The five stages of show truck polishing

July 17, 2018

Wendy Parker


The fourth annual Gulf Coast Big Rig Show was held last weekend in Biloxi, at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Coliseum and Convention Center. It was a first-time show for George and I, and it won’t be the last time we attend this one.

Held indoors, Gulf Coast is a smaller show. The convention center sits directly across U.S. 90 from Biloxi Beach. When Big Rig Video’s Chris Fiffie told us about the show, and his plans to attend this year, he really had to twist arms to convince us to go.

(Cue the filthy lie alert. I was all over being able to set up and polish the truck indoors, in the air conditioning, and stroll outside, to the beach, at will.)

We attend a lot of truck shows, and we’ve washed and polished our truck in plenty of show lots. Being inside to finish was a blessing in the relentless Mississippi heat, and one of the great things about this show. (I might have mentioned this.)

There are big shows and little shows, but every truck show has a polishing lot jungle. Miles of vine-like electrical cord, forests of ladders, growling grinders, and fluttering flaps of lambskin chamois complete the busy atmosphere of industrious activity.

Time set aside for primping and shining before putting rags down progress much like the five stages of grief.

The first stage begins when everyone is marshaled to the yard. Instructions are given, rules and times are set. Everyone is cordial, admiring each other’s trucks, trading heartfelt compliments. You suddenly realize the sun is tracking towards the hottest part of the day.

You know deep in your heart you’ll be on a ladder during peak hours, while the burning orb of fire reflects crematorium-level temperatures back up to you from blazing blacktop. This is where denial sets in, and you say to yourself, “Meh, the truck is in good shape. Noon and we’ll be done. Nothing to it, we’re going to be lounging at the beach before rags-down ever happens.”

Three hours later, at noon, the surface temperature of the wash yard is comparable to the center of an active volcano. You realize denial has fooled you into believing you had a clean truck to begin with. Good ol’ anger, the second stage of polishing yard coping mechanisms, begins with a vengeance.

Fleeting thoughts of strangling the next person who mentions how hot it’s become, or harmless, “you missed a spot” comments, become tangled with water-spot rage. Things generally go sideways from there.

It’s not uncommon to rant incoherently, to no one in particular, “What the hell is this water made of? You could pick it up and throw it! Is that a fully formed stalactite on the visor? Why are we doing this? Who touched the glass?”

By 2 o’clock, you know you’re never going to get everything done in time for rags-down. Thus begins stage three – bargaining. You concede defeat on the headache rack and vow to have a bumper and stacks that would blind the Terminator.

After dislocating your shoulder and sustaining second-degree burns on half your body, you realize attempting to lie on the pavement to polish aforementioned bumper is a bad idea. In an attempt to rally, you jump up, only to smack your head on a side mirror.

Stumbling around, looking for a shop rag that doesn’t have something black or gooey on it, you catch a glimpse of yourself in the small swath of chrome you haven’t managed to smudge up by wallowing all over it.

The startling Rocky-like reflection, bruised, battered, arm hanging out of the socket, soaked in sweat, propels you into the fourth stage of both grief, and polishing. Depression.

And it doesn’t make you feel any better knowing you’re not the only one shambling around the truck, thinking to yourself, “How many times am I gonna do this before I do it right? What kind of sorcery does it take? My arm hurts. I can’t feel my toes anymore, I may actually be blind in my left eye, and I just don’t care.”

Thankfully, by rags-down, you’ve accepted the truck is done as well as you can do it. You’re too tired to climb the ladder and hurl yourself off of it. So you just pack up, and chalk it up to another learning experience.

The fifth, and final stage, acceptance, is inevitable. But sometimes, no matter how awful the process was, the acceptance part comes with accepting truck show trophies. And miraculously, like birthing a baby, the pain is forgotten, and you do it all over again.

There’s nothing wrong with having pride in your ride. Let them show trucks roll.