When the long haul, over the road truck driver piloted a single screw, gas job tractor trailer combination.
Drove long hours without a record keeping log book. And not on an Interstate but through all the twisting, curving, climbing, dropping back roadways. When the map did not have all the roads plotted. Did not call for I-this butt Rt or US Highway that. Pulling a lone 38′ dull aluminum box on one set of wheels. Not 53′ long shiny, quilt look fancy stainless steel with multiple axles to disperse the load weight. One smoke stack, no sleeper bunk, not even an eight track player. Only an AM radio for company besides a thermos of what at one time was hot fresh coffee. But not anymore.
The one man owner operator of the big rig does not have a refrigerator on board.
May be missing a wife and kids when he gets home from the six days on the road fatigue. No power outlet strip to run a big and flat screen television, or DVD or video games to chase away boredom. When not behind the wheel of the automatic transmission. No no, shifting gears. A lot. Like life when everything is not so smooth, easy, predictable. Double clutching, dropping gears. More rapidly depending on the weight of the load, the degree steepness of the mountain or hill. The weather and blowing snow, black ice, stalled vehicles.
The fifth wheel, with red licorice like strings of ooey gooey grease to make the connection. The contact smooth, fluid and lubricated lever that’s locked, released manually. The drivers right hand denim coat sleeve streaked with a rainbow pattern of lubricates. That hitched a ride. Causing stains that will never be shouted out, removed. When after the box landing gear is fully hand cranked down, the driver reaches into the tight dark slotted space.
To grab, pull the release, let go or get dragged to happen.
To unlock the keeper, hook so the trailer pin could stay behind. To donkey off, high tail it. To go down, up and under another bill of laden cargo box or flatbed. The joining of tractor and trailer not done in the cab over with the flick of a switch. No no, scrambling, hopping down over the side saddle fuel tanks. The ones filled with gas not diesel. Out of a pretty basic truck with a few vital dash board engine only monitoring devices. No bells, buzzers and whistles. Not out from behind a vast curved instrument panel row of brightly LED lighted rocker switches, gauges, buttons. Not sitting on a little black box that records every angle of the trip.
New wiper blades for the mechanical ones sweeping the small windshield. Basic boy scout be prepared stuff. Making sure the fuel was free of water with deicer. Same with the air lines that hooked along with the electrical pig tail socket. That umbilical cord combination tag team of air and juice. That kick started the dead, dark, sitting trailer into life to head down the open road with the broken white center line.
Keeping track of where the driver was on the route came from word of mouth or a quick static land line phone call made from a greasy spoon diner.
With a set of fuel tanks out back. Before CB radios and have you got your ears on good buddy. Before GPS satellites and a strangely exotic, just a smidgen of Australian or New Zealand origin voice guides the way. Not with hollering or annoyance shown when you miss a turn. But a matter of fact, that’s okay “recalculating” announced. As she does, and you do too. When Bonnie reminds Clyde to take the next u-turn as soon as he can. But please avoid a head on collision. She matter of factly provides the new course coordinates. Because she is a whiz is ever there was in geography. Won her school assembly bee growing up year after year.
When the truck breaks down and it will. Oh will it ever. Millions of miles means lots of set backs like life. Time spent with the hood open, in the ditch. The cab tilted forward. Depending on is the truck a conventional straight job or a the ride up over the engine compartment. But instead of a tow truck dispatched, rather than a large collection of tools and repair shop devices ambulanced to the scene of the breakdown, the young technician travels light. Comes with all he needs tucked under one arm. While the driver listens on his I-pod to Hank Snow’s “I’ve Been Everywhere Man”. Or Red Sovine’s “I’m A Truck” to kill the inflight time of the techie, clean cut grease-less monkey.
From three hours away and toting only a lap top.
That gets tethered to the electronic module of the sleeping, hibernating engine that passed out. Refuses to start, won’t even turn over. No part unbolted and replaced. All in the code. Diagnostics needed to determine what circuit gets a reset routine performed. What piece of bracketed, no language you or I recognize code got garbled, broken. Caused the cousin of the Hal 2000 to forget his mission, purpose in life. And the turbo charged Cummings, CAT, Detroit, Mack, or whatever Asian, German, Swedish or American power plant is fired up. Wakes up and starts sucking four miles per gallon of diesel cocktail.
All systems go. That’s a big 10-4. To be one the road again as Willy sings. Pulling the load. Headed to market. In the air conditioned over-sized, brightly colored snazzy cab. With cell phone plugged in the hands free speakers, the XM playing oldie goldies. But digitally cleaned up and enhanced for better than the real thing first time performances available for your listening pleasure round the clock. For a monthly fee.