I was a truck driver in the midst of New Jersey trying to get a load headed home for Christmas. In every truck drivers life, he/she has to give up either Thanksgiving or Christmas with their families. Since I prefer to be home at Christmas time, I gave up Thanksgiving.
I had just finished making a delivery in Cranberry, New Jersey, when the Quailcom (satelite communications computer) started buzzing. The date was December 19th, and I was hoping the message would tell me, of a load I could go home with. For this truck driver, it’s important to be home for Christmas. That’s when the family gathers to celebrate the holiday together.
During this time of year, I tend to attempt to brighten peoples day, by showing up at shippers and receivers wearring Antlers (the kind people put on their dogs, for photos), on top of my baseball cap. For a big guy like me, I tend to get a smile out of a lot of people that way. Of course, a lot of folks look at me like I’ve lost my marbles, but they still smile.
When the Quailcom started buzzing, I took out my notebook and a pen, to write down the load information.
Yup, here it was my load going home for Christmas. Even better, the load is scheduled to deliver January 3. Well, I started writing the information for the load, it seemed like I was writing so fast, that the smoke I was smelling, was coming from my own pen. Once I wrote the information down, I called the shipper for directions. Then I did a vehichle check of my truck and started heading to the shipper.
Once at the shipper, I had to wait in line to get the dry van trailer loaded. Great, another waiting time before I could get out of New Jersey. I’m sorry, New Jersey is OK, but it isn’t home. When it was my turn to move into position, to get the trailer loaded, I checked my watch. 2pm and I’m just getting into the dock. After getting loaded and signing the paperwork, the time was 3:30pm.
When I finally got out of New Jersey, after the traffic jam, it was after 5pm. The route I was taking, was going to lead me out of New Jersey, into Pennsylvania, then down through Maryland, a small section of West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, then West through Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, then California. By the time I reached Toms Brooke, Virginia, I was “dog” tired. When it’s late in the evening like this(about 10pm), it’s pretty difficult to find a parking place (for big trucks), luckily I found one.
When you’re a truck driver, you tend to talk to people on the CB (Citizens Band Radio). Most of the time you talk about “shop” issues, the weather, traffic, etc. Some conversations can be of interest. Other times, some folks get on the radio to show their lack of intelligence. The CB is an intricate part of the trucking industry. But some of the conversations should not be heard by members of the younger generations. Some of the language could get pretty colorful, in a bad way.
The next morning, after a quick breakfast, I did my daily pre-trip inspection, and began the trek home. Since I was really feeling the Christmas Spirit, I had my XM radio, playing Christmas music. Everytime the song mentioned snow, I changed the channel. In the trucking industry, snow is a four letter word (personnally I use the word, flocking), not to be mentioned. Snow, Ice, Tornado, Herricane, etc. are all words not to be mentioned. These are all hazards that we try to avoid at all cost. After a bit of time, I would turn the radio back to the Christmas music.
When I started that morning, I started adding the miles before I would be in California. Let’s see, Tom’s Brook is at the 291, then there’s 80 miles to the I-40/I-81 split. From the split there is 421 miles to the border of Arkansas. 284 miles across Arkansas, 331 miles across Oklahoma, 177 across Texas,384 across New Mexico, 359 across Arizona to the California border. That’s 2327 miles to go until I made the California line.
Long about the Arizona border, I started getting nervous. When Flagstaff, Arizona, gets hit with flocking. The Interstate gets shut down. Last time I was stuck on the hill in Flagstaff, I popped the trackor brakes and climbed into the sleeper to watch a football game on the TV. I was hoping that wouldn’t happen again.
When I started thinking about my family, I was glad I had gone shopping for Christmas presents, last time I was home. When you’re a truck driver, the ability to do much Christmas shopping is pretty limited. Most of the time, we (as truck drivers) only get to shop in truck stops. You can’t really go home with a “load lock” (a bar that holds the cargo in place inside the trailer) as Mom’s Christmas gift. If you do, you’re liable to end up at the kiddy table, for Christmas dinner. But I was lucky to get members of my family to do the Christmas wrapping done for me.
Only after getting past Flagstaff, Arizona, did I start singing along with the Christmas songs, on the XM radio. Yes, even the ones that mentioned snow. Heck, where else was I going to encounter snow on this trip? When I finally reached Kingman, Arizona, I had to take another break, before heading into California. Here it was the 23rd of December, and I was almost home.
The next morning, I got up ready to make it home. But I wasn’t ready for the headaches I would have, the rest of the way. After crossing the California line, I was in a great mood. When I arrived in Barstow, California, there was a large traffic jam. It seemed like hours before the traffic broke up. Then coming into the Hesperia, California area, there was another traffic jam. By the time I reached Fontana, California (where our company terminal is) it was already 10pm. When I dropped the trailer, turned in the trip envelope (so I could get paid), and grabbed what I needed from the truck, it was 11pm.
When I finally arrived home, it was Midnight. Walking into the house, I saw all the gifts under the tree. I thought of all the time it took me to get home for Christmas. It was all worth it. In the morning, I would be celebrating Christmas with my family. When all is said and done, family is all we have. A job is a job, but family is forever.
Since I was already tired, I chose to crawl under the Christmas tree, to be another present for the family. Though I hoped they wouldn’t want to unwrap me!
Merry Christmas everyone!