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Drivin' The Big Rigs
This is something I wrote while I was in Tractor Trailer Driving School.
It is an affirmation.
It still stirs my heart, and makes me want to saddle up.
Why I want to drive a Big Rig
Ok, so I'd be lying if I said money didn't have something to do with it.
About eight years ago my wife and I started out in a one room apartment with a box spring and mattress, a borrowed black and white TV, and two folding lawn chairs. We worked hard for what we've managed to acquire since then; she by bearing and raising our two children, and me by working every hour of overtime allowed.
I really liked my last job, and I was very good at it. Self-taught, I mastered a desktop publishing system with a computer graphics package that was far from user-friendly. There was a lot of stress, but, while meeting every deadline, the illustrations I created for GE's technical training manuals raised the level of quality far beyond the training group's previous standards. In 1990, due to the overtime I worked, I was one of the five highest paid hourly employees at GE Aircraft Engine in Rutland, Vermont.
Three years later I've been laid off and unemployed eight months, the credit union has repossessed one of our cars, and the house we bought a year ago is soon to be in foreclosure.
Ah...it's just stuff. And you can always get more stuff.
I've lost everything before. But that was back when I hadn't worked so long to get it, and I didn't have a wife and two innocent young souls depending on me.
I need a job where I can earn more than I spend. I need to foresee a demand for my skills that offers some promise of security. I need a job that offers challenges, that rewards hard work with good pay, and one that I can do with pride and satisfaction.
So why truck driving? That's were the satisfaction comes in. I want to drive long haul for at least a couple years, and I know it will satisfy a number of the various facets of my personality.
I've always felt that I was an explorer in one of my past lives. Since childhood I've gazed toward the horizon and felt the urge to journey beyond. I want to know what's beyond the furthest mountain range, what's around the next bend in the road. I enjoy navigating long distances, and take some pride in quickly learning to get around places that are new to me. I'm one of those people who can take great pleasure from spending time studying a good map or an atlas. Before I became a family man I did quite a bit of traveling. I miss it.
I spent six years surrounded by factory walls, the last year in an office with no windows, and there's not much about it I miss.
I've always been an artist; portraits, landscapes, industrial machines, pencil, pen and ink, acrylics and computer graphics. I loved to say, when asked what I did, "I'm an artist." And there were periods when I even made a living at it. But those times were too few and far between. And, though work makes prostitutes of us all, some of the people I've dealt with on commissions have made exchanging my art for money feel crass and hollow.
But I can appreciate the beauty of a snow-capped mountain range in the first light of dawn, a summer squall sweeping gray curtains of rain across endless fields of corn and grain, the New York City skyline at night, sea lions off the Coast Highway in California.
I can sense the spirits as dusk settles over the Black Hills around Deadwood, and marvel at the crimson of a Vermont maple in Autumn. I've sat eye to eye with a golden eagle that was perched on a fence post on the Continental Divide, been awestruck by the mountain the Native Americans called Tacoma while I stood on the shores of Puget Sound. And I want to drink it all in again...and more.
Wasn't it GE that used to advertise, "Progress is our most important Product?" I'm not sure anymore what progress is, but I know that Driving , movement can give the illusion of progress, the feeling that you're making some headway, that you 're getting somewhere. I need that.
And I want to feel in control, in command, the pilot of a chromed and pinstriped fire-belching behemoth skillfully guided along an endless ribbon of highway.
I don't want to feel isolated or insulated anymore. I want to be a part of it all. To feel alive, like the blood flowing through the arteries of America...feeling the pulse of the country...the throbbing of the engine and the humming of the tires like the sound of a heartbeat in my ears.
Besides... I've always wanted a wallet on a chain and a belt buckle the size of a meat platter.
The circumstances that prompted this composition involved: me being laid off from an impossible job at which I excelled; my young wife and I in the process of losing all we had worked for; caring for a five year old son, and an eight month old daughter; my wife joining the army and leaving us in order to send us her paycheck; and me assuming the job of Mr. Mom in a house we were losing to foreclosure in an unforgiving Vermont winter.
Did I mention "DESPERATION"?
I read this now and my eyes mist up real quick. I was trying so hard to be brave and put the best face I could on the fact that I had to hit the road and leave behind my reason for living...my babies.
I averaged being home two days every two weeks.
I missed the birth of my youngest son by about 1,500 miles and 7 days.
Yet, every word is true. Driving an 18 wheeler long distance is, I think, the primal desire of every American Male.
The women must speak for themselves.
I did what I had to do. I was brokenhearted every mile. I was the first man ever to break my daughter's heart. And I haven't gotten over it yet.
But, if I was alone...I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
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