When you were young, you were told to make sure you had on clean underwear in case of an accident; as you got older, you realized that if an event required a total stranger to cut you out of your clothing, it was too late to worry about clean―your skivvies were now a bio-hazard. Truck driving has a corollary: I am frequently required to go out in public looking like I slept in my clothes―because I probably did. I have given up on getting pre-shower presentable. The other morning my first look at my hair showed it standing straight up on my head―this was AFTER I had walked through the Drivers’ lounge and talked to three people. I clean up good, however, so I may have a string of shower attendants across the nation wondering where I stashed the OTHER body.

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Real time: It is about 8:30 on Wednesday evening. We are on I-55 southbound in Illinois, on our way to St. Louis. The sun just dipped below the horizon off to our right. On both sides of the freeway, for as far as we can see, are cornfields, tall and tasseled. A farmhouse or barn pokes up from time to time; a couple of horses are grazing in a field; a stream cuts through the trees. We have the windows down, and the cool, scented air is refreshing after the warm day; the cicadas and crickets are tuning up…. The sun is gone now, and lights are starting to come on. Wispy clouds are making the sky look darker, and maybe they will go bump and give us a nighttime light show in an hour or two. It smells like sweet, damp earth and it makes our spirits feel refreshed…. It is nearly full-on dark now, and the cornfields are becoming a level and coalescent landscape, as if they have pulled up a blanket and are snuggling down for the night. And still, that sweet, sweet air blows through the truck, carrying away daytime thoughts, giving us comfort and hope for tomorrow. Good night, to all you who work so hard with the land. Thank you, and sleep well.

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Public restrooms have become marvels of modern technology. I have been in some, where everything (well, almost) is done with or without my consent. Toilets flush, faucets release water, soap and towels are dispensed if I just hold my hand out. But confusion occurs when the automatic and the manually-operated devices are combined in a single facility. I flush my own toilet, but the faucet is automatic; I have to pump the soap, but the towels spit out every time the door opens. (Ever stood near a towel dispenser that won’t stop turning? Arrggh!) What’s really frustrating (and embarrassing) is standing there, incorrectly assuming the device is automatic. When I worked at the construction company, I had a variety of labor-saving devices on my desk, and I got complacent. One day I had to punch holes for filing paperwork in a binder. I stuck the paper in, and waited. “Hey!” I called to a co-worker, “the hole-punch is broken.” She stepped closer, snickered, and pushed down on the handle.

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Trukker Skool

Some driving teams are a Team; others treat the truck like an office cubicle being shared by two workers on opposite schedules. One of the challenges of Team driving is the possibility of leaving your Co-Driver behind after a pit stop. Almost every Team has some method of letting each other know they are out of the truck, but there is still a library of left behind stories. Most of them are hilarious―except perhaps to the Leftee, who needs to get a sense of humor. They frequently require police assistance, because Someone failed to take their cell phone, wallet, or shoes into the restroom. The Driver, assuming the Co-Driver is still sound asleep in the bunk, drives off into the sunset and doesn’t realize he has gone solo until he tries to swap drivers and go off duty. Meanwhile, Mr. Sourpuss is begging quarters from other motorists so he can call Dispatch, and ask them to QUALCOMM the Driver, to let him know he is a few pounds short of a full load. In theory, this would not happen to a married couple…. Would it, Harry? Harry…?

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Sometimes, sitting in late afternoon homeward-bound traffic, I get a bit envious. I think it would be nice to be going Home; to sit at my table for dinner; to sit on my sofa and watch TV; to go to sleep in a bed that won’t be in another time zone when I wake up. Sometimes.

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Trukker Skool

One vital skill a new Driver must acquire is, “The Nod.” This is the wordless but eloquent greeting, exchanged when two Drivers encounter one another. It is a slight motion, delivered with due respect and solemnity. It speaks volumes: I’m out here; I’m doing okay; I’m glad we’re in it together; I wish you safe journey; thank you. If you are in a truck stop, or any other location, and wonder if a passerby is a Driver, then give The Nod; if it isn’t returned, they are not.

Can’t get enough? C L Miller’s, A Long Way From Home: A Trucker’s Life Through A Woman’s Eye is available for purchase through the following online retailers:

Amazon | Kindle Edition

Barnes & Noble | Nook

kobo | eBooks, Tablets, & eReaders

Google Play | Books

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