Delivery girl

When I was in the third grade, I received my true calling in life.

“I want to be a truck driver when I grow up,” I declared to the world and more than a couple raised eyebrows.

Of course, the whole scheme was not so much a “calling” as it was the influence of heavy TV viewing, specifically the hit series “BJ and the Bear.” For those too young to recall this piece of network magnificence, or those who were forbidden to watch TV (and ended up watching it over at my house while stuffing their faces with Ding Dongs), “BJ and the Bear” starred a young, happy-go-lucky trucker, B.J., (played by Greg Evigan – who, sad to admit, I did not even have to Google) and his best friend and co-pilot, Bear, who actually was a chimpanzee. Or was it an orangutan? Anyway, B.J. and Bear rolled along the highways and byways of America, in search of bad guys and wacky hijinks – apparently never having to take baths, eat vegetables or share with their siblings. And, as was the customary Hollywood fashion du jour, the show always ended with some hilarious antic by the chimp, which kept everyone in stitches till the next episode.

Anyway, in my third-grade mind, this seemed like the perfect vocation: drive an 18-wheeler, eat at greasy spoons, talk on the CB and get to hang out with a monkey. Unfortunately, it eventually became obvious that traversing the country in a huge, stick-shift-driven vehicle with a large primate was not the best career path for me. Not only was it revealed that I was a horrendous driver, when, at the age of 16, I ran over an elderly neighbor’s mailbox, smashing it to smithereens, but it also came to pass that I wasn’t so good at handling animals, either (a mauling from the family bunny at a young age almost required a skin graft.)

Thus, I was forced to give up my big rig dream in favor of something that didn’t require heavy machinery or rabies vaccines. And while sitting at a desk all day may be a far cry from throwing the hammer down on the interstate, I was not forced to give up the dream entirely. That’s because once a week, I get to play the role of delivery driver – loading up the back of my rig with newspapers destined for the masses. OK, so it’s a Subaru instead of a Peterbilt, and my trusty sidekick is a canine with about as much charisma as a banana slug. But, it’s about as close as I’m going to get in this lifetime.

Granted, lugging a weekly rag around is not as glamorous as say, Federal Express or beer delivery. There’s the ever-present hazard of paper cuts, unknown reeking substances at the bottom of paper boxes and black ink the permeates the pores. But over the years, I have built up a sort of camaraderie with my fellow drivers that I am proud of. When we pass on the street, hauling our respective cache, there’s a knowing smile and nod of the head,

sort of an unspoken secret handshake of the brother and sisterhood of drivers. Likewise, there’s also a sort of code of conduct that goes with it, built on mutual respect. Sure, I may only have four cylinders under the hood and be the only driver with dual child car seats, but we’re all just trying to get the job done. And as such, every effort is made to accommodate one’s fellow delivery person, whether it be on the road or jockeying for position in the loading zones.

For the most part, the system works, with only one accident to report of, which, amazingly enough, was not my fault. And if you don’t believe me, you can ask Little Beaver, who witnessed the whole thing. Of course, I didn’t need his keen sleuthing skills to realize upon returning from a drop that there was a large, red, beverage truck neatly wedged into my front quarter panel. In keeping with the code of conduct, the other driver and I exchanged information, the tab for the repair bill was picked up by the local cola baron, and all was forgotten.

Sometimes, however, life on the road can take a toll, and interactions are not so cordial. Take the gentleman I encountered on a recent delivery day, who appeared to be getting ready to vacate his highly sought after loading spot on Main.

“Excuse me, but are you getting ready to leave?” I inquired, hoping to avoid a fly-by around the block.

I mean, anyone could see I was carrying 2,000 newspapers in the back of my car. It was plainly obvious that I wasn’t just trolling for a good spot next to the nail salon. I was one of him.

Or maybe not.

“This is a loading zone, lady,” he dryly replied, without so much as a second glance. To him, I was just another Subaru-driving, grocery-toting, soccer-game-going mom who had no earthly idea what those silly yellow stripes on the curb were for, anyway.

Well, if I didn’t look the part of a trucker, I sure could talk like one – and gave him a “10-4 good buddy” in a few, choice words. There may have been a reference to a male donkey in there, somewhere, too.

So much for the camaraderie of the road.

I pulled into the next available loading zone, a block away, still a little sore from the snubbing. Maybe I was just a truck-driving wannabe, seen as more of a nuisance than a peer, the laughing stock of the diner because my rig ran on unleaded instead of diesel. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but cling to the notion that someday, I would be worthy, just as long as I kept on truckin’.

– Missy Votel