I went to a men’s breakfast at a church in London this morning. Before the food was rolled out, I took a seat in the foyer next to a fellow wearing shorts. He was an old guy (sort of like me!) We talked a bit of this and that and then I asked if he was retired. He was.
“I was a long haul trucker for 45 years.”
I love learning about other people’s lives, especially if they’ve done things that I never have. I’ve often wondered what a trucker’s life is like. The flow of the open road sounds marvelous but being alone for so long feels like misery. I’m not a “go it alone” type guy.
Robbie has been happily married for many decades. But he’d often be on trips for five weeks at a time. I asked him if 90% of his married life was spent away from each other. “Yeah, that sounds about right.” I asked how you keep a relationship going through such lengthy absences. He smiled immediately and his eyes seemed far away. “It’s not a problem.” I looked again, and there was love.
My new friend mentioned that he had an accident once but that was 8,000,000 miles ago. I asked about driving across the continent in winter. “I know what to do when it snows, even when there’s freezing rain. There’s a lot of weight in that rig but I just go slow when it’s slippery.” Alrighty then. Clearly driving truck isn’t for me. I get so tense when the temperature is around 0º Celsius and the clouds are dripping their blessings.
I asked about whether trucking companies put pressure on drivers to cover a lot of ground fast, to absolutely make deadlines that are thousands of miles away. “No, I had plenty of time to meet their schedule. But I didn’t want to sit in coffee shops blabbing to other guys for two hours. Can’t make money that way.” Okay, I like making money too but I also want to spend time with folks.
Robbie said that often he’d have a trip that went something like this: Toronto > Laredo, Texas > Vancouver > Boston > home. I can only imagine. Did he drive alone? “Yes, I love the peace and quiet, just turning on the cruise control and watching the world go by. I’m a loner.”
He showed me a photo of his bright blue rig. He was beaming. “Two bunk beds in the back of the cab. Lots of room. After I got my max ten hours of driving in, I’d pull off somewhere and snooze away.” Oh my. So alone, but that’s what Robbie chose, so good for him.
Now the man is retired but I can see the blacktop in his eyes. He says it’s a challenge for both him and his wife now that he’s home so much, but no big deal. Here’s a fellow who has so many miles to look back on. He seems at peace with himself.
We’re both a lot hungry and the bacon, eggs, beans and pancakes are ready for us now. And anyway, I’ve already been nourished.