Christmas Wishes - A Drivers View
I sidled up, handed him my card, introduced myself and asked, “So, driver what do you want for Christmas? What do you wish for above all else?”
He laid his book aside, took a sip of iced tea, then, looking me in the eye, growled, “I wish you'd leave me alone.”
Nonplussed, I moseyed along to the next booth. A cheerful fellow wearing a J.B. Hunt cap and a blue T-shirt, apparently he had been eavesdropping. He folded a newspaper and said, “Expediters Online?-- You going to put my name in a magazine?”
“Sure,” I said. “I'm looking for profound thoughts, a poetic phrase, a ten-minute discourse on the beauty and meaning of Christmas.”
He grinned and brushed a shock of blonde hair from his eyes. “I'm afraid you'd get in trouble for printing the only poem I know.” He stuck out his left hand. “My name is Richard Groves, G-r-o-v-e-s. Make sure you spell it right.”
“What do you want for Christmas, Richard?”
His eyes came alive as he thought about it. “A big Peterbilt with a walk-in sleeper and a 600-horse Cat under the hood.”
“Any hope you'll get it?”
“I'd stand a better chance of winning the lottery,” he said.
I wished him luck and sidled along. After my experience with Ebenezer Scrooge, I was reluctant to bother the two or three others who were reading, and everyone else in the restaurant was either cramming fried chicken into his mouth and/or talking nonstop with the guy on the next stool.
So I went to the small drivers lounge and stood in front of the TV. Not a smart move. On screen, some poor guy was being molested by a beautiful naked actress. He kept saying, No, we mustn't and she kept moaning Yes Yes YES. I'm not a fan of Daytime TV, but it do have its moments.
“You ain't made out of water, you know,” snarled a whiskered driver, the room's lone occupant.
With a straight face, I said, “I'm a talent scout for Proctor & Gamble...how would you like to become the guy with the babes?”
“Very funny,” he said, “now move out of the way. First chance I've had to watch the Soaps all month.”
I sat down beside him and offered my hand. He ignored it. I ignored his ignoring it and told him who I was and why I was bothering him.
He shifted his heavy-lidded blue eyes my way and said, “I don't start thinking about Christmas until Christmas Eve.”
I shrugged and grinned disarmingly. “It's never too early to get in the Christmas spirit, is it?” He stared at me as if I were something the cat had discarded. Maybe if I'd used a stronger deodorant. I snapped my fingers. “Say, have you got a brother sitting in the restaurant? He's wearing a red plaid shirt and....”
“If I tell you what I want for Christmas, will you let me watch the program?” I nodded vigorously. He said, “I wish I had a new partner. Feller over there? the grouch in the red plaid shirt? Well, he's my co-driver. Can you believe he got mad because I wanted to watch a little television?”
CRACK! Crash, boom, bang!
“Aw, man!” he exclaimed. slapping his thigh, “The husband just come in an punched out the boyfriend, and you made me miss it!”
While the getting was good, I went back to the restaurant. Red Plaid Shirt still had his head buried in his book, the J.B. Hunt driver had gone down the road. I stood alone and forlorn in the middle of the room. Off in the far corner, several drivers sat at a big, round table. It is difficult to interview people in groups -- everyone wants to talk at once. But my editor Lawrence McCord needed this article, like yesterday. I sauntered over.
A medium-sized man with receding black hair and a wide, friendly smile said, “You look lost, driver. Grab a chair and sit down.” They introduced themselves -- real names, not C.B. handles-- and I introduced myself.
I pushed the little red button on my recorder, stuck it under the nose of Carl Dincin, the man on my left, and asked, “What do you want for Christmas?”
“I guess I got everything I need,” he replied.
“Well, then, how about for the rest of mankind? Pretend I'm Santa Claus and I'm going to grant you one wish.”
He thought for a moment then said, “Peace. I got a boy serving in the Army, and I don't want him to have to go to war.”
Willie Carnes wished for a date with Julia Roberts; Bobby Warren, for enough money to buy his children everything on their lists. Someone laughingly replied there wasn't enough money in the whole world to make his grandkids happy.
Jimmy Bowen, a balding little guy with many a mile etched into the skin of his weathered face, said, “I wish trucking could be as much fun as it used to be...I wish we could do away with echo boxes, roger-beeps, bi-linear amplifiers...I wish all the drivers who use those things would just grow up.”
Everyone began talking and laughing at once, so I thanked them and hurried off. At the booth nearest the door, I spotted an old friend, someone I hadn't seen for at many a year. Jerry Walker is a big, quiet man in his forties. After exchanged greetings, I asked my question.
Jerry smiled shyly and said, “If I wake up Christmas morning in my own bed, with my wife lying beside me and my kids in the next room ripping into their presents, I'll be perfectly happy.”
Truckstops and motel rooms are horrible places to spend Christmas Eve. Given the nature of our industry, it's an impossible dream, I know, but if I were Santa Claus, I would see to it that each one of you makes it home for the Holidays, safe and sound.
Merry Christmas, and God bless.