I traveled to Missouri this week and the woman who drove the yellow cab to take me to the airport told me part of her story. She was older with flat gray hair and impressed me at first as someone who maybe shouldn’t be on the road. I wasn’t sure how well she could see based on the way we were wobbling across the highway. But she had an easy and friendly personality to match her wrinkled face and I grew comfortable that we would get where we were going nonetheless.
I noticed how she steered the vehicle with two arms folded across each other over the top of the gray steering wheel. I never asked her name, but we chatted like old friends. She shared with a chuckle that her dog had “kicked her out of the house” and made her go back to work after a few years’ retirement.
In fact, she had worked most of her life driving truck across the country. With her husband at the wheel and her in the Sleeper car, my new friend and her spouse had traversed the entire continental U. S. together as a semi-truck driving team. I suggested that it must have been difficult during winter to travel through snow and ice over treacherous roads. Indeed, she responded, it was challenging. In fact, she vividly recalls one time years ago when she and her hubby were traveling across Long Pass on a particularly icy stretch of road. She was actually asleep in the Sleeper just behind him when he awoke her suddenly with just enough time to announce, “I love you honey, but I am going to have to leave you now.”
A semi coming from the other direction had lost control and was hurtling straight at them. He had no choice but to turn the vehicle toward the oncoming truck so as to absorb the impact himself and protect his wife. He died at the scene.
She didn’t know what to do with herself after that, but in time she came to a realization. Her husband had been a good man, and he had taught her a good profession– driving truck. She could never bring herself to drive Sleeper again, but she could drive Solo and pick up where he left off.
She had a 20 year career driving semi trucks for an excellent boss who never pressured her to push through in bad weather. “We can always replace a damaged truck, but a person can never be replaced. Pull over whenever you need to,” he said.
She pulled into the airport entrance, so I thanked her for sharing a part of herself with me, then hopped out into the sunny and serene morning air and watched a flock of gray birds swirl up into the sky.