"Bam! Bam! Bam! I hated this part of truck driving. The rude alarm clock of someone’s clenched fist pounding on my truck door. My eyes struggled to open and my mind attempted to remember where I was. Was this Baton Rouge? Or were we headed to Baton Rouge? Too many days, no, too many nights in a row driving without some time to decompress. What was this, the sixteenth show in seventeen nights?
I pulled open the naughahyde curtain of the sleeper. Rubbing my eyes with one hand and checking my crotch for whatever it was I always checked for when waking up with the other, I tried to focus on what world I was waking up to. A wondrous winter scene of swirling snow greeted my unfocused glance through the windshield. This ain't Baton Rouge. There's snow on the ground. Shit. There's snow everywhere.
Bam! Bam! "Hey driver! Time to back her in. Show’s over. Let's go! Let's go!"
Really irritated now, I jumped out of the sleeper and slid behind the wheel. I Rolled down the window. Cold wind and snow blew in making my bare nipples contract.
"Settle the Fuck down bud. Give me a chance to wake up. Hey man, where are we anyway?"
I looked down to a face squinting up into the snow as if squinting would lessen the impact of the small hard flakes blowing hard into his face. It was a puzzled squint and then he smiled. "You are in South Bend driver. Notre Dame. Dammit, we got 5 more trucks to load out. The band truck's almost loaded. You're next. Come on driver, get it in gear."
"Yeah, yeah. Be with you in a minute." He turned and ran back to the loading dock. I noticed he was kicking up at least 10 inches of snow. I rolled up the window. And immediately laid my head on the wheel and fell asleep.
Bam! Bam! Bam! I brought my head up off the steering wheel. Looked in my mirror and was sure I had fallen asleep at the wheel. Nothing but white in the mirror. Throwing the door open, I bailed.
Now it is a well known fact among drivers that more of us live when we ride it out with the truck than if we try to jump clear. But in the fog of my semi awake state and still feeling the effects of some driving nightmare, that basic fear instinct kicked in. I jumped because I was convinced my life depended on it.
Landing butt first on the frozen ground at the feet of the an obviously stunned stagehand, I noticed immediately the cold infiltrating areas of my body I usually kept covered up. It was then the previous hours of my day came into focus and settled into my befuddled mind. I was buck naked and the snow covered ground immediately started to shrink my naughty bits. The stagehand stood there with the oddest look on his face. I guess he had never seen a truck driver jump out of a truck naked before. Well that made at least two of us who up to this point, had missed that particular pleasure.
For the longest moment I can remember I sat there at his feet and he stood looking down at me. I finally struggled to my feet and began to get back in the truck. Damn that snow was blowing hard and all of it seemed to be aiming for all my tender parts. Before I could make a safe reentry into the cab, another body slipped out of the sleeper and blocked me from getting in.
"Mike? Why are you outside in the snow naked?" Standing on the metal loop step of the cab half in and half out exposed to the elements and the World at large, I came face to face with the reason I was naked in the first place. I turned and looked at the stagehand. He just shook his head and ambled off back to the loading dock. Did I see his shoulders shaking? Sitting in the driver's seat was the co-ed I had become friends with earlier in the day. And she had the advantage right now. She was not naked and she knew my name. For the life of me I was drawing a blank regarding hers.
"Hey darling, climb over the dog house and get in the passenger seat. I need to get to work."
"But why were you outside without any clothes on? It's blowing hard out there."
I didn't reply. I just climbed back into the sleeper and went about the task of finding some clothes to put on. All the while Miss Chatty Kathy was running her mouth about whatever seemed to come to mind. Once she figured out I was not going to answer the why I was naked question, without dropping a beat, she started in about how much she had enjoyed her day with me. The big lunch backstage, meeting all the roadies and watching sound check with the band. Jeez she was sorry she missed the show but what we did instead was fun also. Blah, blah, blah. My head was pounding. I had embarrassed myself, sullied my tough guy truck driver image and I had to be punished by Miss Chatty Kathy to boot.
I stopped searching for that other shoe. Threw open the curtain and looked at her hard. She might be chatty, but she was no dummy. She caught on. Her mouth shut and she looked out the window. I closed the curtain and continued my search. A moment later in a subdued voice, "Well you don't have to be such an asshole. I thought we had some fun. I talk like this when I am nervous. I don't even really know you and ....." and she was off again on a new tangent.
I found my shoe and found my jacket. Dropping into the driver's seat, I finally spoke. "Sorry ah,...... but what just happened was well ...not something I ah...."
"You don't remember my name do you?" The hurt on her face cut through me hard.
"Darling, I'm sorry, but I don't. I forget a lot of things when I drink that much."
