a truck thing. Maybe it’s only trucks that are required to stop.
I’m serious, these thoughts actually went through my head.
At this point, I can still see him in my mirror, and there is one other big rig a few vehicles behind me. He points, but that truck doesn’t stop either.
Thank the Lord, I’m safe. I actually exhale a small sigh of relief.
Trucking messes with your mind.