"'Scuse me Sir, you independent?"
The man said nothing, just lifted a bushy eyebrow and walked on past. I didn’t take it personal. I was already honing in on the gentleman behind him, a squat fellow in a too-tight poncho. Waiting until he walk into earshot, I faked an earnest grin.
“Hey there, you truckin’ for yourself?”
Poncho cocked his hooded head to the side as he passed, his cowboy boots skimming the sidewalk’s tidal pools.
I turned as if struck, but fired no retort at the truckers backside. ‘Hmph‘, I thought - turning back to catch my reflection in the Visitor’s Center glass doors. There I stood, a scruffy stranger in a green overcoat, standing in the rain by the Rest Stop’s bathroom shack. Nothing weird about that. At least my fancycam was dry; I’d parked it on its tripod just under the shack’s eave, the gutter’s steady waterfall missing it by a good foot and a half. Trouble was I had to walk away from it to catch the steady straggle of truck drivers as they left their idling big rigs for a chance to piss standing up. In the distance, a man and woman trudged toward me, he cupping a cigarette in the rain, she holding the world’s largest Rusty Wallace thermos.
“How ya doin’ folks, ya’ll wouldn’t be independent truckers, would ya?”
“Don’t look at him, Lurlene,” the man said as smoke drifted from beneath the mangled bib of his waterlogged hat. Lurlene obliged, her knuckles whitening around the thermos as she prepared to bludgeon the pervert in the raincoat. I wisely froze - my head only turning to make sure Smokey wasn’t going to double back and go all Walker - Texas Ranger on me. Instead he put his arm around Lurlene’s shoulder and headed for the snack room shack, glancing over his shoulder ay me before turning to satiate his sweet and salty needs.
I could only look back and smile weakly, knowing the trucking couple would have to walk right past me again to get back to their rumbling semi. Taking off my glasses, I grabbed my shirttail with the other hand and for the fifteenth time that morning tried to dry my heavily corrective lenses. It didn’t work, but as I rubbed them in soggy cotton, I traveled back in time. Ninety minutes earlier, I’d been fat, dry and pensive - my eyes darting between the box of Krispy Kremes on the conference room table and the dry-erase board that held my fate of the day.
“Truckers say they’re going on strike tomorrow.” the assistant news director said as he dismantled his own sprinkled donut. “Don’t you have some independent trucker buddies down in Denton?”
“Yup,” I replied with confidence - though with a half dozen reporters crammed in the room and a pegboard bursting with live truck keys, I would have agreed on any solo assignment, shy of a spot proctology exam. Little did I know then my trucker buddies would be out trucking, or that the local truck stop owner was still mad at the station for slights real or imagined. Thus, I was forced to troll the interstate rest stops in hopes of finding owner operators who were feeling verbose. On a Monday morning. In the rain.
Giving my glasses one last swipe, I placed them on my nose and profiled the driver climbing down from a bright red Peterbilt. What I wouldn’t give for a talking hair-do right now, I thought. - someone pretty enough to attract the truckers’ attention in a way that a goateed loner with not a stitch of logowear on could not. To my dismay however, not even an intern was available when I finally gave up on phone tag and hit the highway. Now, wet, hungry and increasingly irritated, I wanted only for my Monday to end. Or at least get started. Back at the station, good folks were already crafting promos touting the latest from local truckers about to go on strike. With that in mind, I scanned every feature of the approaching trucker, noting his Metallica t-shirt and budding mullet
“What up Lars? Gotta second to tell your local station how much trucking sucks?”
He did. As did others. Twenty minutes later, I stashed my soggy gear I new Unit Four and fled the rest stop, without a single contusion, phone number or venereal disease to show for it. What more can one ask of a Monday?