Thursday, April 06, 2006

Huffing Diesel Fumes

A driver delivered some bikes to my shop this past week. He blindsided his 45 foot freight trailer off Main St in about 10 seconds and stopped right at my door. While we off loaded the boxed bikes, I let him know how I thought every tractor trailer driver should learn their trade in the East. He looked at me and I could tell he was trying to figure out what I meant. I went on to say that I had driven for many years and how I was always grateful that I learned to drive on the tight twisty streets of the Eastern seaboard. I said I would guess not many drivers from west of the Mississippi would have been able or willing to back in on the blind side from a main drag. He just smiled. He knew. And so did I.

I signed the bill and he left. As I inventoried the drop, our conversation lingered in my mind. I began to reminisce about the life I lead as a long haul trucker. The countless days, countless miles and countless truckstops. Nostalgic feelings swept in and I missed that life for a moment. All the good memories of a time when I was footloose and full of piss and vinegar. When I thought nothing of pounding out 1000 miles without more than a fuel stop or two. I dwelled on the successful trips when I ran criminally overweight snaking my way around scales and cops. The beauty of driving East into the dawn on a clear Spring morning. The satisfaction from nailing a tough back in. The comedy of trying to keep two or more sets of logs running like they made sense. My rose colored glasses were fully engaged.

Nothing good lasts. About 5 minutes into my trip down memory lane, the reasons I left that life came flooding back. The 24/7 aspect of it all. The cops and rules. The grifters and sleazy brokers ripping me off. But mostly the loneliness finally got to me. I proved after many years on the road, I was not the loner I thought I was. It took a million plus miles of sleep deprived existence to wake me up to the fact that my life was more than getting from here to there and back.

It has been over 15 years since I sat behind the wheel of a tractor trailer. When I stepped down, I was sad. I was sure I would never find anything to replace it. Now I wonder why I suffered that life for so long. It had it's moments, but they passed. Trucking is a tough and thankless existence. But I am grateful have no regrets. We were a good fit for 17 years. Everytime I smell diesel fuel I am reminded of this.