Dear G.A.B. 1010

October 1, 2010

Dear GAB 1010Dear G.A.B.,
For long haul truck drivers like myself, the economic downturn has meant longer dead periods between runs.  So what used to be a few hours has turned into a few days, and there’s a limit to how many fishing magazines one man can read. Strangely enough, I‘ve been thinking about taking up yoga, but I’m a little worried about what the other guys might say if they stumbled across me practicing my Downward-Facing Dog pose. But then I started hearing rumors that a number of my fellow drivers have been picking up some unusual hobbies to pass the time. What do you think about all this?
A Yen for Zen

Dear Yen,
So here’s how I picture it – a dozen or so rather burly truckers sitting on folding chairs in a semi-circle. One of them (first names only here) stands up and announces:  “My name is John and I am a…” he falters for a moment and then, gaining resolve, blurts out, “ a quilter.” The group takes a moment to absorb the startling information and then responds with an encouraging murmur. Inspired by John’s bravery another member of the group boldly rises to his feet:  “My name is Alfredo and I make jewelry.” One by one the men stand and confess their clandestine addictions:  needlepoint; flower-arranging; scrapbooking; belly dancing; Mah Jongg.  By the time the last driver has made his confession the group has locked hands in brotherhood and, it must be owned, more than a few tears have been shed in the relief of unburdening such heavy secrets.

Okay, so maybe not every truckers’ convention offers such a rousing breakout session, but I couldn’t keep my imagination from running wild after reading the March 29th Wall Street Journal Article about Dave White, the semi-driver who spends his downtime sewing inside the van of his truck, and Kevin Banks who passes idle time on the road knitting sweaters for his wife.

Clearly we should applaud these guys for their courage in “coming out” on the widely-read pages of the Wall Street Journal, though not all the drivers interviewed are quite that gutsy. Thomas McConnaughy, for example, doesn’t talk to the other drivers about the spools of yarn in his truck cab. However, he did admit to the interviewer that he can whip off some “really cute slippers”.

All of this makes one wonder what exactly does go on within the confines of those empty truck vans when they aren’t lumbering down the highways in the dead of night.  And while I commend drivers like yourself who have embraced their creative, feminine side, I find myself wanting to ask you gentle souls the following question: “Do your wives know about this?” I mean, aren’t you guys supposed to be working?  I’m willing to bet that Mrs. Yen back at home, trying to manage the house, kids and/or job without the aide of hubby, is not finding much time to practice her own Downward-Facing Dog pose. It seems to me that instead of yoga, knitting or needle point a bit of entrepreneurial creativity might be in order to figure out how to use these large empty metal spaces for more lucrative purposes.

For example, with only a modest capital investment a trailer could be fitted up as a mobile tanning salon or a tattoo parlor.  Throw down some hay and you’ve got a traveling circus or a petting zoo. With just a few layers of pastel colored paint and a sofa one could hold book club meetings or host interview talk shows featuring local celebrities. Add a sink and the van could double as a spa, offering mani-pedis, facials  and  pet grooming services. Highly discounted merchandise could be sold “off the back of the truck”. (This need not be quite as illicit as it sounds – an endless stock of cheap blackberries and power suits is no doubt available from the hordes of laid off Wall Street investment bankers). For the more exotically inclined, consider offering pole dancing lessons -  only one piece of equipment required. And, of course, for a modest admission charge they could get together with a few trucker colleagues and sponsor a quilting bee.

Well listen Yen, maybe I’m being a little hard on you guys.  After all, it isn’t your choice to be stuck on the road with nothing to do for days at a time. You’re just trying to manage the stress and boredom of the situation. No doubt, these hobbies are healthy enhancements for you drivers and for the industry, generally. And it won’t be long before trucking companies across the country seize upon the trend and figure out how to use the angle to help recruit drivers: “We offer no touch freight”, they will boast, “high weekly miles, medical, dental, 401(k), and beading classes.”
So sign up for that yoga class Yen.  I’m sure that when you do finally make your way back home Mrs. Yen will be pleased by your newfound tranquility, not to mention surprising flexibility.