“I really had nothing left in my life when I came to trucking, just the clothes on my back.”
When my last novel was published I did a book tour in truck stops. Publicity stunt aside, it gave me the chance to hang out with truckers.
I heard a few incredible stories, like how it feels to drive the ice roads of the Beaufort Sea and the difficultly of navigating a mountain pass in 80 mph winds. But much of what has have stuck my mind involves the details of a trucking life, doing laundry, eating Poutine, finding the best driving shoes and staying sane.
Desiree is a trucker who tweets her way across the country. During my book tour, I never ran into a woman trucker, so I decided to ask Desiree a few questions about her life on the road:
The Rumpus: Why did you decide to become a trucker?
Desiree: I wanted to be alone and work and go somewhere.
Rumpus: What do you think about when you are driving?
Desiree: I think about too much. I think about why people are so mean to each other and so judgmental of each other. I think of the scenery and what was like to ride a horse over the land before highways. What the terrain looked like in its natural state.
Rumpus: Do you miss anyone?
Desiree: I miss getting a hug from my ex and other stuff, but not enough to be in that situation again anytime soon.
Rumpus: What is the most important thing that you bring along?
Desiree: My determination. I really had nothing left in my life when I came to trucking, just the clothes on my back.
Rumpus: Do you ever wish you could pee in a bottle?
Desiree: That’s Funny! I actually did not know truckers did that or anyone else for that matter before I went to CDL [trucking] School. I find a Super Big Gulp cup works fine and I pour it in the grass.
Rumpus: What is on your stereo?
Desiree: Most of the time I drive in silence lost in the scenery and my thoughts.
I have to snap myself out of it at times and I listen to NPR or CDs of Eagles, U2, George Harrison, Elton John, Offspring and Sex Pistols. YEAH!
Rumpus: Have you decorated your cab?
Desiree: My cab is sort of decorated in a groovy hippie den motif with a cozy brown faux fur brown comforter and red chenille body pillow accenting the red and brown shag area rug.
Rumpus: Where do you sleep?
Desiree: I sleep in my truck on one of the two bunks I have. I bought a memory foam mattress so it’s pretty comfy with my ‘pillow husband’—he doesn’t mind if I eat crackers in bed.
Rumpus: How do you shower?
Desiree: I shower at the truck stops that give me a free shower for fueling at their location. Sometimes there isn’t such a location near me so I have to pay between $5-10 to take one. I try for every other day but sometimes I am scheduled so tight I have had to go up to 5 days without one. ICK!
Rumpus: Does your back get sore?
Desiree: Yes, my back, neck, knees and shifting arm. Part of the reason I still do my nails and feet is to sit in the Shiatsu massaging chairs.
Rumpus: What shoes or boots do you wear?
Desiree: I am required to wear covered shoes, but I am flip-flop-preferably-barefoot kind of gal. My girlfriend just got pulled into a weigh station last month, though, and the officer checked to see if she had her shoes on. Drats! I have covered leather sandals now, but in winter I wear steel toe work boots.
Rumpus: What is the best part of being on the road?
Desiree: The best part is working alone and seeing what goes on behind the scenes to make peoples lives easier. They [most people] really fail to appreciate it at all.
Rumpus: What is the scariest thing that has happened?
Desiree: I had someone get my door open one night, but I had the seatbelts strapping [the doors] down so they left. Also, another time my new dog warned someone off who was persistent. I thought if this person really wants to get me he will shoot the dog and come through the glass. I was so tired that night I just went to sleep and thought if God wanted me that night he would take me. I don’t dwell on that sort of stuff.
Rumpus: What is the hardest part of your job?
Desiree: Waiting for the dog to crap in inclement weather. Finding a safe place to park this huge thing where I won’t be harassed by people who do not fathom truckers risk their lives to deliver their toilet paper and every single thing they touch during the day (except themselves of course. :))
Rumpus: Do you ever wish you were stronger?
Desiree: I’m pretty strong physically. I used to lift weights and work with a trainer. I don’t see this job requiring brute strength, but a bit of leverage from time to time and resourcefulness. Strength of mind? Only to not think so much I suppose, my dog helps me to remember to be less serious.
Rumpus: Do you ever think you’ve got an advantage?
Desiree: Yes, I have an advantage because I get a lot of pleasure from very simple things in life. The isolated nature of this job can be extremely detrimental to someone who is not comfortable being isolated. I am also a good map-reader and lots of new truckers don’t have a good sense of direction at first. It sucks to get lost in a vehicle this big and not be able to navigate your way safely to your proper route.
Rumpus: Where is your favorite stretch of road?
Desiree: I love New Mexico, but I don’t get to go west of Texas very often. My imagination goes wild with historical images when I pass the big rivers, colonial areas and see beautiful bridges. I love passing through small main street towns and love it when the kids see me and want me to pull my horn. Sometimes they start jumping up and down when they see I’m a girl.
About Trucker Desiree:
She has written extensively about her time as a student trucker and has become a prominent voice for reform in the industry.
She is also an advocate of Jason’s Law, legislation that is seeking to address the ongoing and escalating problems with truck driver safety and security.
All pictures from Trucker Desiree’s twitpic account.