Truckers practiced social distancing before social distancing was cool

June 2020

Wendy Parker

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Due to recent extreme weirdness and truth suddenly becoming stranger than fiction, Strange Things and Filthy Lies has been sanitized for your protection this month. Feel free to drag your eyeballs around without worry of contamination from anything other than a few much-needed laughs. We’ll return to our regular scheduled programming of “nekkid as hell characters” and filthy lies as soon as circumstances provide reasonably attainable satirical content.

Isn’t it funny how a little ol’ thing like a pandemic can change the way we go about everyday life?

Of course, by “we” I mean the general public. Because the same things they’re learning to do while complaining vehemently on social media, truckers have been doing since the beginning of long-haul history.

That’s right, way back when Zog first crawled up onto the neck of a plesiosaurus and commenced dragging a stone-carved cart full of mastodon bones to the saber-toothed tiger food processing plant, he demonstrated the first act of social distancing.

Just ask him. He’s still holding court at the Albuquerque Denny’s counter of knowledge for those who don’t take the Bugs Bunny left turn. He’s driven 37 million accident-free miles. Sitting next to him is the original driver who a New York City police officer instructed to mangle and crush an entire city block full of private vehicles in order to move his truck. And of course, on the other side we have the guy whose cousin’s wife called the U.S. Marshals on a scale master for not allowing him to park at the coop when his 14 was up.

Good times. Bad information, but good times.

Back to the point. The only truckers who don’t practice more social distancing than most average human beings are team drivers and married couples who ride together (sometimes one in the same).

I’m going to refer to personal “married couple” experience here. I realized about four hours into the first trip out that we were about to get to know each other better than we may have been prepared to know each other and the effect of slamming the bunk curtains is in no way threatening or loud.

As a matter of fact, it makes a “whiffing” sound that is actually very nonthreatening and depending on whether or not you have vinyl curtains can sound a lot like a ripping bean fart that makes one or the other of us laugh, because we are both 9-year-olds when it comes to fart noises. And that’s why we can live together in a box for months at a time. On with the story.

Trucking teams scoff at the married people who have never spent a month trapped in the same house with their spouse. They laugh out loud at your horror in finding out your significant other braids their toe hair and hides it inside dirty socks. They would not be surprised in the least to find the roommate they cohabitate with has an annoying habit of singing every single commercial jingle known to mankind off-tune. Because they’ve lived it, friends. They know.

And while we’re (I’m) griping, who decided that tiny houses are a new thing? Truckers have been living the tiny house life since Zog’s daughter, Henrietta, decided it was high time there was enough room on the ol’ dinosaur for more than one caveperson. She revolutionized prehistoric commercial transportation by designing the condo-cave cabover and opening her own triceratops-powered team-trucking company.

You didn’t know that? Gah. Don’t you pay any attention at all at the counter of knowledge?

So anyway, while the general public squirms and suffers on their Facebook pages, truck drivers cut their own hair (or wear this cool new thing they call a “hat”) until there’s a licensed professional available. They also tend to their own meals because, lo and behold, not everyone can use the Taco Bell drive-thru when there’s a pandemic and the dining room is closed. And they spend countless hours listening to their shipmate drone on and on about ways to cook shrimp.

Wait. No. That’s a movie. This is real life. And it has been this way for drivers since the beginning, when Zog first crawled up onto the neck of a plesiosaur.

OK, that’s enough of the past, let’s press on to the future and a brave new world, where interfacing replaces humans and viruses move to the realm of technology instead of physiology.

Imagine if you will, a time when there are no human drivers in the cab and therefore no need for on-the-road verbal communication. A place where even the cellphone and a Blue Parrott headset are distant memories. A place where granny “drives” the truck with a joystick from a remote ocean-pod in what used to be Boca Raton, Fla., while talking to her grandkids on the psychic-alien network.

“Grandma, tell us about the CB radio again,” say the tiny tweeners as they flail their tentacles and flash their bioluminescent eyes in anticipation. “Pleeeease, we love to download information about the olden days!”

And because no matter how weird things get in the future, no grandma will ever be able to resist telling their bioluminescent progeny a bedtime story, she agrees to once again recount tales of the olden days, when voices traveled over radio waves and the Nanner-Nanner Pudding promises lurked alongside Smoke Man and Chicken Lady in the dark world of power towers.

“Well, if you all insist, but you have to promise you’ve scraped your gills and licked your eyelids, so you can go right into dream sequence when I’m done, OK? Now gather ‘round the retina recognition pod and sit still. Grandma will tell you about the time she was actually inside a truck, driving it with her own two hands through Tennessee, before Georgia and Florida became regions of the ocean.”

You know the rest. Nanner-Nanner Pudding lady teams up with Smoke Man and they vanquish the yelling preacher who swears Joe Brown is a terrible person and punctuates each claim with a raspberry and a meow. Or something like that.

(If you’ve ever heard it, you’ll never forget it. If you haven’t heard it, you just have to bear with those of us who have PTSD from hours of listening to “Pffffft! Meow!” walking over every bear and coop report given while traveling through the North Georgia mountains.)

Join us next time on STFL in the murky mire of things going swimmingly through a swamp full of alligators to discuss the clarity of block chain. Until then, lick your eyelids and wash your hands. STFL, over and out. LL

Wendy Parker

Wendy Parker has covered the trucking industry since 2012 after she says she “lost my mind and decided to climb inside my husband’s big truck to travel with him as an over-the road, long-haul trucker.” Her unique writing style that ranges from biting satire to investigative journalism coupled with her unbridled passion for fighting round out a wildly talented stable of writers.