"My name is Mindy and we met at the Student Union."
"Well Mindy, I have to back this trailer in now. I hope you had some fun. I am guessing I did. But well, I have a long drive ahead of me and..."
"Wait a minute there buddy. You promised me you'd take me to Cleveland with you. Don't you remember that was how all this started in the first place. I was at the Student Union checking the ride board to find a way home for the long weekend. You said you'd give me a ride and show me around. You showed me around alright. Flipped me around is more like it."
I had been looking straight out into the snowy night. I turned and looked at her. No hurt on her face now. Serious attitude was painted on it instead. She started to open her door.
"Woah Mindy, calm down." I immediately felt terrible. I had started my hunt earlier that day to find a normal girl. Not another groupie who used me as much as I used them. But here after two years on the Rock and Roll road, I had forgotten how to treat a normal woman. I even remember the plan did not include some sexual score, just normal companionship. A simple date. I wanted to eat a meal and maybe go to a movie. But it had gotten out of control when I bought that first bottle of Jack Daniels and then bought another bottle of Jack Daniels.
"Please close the door. Let me back this trailer in and we can go inside and talk, okay."
Shooting me dead with her dark eyes, she hesitated. She closed the door and sat back stiff and hard. "Okay, but only because you promised. Don't be expecting anything more than the ride okay? I don’t usually screw a guy the first time I meet him. But well when we met, you seemed so down. And of course what you do is, well, what girl could resist a back stage pass. Which I might remind you we never used.”
There was more. She just kept at it. I stopped listening and concentrated on doing my job. I had not counted on facing snow for the load out. I had not been careful about where I had parked. The slight incline combined with no weight on the trailer made my initial attempts to move the rig fail. I clicked in all the drive wheels and threw the truck into reverse. Released the clutch and rolled back. Quickly like being on a swing, I threw it in first and rocked the truck forward. Yeah, almost, lets go. Shit. Back into reverse for another swing and then forward. On the fifth or sixth effort, I felt the truck shudder as the wheels finally found the ground through the ten inches of snow. The truck began to inch forward.
All the while Mouthy Mindy’s nonstop commentary punished my right ear. Nothing she said registered, just the noise of her voice. Swinging around the circle in unplowed snow, I knew I had to keep moving and find the hole in one shot. I remembered the bitch of a back in from stage call when we got there. Now it was not daylight. Snow was coming so hard, whiteouts came and went. Like some surreal natural strobe light, the windshield went from white to clear every few seconds. And still Mindy would not shut up.
The band truck had just pulled clear of the dock. Jackson was looking miserable as he stood behind the trailer trying to get his doors closed. I had told him not to keep the trailer backed in with the doors open. At least pull off the dock far enough so the runoff from the roof would not hit the trailer. What I said might happen did happen. Frozen runoff had settled onto locking mechanisms of his doors and encrusted them with ice. I chuckled and found my cigarettes. Lit one up and and got out of the truck. I reached up beside my seat and grabbed my tire thumper. I headed over to help out poor Jackson.
“Jackson my man. How you liking the North now? Beautiful night ain’t it?”
Jackson pounded his partially latched door and cussed. “Goddammit Mike, I will never understand you Yankees and how you can live in this crap. What the Fuck.”
“Stand aside Jackson, let this Yankee straighten you out.” Jackson stepped back obviously grateful for the help. I re-opened both doors and re-latched them open. I handed him my tire thumper.
“Pull the damn truck out of the way. I need to back in. Use the thumper to beat the ice off best as you can. I’ll be out in a minute to help you out.”
As I climbed back into my truck, I looked and between the whiteouts, I saw Jackson looking dumb down at the tire thumper and then up to the encrusted ice at the top of his doors. With shoulders slouched he disappeared around the side of his trailer. In a minute his truck began to slowly move forward and out of my way.
Jackson’s little emergency had allowed me time to find the automatic mode of my job. I fell into the routine I had come to hate over the last two years. This night however, I found comfort in finding my groove again. I pulled out and positioned the truck for a straight shot back to the dock. Like there was no snow or dark to hinder my efforts, I backed in without hesitation, stopping clean and straight 3 inches off the dock. Some back-ins just work out I guess.
Mindy had grown silent. I was guessing she had tuckered herself out with all her talking. She sat small in the buddy seat looking straight ahead.
“Mindy”. No response. She just stared straight ahead. “Mindy, let’s get that cup of coffee.” Still no movement, no acknowledgement I even existed. I shrugged and got out of the truck. I needed food and coffee. The day’s drinking binge had left me ravenous. I knew some food and a couple of aspirins would make my world and my stomach happy places again.
