A Trucking Christmas

Roger Clark

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Roger Clarkroger clark

A LIKELY STORY

CHRISTMAS DAY ON THE ROAD

Christmas on the road brings challenges to the American trucker, even if the only loved one left at home is a teddy bear. Restaurants are closed, interstates are deserted, weigh stations are empty, and even hitch hikers take a day off. It’s a special kind of desolation, trucking across the Wyoming during the holidays.

Today’s truckers are accompanied by state-of-the-art technology, including satellite TV, microwave ovens, genuine refrigerators, and XM radio. Back in the early 80’s, we didn’t even have cruise control, let alone digital communications, but we did have something then that’s just as prevalent today: loneliness.

Eastbound approaching Rawlins one cold Christmas eve, I heard a couple other truckers complaining on the CB radio about a free Christmas dinner at a Carbon County truck stop. You might have thought their meal was seasoned only with profanity!

“Don’t bite the hand that feeds ya, driver”, I said, keying the radio mic, “show a little, you know, goodwill to men and peace on earth, okay?”

“Oh Yeah?” one driver responded. “Why don’t YOU order the free steak dinner, then see how much holiday cheer you’ll be having!”

“Thanks, Hand”, I said with an attitude of gratitude, “That’s exactly what I’ll do!”

My day was looking better already!

Parking was free and plentiful back then, so it was easy to get close, park straight, and stay dry. Just a short walk later I entered the nearly empty café. This might have been a clue to a brighter mind than mine, but instead I sat at a table and waited. And waited. And waited. Then I pulled out a deck of cards, to play solitaire, thinking it might draw attention. It didn’t.

Eventually, a waitress showed up to take my order for the free steak dinner. I requested it exactly the way I like it: Steak, medium. Baked potato, loaded. Strawberry shortcake, cold. Coffee, hot. It sounded perfect, to me, and I waited with great delight. And waited. And waited. Even my deck of cards was getting cold.

After what seemed an eternity, the cook came out, mumbling something about the waitress gone home with hepatitis, or tighty whities, or something like that. Carrying my dinner plate in one hand, he had a cigarette in the other. It was impossible to miss that the only thing in my baked potato was his thumb. Saying he was sorry for the decay, or maybe it was “delay”, then brushing the ashes of a Marlboro off my plate, he didn’t even wince as his thumb turned bright red. But I did.

The steak was not done well, but it was well done, so much that it broke my knife. A good knife. And it was difficult to see what was tougher-- the steak, or the cook. Or which was older. As for the strawberry shortcake, well, it was neither. To this day, no one has made a positive identification.

It was then that I had a sudden and urgent hunger for Little Debbie Snack Cakes. That’s when I excused myself, left a tip, and got the truck outa Dodge. Just a few minutes into resuming my workday, I met another westbounder wondering about a good meal this Christmas Day.

Recalling my earlier CB conversation with those two yahoos, I told him the absolute truth.

“Little America!”, I shouted, almost unable to contain myself, “just on up the road a hundred miles!”

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Slice of life observations of the human condition from 2,000,000 miles of crisscrossing North America. Always entertaining, usually engaging, often humorous, and mostly true, my articles have a lot of NO. No anger, no profanity, no politics, and no exhortations.

Valley Center, KS
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