18 wheels, a million white knights

I learned a lot about the behaviors and motivations of men and women as a counselor. But I actually learned more about the sexes in the few years I spent in the blue collar world of truck driving.

It’s a difficult job. And being the slightly half-baked sucker for a challenge that I am I elected to specialize in heavy haul operations, dragging the components needed for drilling rigs from Houston into the mountains of Colorado and Wyoming. There is something about driving loads that exceed 100 feet in length, that weigh more than 100,000 pounds through mountain switchbacks and down miles of winding 10% grades that will make you get in touch with your inner masculine, whether you want to or not.

I have heard that about 15% of truck drivers are women. My guess is that among heavy haulers, less than 1% are women. Personally, I never saw one. Not that I am complaining.

Another thing about driving heavy haul, and other “over the road” trucking, is that when you are not on a job you spend a lot of time waiting for one. It could be hours or days before you have something to do. Most of that time is spent in truck stops.

And if there were ever a place on earth where the fundamentals of men and women are on clear display, sans the socially engineered façades typical to the white collar world, it is the American Truck Stop.

Those truck stops are dense concentrations of isolated men (and women) who primarily talk to each other on CB radios. Go in to any one of them at any time of day or night and you will likely hear a cacophony of different conversations, all taking place at once. For most people it takes time to train their ears to sort out what is going on. To the uninitiated it just sounds like a hopelessly garbled mess.

Now, to help you understand the dynamics of this particular sub culture, it requires me to make some observations about the women. I do so not to be cruel, but to give you an accurate picture of things; to help you get the right image in your mind of what is happening.

With very few exceptions, female truck drivers don’t look much different than a lot of male truck drivers. Well, perhaps their beards are not quite as thick.

Sorry, I am sitting here trying to remember other physical qualities that made female truck drivers look different than male truck drivers. The only thing I can come up with is that some of them had breasts that actually protruded out further than their stomachs. Some of them. But of course, some of the men had similar physiques to that, so we are back to square one.

Anyway, the point here is that the typical female truck driver looked pretty much like you would expect, especially if you were expecting Andrea Dworkin in a greasy shirt and sweat pants.

But you would never know it from the behavior of the men.

An example. Experienced truck drivers know the main arteries of the interstate system like the back of their hand, but once they are in cities finding things can become a good bit more difficult. You will often hear drivers get on the radio asking for local directions. Sometimes they will get them, sometimes not. Sometimes a driver will ask every couple of minutes till he tires out, trying to get someone to answer him.

But let a woman get on the radio and ask for directions and suddenly every other driver out there is an atlas on wheels, and you won’t be able to hear one of them clearly because they are all trying to talk to her at the same time.

Once her need for directions have been satisfied, you will almost without fail hear the obligatory attempt at CB courtship as a follow up. Some guy will happily chime into his microphone, “You sure do have a pretty voice.”

Now, it makes no difference at all whether she sounded remotely female or like Jabba the Hutt, the observation that she has a pretty voice is a standard addition to the conversation. And, not to be outdone by the first silver tongued devil, another radio Casanova will try to up the ante.

“Yeah, you sure got a nice voice. I just love a woman with a nice voice!”

Again, it is perplexing. While some female truck drivers do have “nice voices,” in that they are actually discernibly female, frequently their voices are as much a match for the men’s as their physiques and facial hair.

This sort of ‘circling of the vultures” around anything mimicking the feminine is standard industry fare in the world of trucking.

Another example. Truck drivers, especially new ones, have very, very hard lives. Most of them work as company drivers for large conglomerates that pay them like shit and work them like dogs. They are often broke, or living off pay advances from their employers just to remain fed and to stay in luxuries like cigarettes.

For many of them, there are times when the advances run out, along with food and everything else. They won’t see another dime till they get dispatched on another trip. Often you will hear them on the radio, trying to sell items out of their truck; televisions, coolers, CB radios, DVD collections; anything to put something in their pocket and their stomach. Sometimes they make a quick sale. Often they get mocked, ridiculed and taunted. Frequently they are met with the same silence as when asking for directions.

I never heard a woman driver trying to sell things out of her truck. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, just that I never encountered it.

What I have heard on more than a few occasions is a woman get on the radio and make some noise about going inside the truck stop for a bite to eat. I have also heard that followed up by at least one, and often a slew of guys trying to scream over each other on the radio to offer to buy her that cheeseburger and fries.

Now, there are a handful of truck drivers out there that have done their best to stay ahead of the curve. They employ technology to give them a little advantage by using voice changing devices to alter the sound of their voice on the radio so that it sounds female.

That’s right, you need to find directions to that warehouse where you have to deliver? Just change your sex to the oppressed, put down female and other drivers will damn near fist-fight each other to help you out.

Want to know where the highway cops are? Most of the time, even as a man, someone will eventually tell you. But if you sound like a woman, your waiting time for a response will be cut to a New York Second.

Plus you will get compliments on how pretty your voice is.

It does not come cheap. You can have a CB expert tinker with your radio and add a voice changer, but they are not very good. Some guys, wanting the job done right, fork over the $300.00+ for an audio-vocal processor with “formant” and other controls.

Now imagine that, all you have to do to have all the information and assistance you could possibly want on the road is to sound like you have might have a vagina.

And all you have to do to experience the most abject in human indifference and callousness, is to sound like you don’t have one.

Ah, but how can this be? As my Other friend often says, we all live in a patriarchy.

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