I’ve done some good driving in my time. As a child, my parents took me on a drive through Europe. I went on road trips with my dad, like the one we went on from Dallas up to Montana. I drove from California to Dallas, Dallas to Georgia, Georgia to Kentucky. My dad and I drove through central Italy.
The Army makes you weigh your car empty and filled when you move your belongings yourself. That way, you can get a weigh slip that you turn in and get paid a certain amount (based on mileage, not weight) for the cost of moving your goods to another military post.
So I became familiar with truck stops, usually the cheapest places to go to get your vehicle weighed. The most popular one in my region is Pilot Travel Centers. There’s also companies like Flying J.
Now, these places are fascinating. If you ever go to one, you’ll find that it’s usually built with a Subway and/or another fast food restaurant connected to it. It’ll have a section with a bizarre variety of goods for sale. Goods that a trucker who lives in the sleeper section of his cab would want to buy. DVDs. Auto parts. Packed meals. Drugs. It’s like a smaller version of a diverse drug store. You look out the back, you see what looks like hundreds of big rigs parked.
I got to thinking that there’s got to be some massive sub-culture there. I’m sure most truckers feel a little paranoid and don’t like strangers, but amongst themselves there must be something going on. I’ve read about lot lizards, or truck stop prostitutes, but that seems like an anachronism to a degree, and surely there must be something more.
Obviously there’s got to be a lot of smuggling. When so much of the sub-culture is geared towards avoiding the Feds, and knowing the arteries of the U.S. interstate commerce network, with constantly-moving freight, there’s got to be money being made there. Drug smuggling’s got to be a huge incentive. With communication being what it is, avoiding weigh stations and police and other obstacles would be easy with that much money involved.
What else could there be? Well sometimes you see trucker families, parents who take their kids with them and basically live out of the truck. That’s got to change the family dynamic a bit. What about filing taxes? Having a permanent home address? It drastically changes your world-view.
I find it interesting that you could basically live out of a truck stop. They have nice showers now for what Pilot’s web site says costs $9. They offer a mail drop box. All the things you need to function. Furthermore they now offer wireless internet. This must be home for a lot of truckers. A way to create stability. A permanent home.
That ties in to my idea that the internet is becoming a place to live. With people moving around so much these days, changing apartments or commuting city to city or trucking, the only permanent places they have are their parents’ homes (if they still go there) and the internet. What will this imply for the future? Who ever thought that a virtual world would be more stable than the real world?
Wireless internet must be a boon for tired, bored, lonely truckers. They can use e-mail, play games online, chat with friends, view porn, pay their bills. Is there a trucker myspace? =P
Are there trucker clans/gangs/whatever you want to call them? Is there a Hall of Fame of truckers?
Seeing how comfortable truckers are at Pilots and how out of place I feel there, it blows my mind to think about this sub-culture. I mean, with gas prices being high, what is the influence that inflation could have on American commerce? Truckers keep the country going. Yet they’re almost completely ignored.
In closing, I’d like to pay homage to trucking by remembering the greater moments of popular culture acknowledging trucking. The movie Joy Ride, with Paul Walker and STEVE ZAHN MOTHER FUCKER!, about two guys who go on a road trip and decide to trick some trucker via CB radio into thinking he’d get some from a girl named “Candy Cane”, and then the trucker chases them around and tries to kill them.
Who can forget the Barbarian Brothers in the school summer vacation movie on HBO classic, Think Big? It’s a movie about twin beefcake brothers who want to have their own trucking company but get involved in what could only be called an imbroglio on the roads!!
What about Truck Stop Women, featuring the soundtrack by Big Mack and the Truckstoppers?? Smuggling, whores, AND the mafia! Slam dunk!