Pleasantly Surprised

I never thought much about truck drivers until a few days ago when My Royal Consort and I drove from Rhode Island to Texas to pick up the travel trailer that will be our home for the next 10 weeks.

I am a horrible passenger. When I see brake lights ahead and My Royal Consort has not yet deployed the brake, my right hand involuntarily seeks out the imaginary dashboard brake to stop the car, while my right leg pushes the Supplemental Imaginary Passenger Brake with my most savage strength. Sometimes I whimper and moan.

The anxiety comes and goes in the course of a drive and is completely exhausting. Were it not for me bracing and leaning into the curves to counterbalance the car, we would undoubtedly tip over or skid into a ditch. I control the car much the same way I control jets whenever I fly.

As a driver, I don’t need to control the car with my mind and body because I have the steering wheel, the gas, and the brake pedal, so I find driving much less taxing than being a passenger.

Initially, My Royal Consort and I had agreed that we would share the driving, but as it turned out, he drove every mile because it is his truck, and like me, he would probably prefer to drive than to be a passenger. I did exceptionally well on our four-day marathon, and believe it or not, I owe a lot of my serenity to the staggering number of semis on the road with us.

Having lived in New England for as long as I have, I had forgotten that other states have good roads—roads free of cavernous pot holes, terrifyingly sharp curves, rickety bridges, snarls of over passes and indecipherable road signs. Other states have wide, smooth stretches of pavement and frequent rest stops where the bathrooms are clean and the coffee is strong.

Unlike New England drivers, some of whom would rip your arm off and beat you with the bloody stump for even the most minor infraction, the drivers to the south and west of New England seem to be much more forbearing.

By the time we were out of New Jersey, I realized that the flotillas of trucks we were traveling with were going to be with us for the long haul and I wasn’t happy, But I also noticed that they were being good neighbors—just rolling along in the right lane, courteously using their directionals, and generally being good citizens—unlike many of our fellow civilians.

By the time we were into Tennessee, my new found appreciation for them had blossomed into something bordering on hero worship. At the truck stops, I would wander the aisles with my truck driver grade coffee and marvel at the tools of their trade—Billy clubs, speed, CB antennas and portable fans—which only served to reinforce in my mind the idea that without them driving up and down and back and forth across the country day in and day out, the rest of us would be screwed blued and tattooed.

My heart skipped a beat when I first noticed women piloting the huge trucks, and then discovered that the women’s bathroom had heavy-duty grease removing soap.

We drove for eight hours at a stretch, and for much of that time, I was companionably curled up with my brake leg tucked under me, and my eyes off the road. This was only possible because in the vast stretches between places like Bucksnort and Arkadelphia, there were more trucks than civilians. In the few instances when the civilians outnumbered the semis and started causing trouble with their gratuitous braking and pointless lane changes, I was compelled to unfold my brake leg and take telepathic control of the vehicle.

It would be unfair to say that the civilians were rude because in the course of our 1,758 mile trip to Rice, TX where our camper was waiting for us, I did not see a single middle finger used inappropriately, or any of the signs of end-stage road rage.

Once we hit Texas and got off the interstates, things did deteriorate somewhat. We encountered fewer trucks, more cars, more construction and more human nature. In my capacity as extraneous driver, I ran myself ragged all the way to Mustang Island in Corpus Christi.

Not only have I been able to leave behind my misguided preconception of truck drivers, I can also say “so long” and “buh-bye” to my fear of Texas and Texans. While I am totally cognizant and respectful of their draconian rules about pot smoking and their obsession with guns and God, my experience with actual Texans has been nothing but pleasant. Everyone we have met so far on this trip has been helpful and friendly.

My conclusion: Don’t buy into what the media says, just get out there, smile, and make friends.


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  1. michael o'brien says:

    I’m hoping your Royal Consort is sharing in the navigation of the vehicle so that he may appreciate the passenger tremors. Someone told me that the comfort of the passenger is the measure of driver competency….mmmmmmmm they would find little relief with me at the wheel….. I’m workin’ on it.

    1. admin says:

      He is an excellent driver! The only thing he does bad is speed (but on this trip he’s big on cruise control) and look out the driver’s side window while hurtling down the road (he’s working on NOT doing that).

  2. Kathy says:

    You perfectly captured the passenger-as-driver! We have all been in your shoes/seat, but your description is so much funnier! Safe travels to you and your Royal Consort.

    1. admin says:

      Remember teaching your kids to drive? Holy cow–that was challenging for me. Once they got their licenses I never had to be their passenger again–until just recently when THing 1 drove us in his car–and I’m happy to report, I felt perfectly comfortable!

  3. christina says:

    Bon Voyage guys — have a grand adventure! I’m looking forward to hearing all about it.

    1. admin says:

      The Tundra is still killing it! Over 150,000 miles on it.

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