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The light load: Confessions of a transportation tenderfoot

The light load: Confessions of a transportation tenderfoot

Change is good: Judge Judy was better than Judge Wapner, and Taylor Swift is a marginal improvement on the Archies.

Change is bad: Spitting snow becomes a blizzard, leaving you with 16 inches of visibility on I-29 somewhere between the Siouxs — Falls and City — praying that that borrowed Ciera contains the mandatory — MANDATORY! — winter stash of Hershey bars.

It did not.

Not that I’m Folgers-grade bitter about that and not that I needed the chocolate to survive. I had fat stores to last for weeks even if a kindly trucker with taillights more cornea-frying than Rudolph at full power hadn’t guided me to a greasy spork at the next exit 10 minutes after I pulled to the shoulder. I just wanted some candy. So sue me!

But I digress. I believe the subject was change.

When I joined FreightWaves as a copy editor not quite two years ago, I in effect asked someone to hold my root beer while I belly-flopped into the oft-amazing, occasionally aneurysmal world of transportation and logistics.

Up until then, I had only the vague sense that truckers were a benevolent presence hovering round about us, like the devoted Irish beat cop in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” or an especially industrious charm of hummingbirds. (I wanted to say a pride of hummingbirds, but technically they move in a “charm,” “shimmer,” “tune” or “bouquet,” according to people tasked with naming groups of small poultry.)

Anyway, you don’t have to know diddly about their actual work — truckers, I mean, not hummingbirds — to realize that a person with the endless patience to make children squeal with joy by responding to the universal “honk-honk” arm pump is one of the good guys. For a study in disappointment, watch kids try that with some Wadsworth in a minivan. Even in the unlikely event he complies instead of gunning it while admonishing the Shih Tzu riding shotgun to ignore the wicked boys and girls in the next car, it’s just not the same as when that sweet melody issues forth from an ’06 Peterbilt.

Today, however, I know truckers do so much more. Yes, they haul the buttermilk for my cornbread, and for that alone I owe them a debt of gratitude. But they also help supply the weights at the gym to sustain the illusion that I’m getting fit, the sun-dried tomatoes that make my scrambled eggs bearable and the occasional pharmaceutical that keeps me away from the business end of the crematory. Behind most of my good and valuable goods and valuables, in fact, it’s dang likely there’s a trucker.

If ever I had aught against the industry — besides the fact that I shriek like a scalded dingo in the presence of Jake Brakes — it was my discovery that tankers painted with elephantine mugs of steaming coffee and burlap sacks brimming with shiny java beans do not haul, ya know, coffee.

How recently I learned this isn’t what matters. What’s important is that I was disillusioned. I had naturally assumed that a Dunkin’ or Starbucks subsidiary somewhere had industrial-scale Bunns brewing vats of jitter juice for caffeine-parched denizens of 7-Elevens and Golden Gallons. If a gas station wanted to add a discreet logo to the tanker-side mural noting that it sponsored deliveries of morning’s essential nectar, who was I to quibble? Stranger things have happened. (La Toya Jackson had a country album. Fastrac can underwrite a coffee truck.)

So imagine the depth of my disgruntlement upon realizing that fuel or some other less flavorful liquid was in those gleaming, horizontal percolators. Looking back all those months ago, I have to admit the signs were there: They plugged into the station’s parking lot rather than running a line to the coffee counter. And there was that time a concerned trucker started asking around for my legal guardian after I inquired about cutting out the middleman by purchasing a direct fill-up for my Big Gulp.

Nowadays I know better: You want gas station coffee, you go inside the gas station. You sneak a cup of what those tankers haul, you wind up in the ER or on the business end of the crematory.

I mean, I’ve heard.


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11 June 2021, 21:00