The world of commercial driving has held a ton of surprises for me. It’s taught me things about the country’s crumbling infrastructure, how people behave on the road, how the shipping industry works and a lot of things I never knew about myself. I never knew about the endless waiting, and I never knew I was a Lord of the Rings fan. I’m sure some of you can relate, but for those that are already laughing and pointing accusatory fingers—let me explain.
I love my job. I enjoy driving and I’m proud of what I do. The money’s decent and I generally have no complaints except one—the waiting. Waiting to load and unload is terrible sometimes, especially since I don’t get paid for that time. If the guy in front of me is kind of lazy or unmotivated I might be waiting for hours to drop off a load of corn or spuds. I get impatient and I get anxious. I’m happy when I’m driving and I’m happy when I’m sleeping, but there’s plenty of time on the road where I’m doing neither one. The waiting time.
I grew up loving 70s and 80s action movies, the kind that played on TV in the evening. Cobra, Tango & Cash, Predator, Nighthawks, Rocky 3, Action Jackson and other, similar stuff. Those were the kind of movies I like, and I was never interested in the “deeper” science fiction and fantasy stuff. If I was watching TV it was either a New York Giants game or an action movie. So, needless to say, the collection of DVDs in my truck was pretty limited.
It was a friend who pushed Lord of the Rings on me. I was complaining about boredom on the road and how I didn’t have anything to watch, and he dug up 3 DVDs. He gave them to me despite my protest. “I’m not into that stuff!” I said, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. I was determined not to watch them.
Soon enough, a big wait came. I was in line between 4 other trucks at a notoriously slow unloading spot, so I said “what the heck,” and put The Fellowship of the Ring in my DVD player. Within 15 minutes, I was engrossed. I found myself calling my friend to explain certain characters and events. I was totally into it. I watched all 3 movies 2 times each over the period of a week and a half.
I think it was the fact that it was such a long, continuous story about the same characters. I got hooked on it. I used to scoff at fantasy and science fiction, but now I’m game for any of these epic fantasy movies. Heck, I’ve even gotten into Game of Thrones now. It’s not light viewing—there’s a lot to it, and that’s what makes it great for a long wait that would otherwise make me anxious and cranky. I notice something new every time I watch it, and I pick up on little connections that were lost on me the first few times. It’s great. It’s also total escapist fantasy, but watching those Hobbits carry that cursed ring to Mt. Doom reminds me that waiting inside a nicely air conditioned cab for a few hours is pretty easy, comparatively.
I was never prepared for such long waits, and I was never prepared to call myself a Lord of the Rings fan. I love this job because I’m constantly learning things about how the country works, how other people live and about how vital commercial driving is to our whole economic system. Point your finger and call me a nerd if you want to, but I know how I’m spending my downtime in between drives.
Hank Barton is a second generation trucker and a first-generation writer. When he’s not navigating America’s roadways, he enjoys blogging about his long haul trucking experiences, safe driving practices and his strange observations about the industry. He writes for E-Gears, an online CDL Test authority that specializes in a variety of study guides.
*wage information provided by Werner Enterprises