LARGE CAR IS TRUCKER SLANG FOR AN 18-wheeler. I drive one, and it's a trip. At times I have raced other drivers to the Pompano Beach landfills pulling garbage out of the Florida Keys at 80,000 pounds gross. In Appalachia I've hauled steel pipe up blind, hairpin turns to the mountain coalfields, air horns blasting, my tractor swinging near the crumbling edge in the opposing lane and my trailer throwing sparks off the rocky ledges on the inside. From granite quarries in Georgia I've hauled single, 20-ton chunks chained down to flatbed trailers, "garden rocks" headed for the docks and a ship to Japan. (Don't look for a MADE IN THE U.S.A. stamp on these!) On the same trailers I've loaded contaminated machinery from outdated plants shut down by the EPA, sites so deadly you don't want to think about them. More typical are back-to-back cross-country runs of pantyhose or Kitty Litter.
For years I filled notebooks with my thoughts while on the road. Then I discovered the personal computer. Jilting my pen for a laptop, I fell in love with the PC. True love. When I get an idea I move to a rest stop. Suddenly this trucker can write, spell and print it all out on the run!
Driving a big rig gets in your blood. Since I've become enabled and "wired" there are some important things I'd like to share with the drivers of four-wheelers regarding eighteens: "large cars" are the lifeblood of shipping--they bring you everything you own, and the stranger behind the wheel of that big truck blocking your path or view is a human being with feelings and needs like your own.
When we're hungry we may have to drive for hours to find a restaurant or a McDonald's with a space large enough to park 60 feet or more of truck. What we usually find are signs that read: NO SEMIS. Ditto for a need to stop at the post office, bank, phone, drugstore, grocery, laundry or just a restroom. When we make a simple turn at an intersection, the rig is so long we must cut over into opposing lanes of traffic to keep the rear trailer tires from running over the curb or a signpost. We max out every speed limit because we get paid by the mile; an hourly rate would put most of us at half minimum wage. We resent the four-wheeler, which is not on a schedule, clogging the passing or "hammer" lane because its cruise control was previously set at 56f mph and the car it's passing has the cruise set at 56i. When we leave a proper space behind the vehicle we're following, a four-wheeler jumps in to fill it. At mandatory weigh stations, we frequently endure lengthy checks of our logbooks to determine that we are not driving more than the legal number of hours per day, when the rest of the public can drive dangerously nonstop any time it wants to. We are subject to random drug/urine tests when the rest of you, including senior drivers of recreational vehicles who are often legally tranquilized, are not. In tourist areas, we're prohibited from accessing most "scenic views." And after a long day we have to hope for a motel with truck parking or a rest area without a NO OVERNIGHT PARKING policy and with enough room for one more "large car." I could go on...
Long-haul drivers, away from family and hearth for weeks at a time, put in longer hours to make a decent living than any other workers in America. From up high in a big truck we can look down into your little cars and scope out the "seat covers" (passengers). Despite what we sometimes see, we often wish we were in this other, more normal world. We can watch couples argue with each other, watch ladies try to drive to work and paint their faces at the same time, watch the less affluent people with their windows rolled down in the summer (no AC) but looking so proud: black T shirt, the driver's beefy arm hanging out the window with the radio blasting. (It's amazing how healthy the males look and how sparky the females in those noisy, hot cages). Our TV screen is the windshield and yes, we male drivers do leer sometimes, enjoying the view as we observe the multiethnic, sultry femucopia of south Florida, the aggressive, preening go-getters driving the D.C. beltway, the Chicago working girls as we pass the train platforms alongside I-94 or the sunbathers along any beach highway. But what every driver likes even more, when he can get it, is a little respect.
Because we're away from our families so much of the time, when we finally score a pay phone and "the wife" reports that the washing machine or some other appliance broke down, we have to pay a premium price because we're not there to either fix it ourselves, shop for a new one or assist in the new item's delivery and installation. The dog just died? Maybe a neighbor will bury it for you. Maybe. Your wedding anniversary is coming up? Too bad! Your dispatcher has a load of apples for you going to the other coast.
Big trucks are a necessary part of our modern world and will persist, like laundry and the dishes and time clocks and neckties. Maybe you're turned off by the rough countrybumpkin look of so many drivers wearing cowboy hats in restaurants (because most are from rural areas where there is no other work). Perhaps you've heard colorful language on the CB: politics debated with four-letter words, a driver calling his lady "the wife," or a female trucker calling her hubby "Hitler." Well, it's a lot easier for truckers to speak their minds than it is to drive this country's mean streets and highways. So what if they blow off steam once in a while?
Could you handle one of our monster machines? Would you go everywhere we have to go, delivering and picking up loads in what are often described as "combat zones," without a clue as to when you'll get back home? No? Then we large-car drivers deserve your respect. You don't have to love us; just give us a smile and some extra room. We enjoy having a happy day, too.