We pass him on the road. Sometimes he passes us. Often he is ahead of us when it is raining, and the backwash from his wheels results in an annoying haze.
Often called a ‘knight of the road,’ the truck driver is an ubiquitous presence on our nation’s highways. As we try to peer past his huge rig to see the traffic up ahead or mutter as yet another 6 wheeler pulls up ahead of us, it seldom occurs to us to wonder what he is hauling, never mind who he is.
“I go all over the country,” we are told by ‘Joe,’ a middle aged, wiry man with a pleasant smile. “I’m on the road all week, and then hopefully back home on the weekends.”
“Isn’t that hard on your wife and kids?” Mike asks.
“It’s not an easy life, that’s for sure, but it’s a job and the pay is good. My wife is great about it. Whenever I’m delivering a load not too far from home, I’ll call her, and she packs up the kids and drives out to meet me. We manage.”
His cheerful grin flashes as he explains that the family catches up ovrt dinner and sometimes even spend the night together. Yes, they manage.
According to Joe, the worst menace on the road comes from cars. They cut him off or stop short in front of him or just drive badly. He himself has never had an accident, although once on the TapanZeeBridge near New York he really got scared.
“The wind was so strong. I mean, I was in the center lane, and that sucker grabbed my rig and dragged it all the way to the railing and slammed me against it. Luckily, I got out of it with only two tires ruined. That was a close call.”
We seldom think of the men—and women—who drive the great rigs that carry the goods we need and use from Florida to North Carolina, from California to New York, from port to warehouse. I would not have thought of them, either, if I had not met Joe. But now the most important resolution that I make for 2014 is that I become more aware.
Aware of the many people who quietly make life easier—the smiling checkout clerks at the grocery store, waitresses who have worked for hours and who can still take an order efficiently and smile, the sanitation truck driver and his helpers who always wave at me when they collect our trash. And there is the man who delivers our newspaper at five thirty in the morning without fail. It is pitch dark at five thirty, but there he is, and there is our paper. Then there are the workers who mend the roads, collect debris—yes, they are paid for their work, but what would any of us do without their service?
So: I resolve to remember that beyond the service that they provide there are families who wait anxiously for the homecoming of these men and women—and that some of these families will drive for hours to join them for dinner somewhere on the road.
As the great wheels turn
I see in this morning’s mist
My children’s faces.