Driver goes off road, new life begins

Grant McGee

I ain’t drivin’ an 18-wheeler no more.

The folks over at the Motor Vehicle Division office “encouraged” me to surrender my Commercial Driver’s License (known as a CDL) when I was taking care of some business there the other day.

They told me if I wanted to keep it I’d need this and that (too much detail to go into here). Before making a decision, I paused.

Images of my truck-driving days flashed through my mind.
There was the Arkansas truck-driving school staffed by folks who looked like they’d stepped out of the movie “Cool Hand Luke” (“Whut we got here is failuh to commun’cate”).

It was there that we’d practice double-clutching with a state-of-the-art simulator: a toilet plunger with a light switch duct-taped to the plunger handle.

I remember the feeling of passing my driver’s test.

I was so happy my knees gave out. I raised my hands to the sky and yelled, “Thank God!” If I had failed I was going to check out becoming a carnival barker.

I zipped back and forth across America: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Minneapolis, Laredo, Texas, San Francisco and everything in between.

I learned the best towns for re-stocking my on-board supplies for ease of getting on and off the interstate and to avoid high truck stop prices.

There were places I wished I could have spent more time to relax (upstate New York, western Pennsylvania). I found the drivers to be more courteous in Los Angeles than New York. Surprisingly, I found the craziest drivers weren’t in either of those cities, they were in St. Louis.

There were my team-driving partners. There was Mike who made beelines for bars when we delivered our loads. There was Frank, newly arrived from Trinidad, getting used to the United States and trying to meet ladies along the way.

As a company driver I remembered the company basically owned me 26 days of each month.

It meant showering when I could; that might average about every three or four days.

Being a company driver meant passing through my hometown without being allowed to stop.

It meant passing by my Mom’s house and not being able to drop in just to say “hi.”

I never could convince veteran truck drivers that I was a “real” truck driver.

It was made very clear to me by a dispatcher at a big warehouse near Phoenix.

“You ain’t a truck driver,” she said. “You’re just a man who drives a truck for a living. You brush your teeth and you keep the inside of your rig clean.”

I thought it was because someone saw me fueling my rig wearing my flip-flops and bright red Hawaiian “flowerdy” shirt.

When I got off the road I had to stop myself from double-clutching my newly acquired car. An 18-wheeler would go by and I’d think with a smile, “Cool, I can drive one of those things.”

Now when I see a big rig I think, “Wow, I can’t believe I used to drive one of those things.”

When I told my Mom I was getting off the road and going back to office work she said, “Thank God.”

I made my decision.

I signed a little slip of paper. I traded in my CDL for a regular driver’s license.

Know anyone who needs a cheap CB radio or a kingpin lock?

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: blisscreeksw@yahoo.com