Friday, July 26, 2013

Truck Drivers Say the Darndest Things

One time, at work, I came upstairs to find a truck driver waiting for his load to be unloaded and his paperwork to be processed. He looked like a cross between Napoleon Dynamite (from the movie Napoleon Dynamite) and his brother Kip (also from the movie Napoleon Dynamite) if they were 50 years old.

As he sat, he reached into his backpack (yes, a fifty year old man with a backpack!) and pulled out a Rubik's Cube. He began to twist the cube, trying to align the colors. As he did, he kept glancing at me out of the corner of his eye. It seemed to me he was trying to goad me into a conversation. He wanted me to ask him about the Rubik's Cube. He wanted me to ask about his backpack.

But, I knew better. You see, I've been around enough truck drivers to know the basic rules: 1) Never initiate conversation with a truck driver; B) Never look a truck driver directly in the eyes; and C) Whatever you do, do NOT sniff a truck driver!!!

The life of a truck driver can be a lonely, solitary existence. They can be on the road for days, weeks, and sometimes months at a time. Not all, but some of them will look for any opportunity they can get to talk to an actual person. And they will talk to (or at) you for hours and hours if you let them.

It doesn't really matter if you talk back at all. Just having an actual living being acknowledge their existence with an occasional "uh-huh" or nod of the head will be enough to keep them talking until the cows come home. (And it doesn't really matter where the cows have been.)

And, the topic of the conversation isn't important, either. They might tell you their life story. They might discuss politics. They might talk about the price of food in the vending machines. They might talk about those a*#holes at the port of entry. They might talk about the latest episode of Honey Boo Boo. It really doesn't matter as long as they are talking and someone actually seems to be listening.

The other day I came up to the office to find a truck driver had cornered one of the secretaries. As I ate my lunch I listened to him expound about a wide variety of topics, including the George Zimmerman trial. He seemed (at least in his own mind) to be an expert on the case, recounting details not known to the press, the police, the jurors, or probably even Zimmerman himself.

Then, he started into a story about himself. "These kids kept revving their engines really early in the morning. So, I went down and I was going to talk to them. I was just going to talk to them. Now, you see, when I was in the Special Forces I was trained how to kill a man with just these two fingers..." (I was tempted to turn around to see which two fingers he was talking about, but that would have put me at risk of making eye contact with him. I did not want that to happen. He was talking to Vicki, he wasn't talking to me. And I wanted to keep it that way.)(Vicki is a big girl. She can take care of herself.)

I had some work of my own to attend to, so I didn't hear the end of his story. But, I had doubts as to its veracity. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that people who actually were in Special Forces are not usually the type of people who talk and brag about how they were in Special Forces and were trained how to kill people with just two fingers. They tend to keep that kind of information to themselves.

Anyway, as Vicki finally fended off the driver with her third, "I've got to get back to this work" comment, he turned toward me. I tried my best to pretend he wasn't there. It didn't matter. He started talking to the back of my head. Eventually, the personal decency I was raised with (curse you, personal decency!) forced me to acknowledge him. I gave him a head nod and a "Yup" or two. The next thing I knew I was listening to a ten minute "conversation" about the return of Twinkies and the politics of the Hostess shutdown.

I tried to get away by walking downstairs back to my truck. He followed me. It wasn't until I had actually gotten into my truck and started to back away from him before he finally closed the conversation. (At least I think he did.)

Some of the things truck drivers say leave me totally baffled. A few weeks ago a truck driver came up to me and said, "Has anyone ever told you you look like Eric Clapton?" "No," I said. "No one ever." I then wondered if I should call the police to get this truck driver a sobriety test before letting him get out on the open road. To compare:

Eric Clapton
Me. (He plays the guitar better, too.)

Another time a guy told me, "I just spent the last three days moving. I filled up my neighbor's garbage bin. I waited until they weren't home, and I filled it up! He'll be mad at me, but he won't be able to find me, because I moved."

Now, why in the world would he tell me this story? Did he tell me because he wanted me to not like him? Because if that's the case, it worked.

The other day a driver came up to me and the conversation went like this:
Truck driver: "Do you have any funny jokes you can tell me?"
Me (not really expecting this question): "Umm, no."
Truck driver: "What do you call a seagull that flies over the bay?"
Me: Silence, trying not to make eye contact.
Truck driver: "A bay gull!"
Me: Polite chuckle; looking for any avenue of escape. (Actually considering feigning my own death.)

It's not just the guy truck drivers, either. Women truck drivers can talk your ear off, too. Women truck drivers are a special breed. They didn't get the memo that the mullet is no longer a fashionably acceptable hairdo. (A female truck driver convention would feature more mullets and flannel than a Billy Ray Cyrus concert!)

One of the funniest thing a truck driver has ever said to me was spoken by a female truck driver. I approached her because I thought she looked confused. She could see that I was trying to help her, and told me she didn't need any help, saying, "I'm not lost. She done told me where to go." (The "she" referring to one of the secretaries in the office.)

"I'm not lost. She done told me where to go." Now, if that's not the makings of a good country song title, then I don't know country music! (Actually, I don't really know country music. I'm more of a rock and pop fan. Still, even I know a good country song title when I hear one!)

So, to sum up, unless you want to hear someone babbling on for hours it's best to remember the three rules of talking to truck drivers: A) Never initiate conversation with a truck driver; 2) Never look a truck driver directly in the eyes; and 3) Whatever you do, do NOT sniff a truck driver! (That last one doesn't really need any explanation, does it?)


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