The bright lights and bustle of the loading dock made my head thump even louder. I stood for a minute watching the first light truss get slammed into the trailer wall. “Dammit guys, take it easy. I have to answer for any damages. It’s a lease trailer ferchrisakes.” A big stage hand came walking out of the trailer. He stopped in front of me.
“Hey look guys, it’s Mr Buck Naked. Hey Mr Buck Naked, where’s that sweet young thing you had stashed in the sleeper?”
“Asshole.” I turned my back and walked into the building. All I heard was laughter.
Hoping my little accident had not made the rounds, I worked my way through the show equipment waiting to be loaded. Where was the damn Green Room? There were always great treats left over in the Green Room. The bands expected the best and most promoters provided the best. Shrimp Cocktails, Hienekin bottles cooling in trashcans of ice. Big industrial sized coffee pots filled with coffee. Rolls, crackers, cheese and the best deli meats in town. And what made it a sure thing I would find sustenance, I knew from experience, most Rock n Roll bands didn’t hit the food much. But they expected it as their due.
I found the Green Room. I poured two cups of coffee, grabbed some rolls and cheese, and made my way back to the truck. I walked down the narrow hallway created by my truck and the loading dock wall on the passenger side. I looked up to the window expecting to see Mindy sitting there. No Mindy.
Shit. My hands were full. I set the coffee down on the frame behind the tractor. The incline of the loading dock drive made most of the coffee spill. I opened the passenger door and climbed in.
“Mindy. You in here?”
From the sleeper, “What?”
“Got you some coffee. Drink coffee? Some rolls and cheese maybe? I could run for a soda or a beer if you’d like.”
“No thanks. When are we leaving?”
I had no time for this shit. Getting all the trucks loaded and on their way was what I was here to do. Nursing the hurt feelings of a stranger was not in the game plan.
“In awhile, maybe an hour or so. I have to make sure all the trucks get loaded. I’m the lead driver. It’s my job. Once we have them loaded, I’ll take you to Cleveland. Here’s the rolls. If you want anything else, just head inside and ask someone where the Green Room is. I gotta go now and bail out another dumass Texan who can’t handle the snow.” I jumped out of the truck.
I knew Jackson was not going to get that massive chunk of ice off the top of his doors. I knew it would have to be done from the top. I also knew these halls had all kinds of equipment to get up high. And even if they didn’t, we carried ladders with us. I headed to the dock and right there waiting to be loaded onto my truck was one of the ten foot step ladders with the extension in the middle we all carried on our trucks. A stage hand was leaning on it.
“Hey bud, I need that. Gotta get some ice off the band truck so we can close the doors.”
“But it’s supposed to go in this trailer friend, Cant’ let you have it.” He was big and looked like he was going to give me a hard time.
“Back off bud. Gimme the damn ladder. I’ll find room for it on the band truck. We’re all heading for the same place.”
He wouldn’t take his hand off the ladder. Just then Rat, the roadie in charge of loading the light equipment came out of my trailer. “Give him the ladder. If Mr. Buck Naked says he needs it, he needs it. He might just take off his clothes if you don’t.” Rat said this with a straight face. The stage hand looked perplexed but released his grip on the ladder.
“You’re an asshole Rat, You know that?” I grabbed the ladder and headed out to save Jackson.
As I expected, I found Jackson sitting in his truck. He figured out quickly pounding the door at the bottom would have no effect on the ice at the top. The right door had what must have been a 40 pound chunk of ice hanging off of it.
I pounded on his door and he jerked.
“Come on Jackson, hold the ladder for me. We’ll get you fixed up. Next time, listen to me okay? Not all of us Yankees are dumb fucks.”
Jackson held the ladder and I pounded on the ice with the thumper. It was slow going but I finally freed the ice and we shut his doors.
By 2:00 AM we had all the trailers loaded and everyone lined up ready to convoy to Cleveland. Another couple of inches of snow had fallen and it was a sure thing it would be a slow trek. I figured we would be lucky to make Cleveland by stage call. So I called Dispatch in Dallas and had them put the wheels in motion to delay stage call. Having 20 or 30 stage hands standing around making union wages with nothing to do was one expense my company loved to avoid.
I jumped in my truck and made sure everyone was on channel 17 on their CBs. I turned to the sleeper. “Mindy?” No answer. I pulled back the curtain of the sleeper.
A beautiful sight is watching a woman sleep. I gazed at her calm face laid gently on hands as if in prayer. I knew the show had to go on and sooner was better than later what with the blizzard here in Indiana. But I could not help taking a few moments to drink in this tranquil image. Her breath was even. Her neck pulsed ever so slightly. For that moment I was in Love. I hated to disturb her. So I didn’t. I closed the curtain. Found first gear and we headed to Cleveland.