A funny thing has happened on the way to my CDL.
I’ve been befriended by my truckmates. I mean, who’d a thunk it? Certainly not me.
Derek, Michael, and Haner have become my friends. To those of you who’ve been keeping up with this, and believe you me I feel your pain, Derek is the opinionated black vet, Michael is one of the two Twee? or Twi? guys, and Haner is the sadly conflicted Iraqi war runner and gunner.
Over the last coupla weeks while we’ve been driving together I’ve listened to them and their life-stories and found out that Derek, at 41, longs for the stability and companionship of marriage, that Michael is planning to send for his wife in Ghana just as soon as he starts trucking- hoping that they can make a life of it on the road, and that Haner, for all his brashness and bravado, is just a bewildered kid trying to sort shit out.
I’ve also witnessed and been caught up in a weird kinda tribal group think thing. Men, by nature, are competitive (duh?) so it was no surprise to see a hierarchy forming after the first day or two as those of us who were catching on to the double clutch pump compared our progress to Michael who was really struggling with just shifting gears.
We were at first supportive (I spent several break periods with Michael explaining the shift pattern and the use of gas and clutch- he’d never driven anything but an automatic transmission) and then almost gleefully dismissive as Michael continued grinding gears winding up in neutral with the diesel howling or simply stalling the truck.
We took comfort in the fact that we were better than him. That by his failing we were passing. That there was the us and then there was the him.
Then on Friday, a curious thing happened. Michael had a breakthrough and kinda figured it all out. Sure, he was still grinding the gears and dumping the clutch but he was moving through the shift pattern and was even driving the truck in a raw kinda way. It was cool to watch. But what was even cooler was the immediate flood of genuine support from all of us. Join us we seemed to be saying, become one of us. I almost teared up but I can’t ’cause I’m a guy.
Instead it made me realize how much I’ve changed in the last seven weeks. Whereas, I once was the self-imposed outsider clutching my aloofness and aloneness and not really wanting to mesh with these guys, nor wondering how or where or why I might fit in with them, now I’m finding myself caring about them and actually wanting to keep in touch with them when this is done and we all strike out in our wildly different directions like exploding fireworks. I’m hoping that they all find good trucking jobs and happy endings to their lives and I almost think I’ll miss them.
It’s like I’m becoming a chick.