On Wednesday, June 1st, 2016, I interacted with only three people for the entire day. And two of them worked at Subway.
I started the day early. I woke up in Tonopah, Nevada. As you do. Not at the famous Clown Motel, unfortunately, though I am determined to spend at least one night there at some point. No, I was at a Texaco Gas Station/Truck Stop. I spent the night there after picking up a load from Kingman, Arizona.
Even the previous day, my most memorable contact with another person was at the shipping office where I picked up my load, a heavy set, bearded young man wearing a t-shirt that proved he was trying way too hard to be hip, gave me attitude as he pushed the paperwork over to me. I had some questions about the information on the bills of lading, but he shrugged them off and gave me a look like I was encroaching into his World Of Warcraft time, so I just grabbed the paper and left. Enjoy your gallons of Code Red Mountain Dew, dude.
The Texaco in Tonopah isn’t really a truck stop in the modern sense, it doesn’t have showers, loads of truck parking or a fast food joint attached. I imagine it harks back to the mom and pop type truck stops from not that long ago. So, when I walked in at quarter to six in the morning to use the bathroom it didn’t surprise me that there wasn’t anyone at the front counter. Or, anyone in the store at all, it seemed. I used the facilities, brushed my teeth and then walked out of the bathroom to see the owner standing by the register. My guilt immediately kicked in, obviously, because I parked at that nice man’s truck stop, used his toilet and only had bought one soda the night before. And, because I usually don’t eat anything in the mornings, I wasn’t buying anything else. I sheepishly muttered “Good morning” under my breath as I rushed past the counter to the exit. He summoned up a half-hearted smile, nodded, and that was that.
Human contact number one.
I did my pre-trip inspection of my truck and trailer and got underway.
Hours of driving north up Nevada highway 95, through little nowhere towns like Mina and Luning which are nothing but a sprinkling of houses and nothing else for literally a hundred miles. What happens in these towns? Who lives here?
Then there is the desert. My beloved desert which just rolls on for miles and miles. And hours and hours.
I get to Fernley, Nevada, just east of Reno, where I have to stop for fuel. But, you do everything at the pump, no need to talk to anyone. I filled up, parked, went to use the facilities again. Usually this is where random people strike up conversations with me, but not this time.
After I got myself sorted, I got back into my truck and got underway.
Next stop, Klamath Falls, Oregon. More miles roll by, more hours pass by. This time, through the lazily rolling hills of north east California.
At the end of my day, I arrive safely at the Pilot Travel Center (see, they’re not even called truck stops anymore), I pull into one of the few open spaces left, set my brakes and let out a huge sigh, thankful that I got through another day in one piece.
Post-trip inspection, then use the bathroom (again, nobody there to share their random stories with me), go back and change out of my “work clothes”, and go to Subway to get something for dinner. The first person asks what kind of bread I would like for my Subway Club, and what kind of veggies they can put on my sandwich (my standard response, “No cucumbers, no pickles, everything else”). From there I pay the cashier (“Would you like to make it a meal, with chips and a drink?”), sit down, and eat.
Human contact numbers two and three.
Later, I’ll get a shower, which is available from a kiosk inside the store. No interaction with anyone needed there, either.
I post this because I say that I got into trucking to get away from people. Be careful what you wish for.
I post this because I had been miserable at my previous job. Every phone call devolved into an argument, every customer at the front counter seemed adversarial. I would hang up the phone and say out loud, “I hate people.” And it was true, I did. And I hated that I was hating people so much. I was frustrated and scared about the person I was becoming. I wanted to tell everyone else in the office, “You know, that’s not really me. Not really.” But, sadly, it was me. I would like to keep denying it, blame it on the situation or other external factors, but the cold, hard reality is that all that darkness that surfaced came from somewhere within me.
I had this vision of myself ten, twenty years down the road as someone who was just as angry and miserable as the people who I was tasked with trying to serve. So, I left for a job with minimal human interaction.
Be careful what you wish for.
Slowly, I’m coming to the realization that maybe the final destination isn’t about landing a perfect job. Maybe it’s trying to find happiness in whatever situation I find myself.
But, who knows how long that road is.