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Truckers Have Stories

To distract myself from my many failings, I went to town for breakfast with friends where I ended up talking about truckers.

Why not? God forbid I’d start a discussion about politics in a public place. 

By and large, I like truckers. In my experience, they’re a cut above the general population in the quality and quantity of their stories.

My guess is one of the reasons truckers are good storytellers is that many of them are small-town folks who, almost by definition, have to move out of their comfort zone in every way.

Once I was talking to an older trucker who, on his first trip ever outside of Minnesota, had to deliver a big piece of equipment to the docks in New York City. He got lost – several times – and ended up on a crowded street in dense traffic, getting honked at. He stopped the truck, got out, and started walking up the street. A cop stopped him and asked where he was going.

“I’m looking for a phone booth,” he said, “so I can call my boss and tell him where he can find his truck.”

The cop panicked a little. Traffic wasn’t good and having 90,000 pounds of Minnesota truck abandoned in the middle of the street wasn’t going to make it much better. He asked the trucker his destination and gave him an escort there. They arrived shortly before quitting time and the longshoremen weren’t eager to start a new job. The cop said, “Forget it. We’re getting this guy unloaded and getting him the hell out of Manhattan.”

Talk about bridging the rural/urban divide! This was a goal everyone could support.

My favorite trucker story involves a young guy, going west, not east. His first trip out of Minnesota, he headed to Salt Lake City. There’s a long downhill grade into the city, and he started down one gear too high. He kept picking up speed, and by the time he reached the bottom, he was kicking up gravel on the left shoulder going into the curves and kicking up gravel off the right shoulder coming out of the curves. When he looked in his rear-view mirror, he could see a long plume of smoke hanging in the air that seemed to be coming off his brakes.

Just as he reached the bottom, he passed a highway patrolman.

Since his speedometer had passed into uncharted territory, he wasn’t really surprised to get pulled over. He was sitting, both hands on the steering wheel, pulse pounding and sweat dripping off his chin, when the highway patrolman climbed up on the running board.

“So,” he asked, “first time in the mountains?”

He went on. “Here’s what we’re going to do. You’re going to sit here until you calm down. Have a cup of coffee, smoke a cigarette, whatever. After that, you’re going to get out and check your rig, your brakes, your load, everything. And then you’re going to go on your way. What I’m going to do is throw you in jail if I ever see you come down a mountain that fast again.”

I finished telling my story, then listened to a couple people tell stories of their own. I drained my coffee cup, came home, and went back to work. I’m still lopsided, still drooping, but I’m better than I was when I got up.

And that’s not nothing.

Copyright 2019 Brent Olson

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