Unfortunately stereotypes abound in our society. The “soccer mom” persona, the “dumb blond”, the “urban youth”, and most notably to all of us “the trucker”. It's no small secret that much of America views truck drivers as more or less “undesirable folk”. Comics, newscasters, even songwriters have all at one point in time or another substantiated the fallacy. In fact, sometimes it gets so bad that people are afraid of trucks on the road – I know, I used to be one of them.
The trucking industry, however isn't completely blameless in the “name game”. Let's fess up while the floor is open: I've heard plenty of not so nice things said about non-commercial drivers, or “4 wheelers”.
So who is right? Well, no one really. In the battle of categorizing and labeling that so many Americans are guilty of, no one wins. Honestly, I've met plenty of truck drivers that are as nice and good as one could be, but I've also had first hand experience with stereotypical drivers.
A few years ago I was driving with one of my friends on a crowded highway. I was in the left hand lane and needed to move into the right hand lane to prepare to exit. Traffic was stacked up behind a tractor-trailer in the right lane, so I decided to speed up a little and merge in front of him. I tried this a few times, but noticed that the tractor-trailer was keeping pace with me. Giving up, I tried to go behind, but he still wouldn't let me over. I looked up at him (from my tiny 4 cylinder Honda Civic) and noticed he was making lude gestures at my friend and I as he matched our speed with the intent of trapping us on the highway.
Now, I don't mean to seem to be in defense of 4 wheelers. Trust me, I've had plenty of “soccer moms” nearly kill me in their silly SUV's. In fact, I get emails from 4 wheelers wishing to complain about commercial drivers all the time. Furthermore, in no way do I think most non-commercial drivers on the road understand the logistics of driving a large truck.
So just when it seems that the vast span between commercial and non-commercial drivers is to wide to bridge, life has a way of making lemonade out of our lemons.
I came into the office on a typical Monday morning. I wasn't
feeling well as I began my regular routine of checking voice
messages and reading emails. My mood was already slightly off, but
as I read through negative email after negative email, I began to
ask myself why I even bother sometimes. As I sat at my desk,
responding as politely as possible to each email, I came across
something, however, I did not expect. An email from a
non-commercial, female driver that offered something very different
than the normal “this truck cut me off” routine.
“I justed wanted to let your company know that a driver named "Willie" came to my aid last week on I-75. I was traveling behind some cars in the inside lane when my tire blew. I was able to get to the side of the road. I had opened my truck and got out my spare (donut) and jack. When he stopped his truck and asked if I could use some help, I gladly accepted as I have never changed a tire. He told me his name "Willie" and he lived in Augusta, Ga. He was headed to Atlanta, Ga. This was Friday March 26, 2004 around 1:00 pm. I attempted to pay him for his troubles but he refused, stating that he hoped that someone would help his loved ones if they needed it.
I just wanted you to know what he had done and that there are still good people in this world that are willing to help a stranger. He followed me to the next exit so I could get off and call my sister. He was a real gentlemen to help a lady in distress. Thank you for hiring such compassionate people.”
Obviously Penny had mistaken EveryTruckJob.com for the company for which Willie drives, but that's beside the point. Here is a woman, not dissimilar to many other women drivers, myself included, that took the time to sing praise where praise was due. Here is a truck driver that was more than likely on a scheduled run, but took the time out anyway to lend a hand to someone, even if it was a person he stereotypically would not have gotten along with.
Call me idealistic, sentimental, or “girly” if you like, but Penny's email got me thinking: In a world where so many of us can't seem to help but label people in an organized and calculated filing system in our brains, Penny reminded me that people can always surprise you. Wouldn't it be nice, though if that wasn't always so surprising.