It was an early morning diner at a truck stop on the plains of western Kansas in a small town with a name only the locals knew. And a little man came in with the cold still fresh on his coat and sat down in the corner booth. The waitress came over with a smile and said “What will it be, Bub?” The little man looked up at the big girl and said with a twinkle in his eye, “Two looking up at me” and started filling out his logs. He had a wrinkled face that told of a life of many lonely hours on the road. As he sat quietly sipping his coffee, the big girl sat down his eggs and asked “Where are you from, honey?” The little man told the waitress his story:
“I am a long haul trucker. I grew up on a farm in Iowa, hunting in the woods and fishing in the stream. My brothers and I ran through the fields, hid in the corn and swan in the ponds. During the week we bucked hay until dark and on Sundays after church we had picnics by the river. I have a 2000 Freightliner with 1,000,000 miles and have put every one of those on. I’m halfway through a four day run. I have never had a wreck and hope I never do. I haul goods to people all over the country and always on time. I have driven next to drunks, outlaws, teenagers, old people who can’t see 20 fee in front of their cars, four wheelers who cut in front of me, traffic jams that go on for hours, and all kinds of weather. My boss drivers a shiny new corvette, I see it parked at the front door of the terminal when I get back once a month but I have never met him. He is always in his office on the second floor. He parks near a sign which says, “No Drivers Allowed Past this Point.” A voice on the phone dispatches me. I am Unit Number 9805. The company had Driver Appreciation week last week but I have been on the road 30 years and have never made it to one. As long as I do my job, I don’t think they know I exist and that is for the best.”
He looked down and started on his eggs and the waitress filled his mug.
When he finished, his bloodshot eyes stared at the wall.
The waitress, a friendly gal, then tried to restart the conversation with the lonely trucker.
“Tell me about your family,” she asked.
The trucker looked up from his coffee and smiled at the waitress with sadness in his eyes. “I went into trucking when my dad died and the farming went bad. My brothers went off to school and we lost the farm. A big corporation bought it at auction. Susie was never born to be a trucker’s wife and she took up with the local banker 20 years ago. She just could not take the lonely weeks alone. She lives in a big house in the city and spends time at the country club. My son Bobby just finished law school and my daughter Jenny is married with two girls but I haven’t seen them in 2 years. My mother died four years ago when I was in LA but I made it back in time for the service, having to remind my dispatcher three times. You’ve never seen a truck get back from the coast that quickly. What about you?”
The waitress then sat down at the booth and said “I raised three kids by myself in this little town. They now live in the city. I read People magazine on breaks and imagine that I was beautiful. I spend my days serving eggs and bacon. The job doesn’t pay much, but I like talking to the drivers and that makes me happy. I’ve talked to a lot of truck drivers over the years. I wish most people knew the sacrifices you make to do your job and move this country’s goods. Thank you.”
“I have to hurry,” said the trucker. “I have to deliver on time and we’ve got some catching up to do.”
The trucker smiled, looked at the five dollar tab and put down a ten dollar bill.
He walked out against the cold and fired up his rig. The words “Thank you” hung with
him for the next 500 miles. It was words he had never heard before. But the smile
stayed on his face as he drove to his next delivery.
Happy trucking and thank you for all you do! Tom