Decisions, decisions, decisions …

Believe me when I tell you, it takes a certain kind of person to successfully drive a commercial rig.

The two most important traits required, in my opinion, are the ability to make quick decisions and the ability to read people.

The former because decision-making on the fly can be a life-changer; the latter because you must know when to approach, and when to back off to wait for another day.

That’s especially true when coming into the restaurant at a busy highway truck stop. Making the wrong move in there could have disastrous consequences. I’m not talking about the wild west gunfights, but sometimes drivers do NOT want to make small talk.

Let me tell you about one such day where this came true for me.

I was doing one of my “make some money on the weekend” trips. It was a pin-to-pin trip from Coquitlam to Sacramento, Calif. and back. That meant leaving Coquitlam after spending the whole day Friday picking up and delivering loads around the Greater Vancouver area.

First it was home to visit the wife and kids, then cross the border about 8 p.m. Next stop, Redding, Calif.

Once there, it was fuel for the truck and me and within the hour head out to Sacramento. There I drop that loaded trailer, hook up to another load and head north.

On the return route, a stop for fuel in Corning, Calif. (south of Redding), and press on until I get into Oregon, where I would try to stay awake so I could make it to a truck stop called “Fat Harvey’s” in a town called Canyonville.

This was a different truck stop. One side of the building was for truck drivers, while the other was for the mom and dads and their kids. The two did not mix — thus the separate entrances, separate parking lots, separate everything.

For big-rig drivers, it was great. Peace and quiet. Food. Company if you wanted it. But most of all, it was a place to hide and recharge the body batteries.

On this particular trip, it was late Saturday night when I staggered into the restaurant and spotted three drivers whom I knew. They were at the counter. Nobody was talking. Sure, there was restaurant noise, but these guys were staring off into the distance, and not seeing anything. Just the way I felt. They didn’t know each other, but I knew all three.

Eventually I managed to get through and had them join me in a booth. Then they each started talking and the reasons for the faraway stares became apparent.

Blaine had lost his cellphone and hadn’t called in for more than 24 hours. He was more than a little anxious as to what his dispatcher would say when he did check in. He was trying to build up the courage to use the truck-stop pay phone, but needed another cup or three of coffee to get up his nerve.

Rod had been on a diet, trying to get his sugar count down so he wouldn’t lose his driving job because his diabetes was out of control. He was staring at a huge piece of strawberry pie, trying to talk himself into scarfing it down. He was feeling guilty. Couldn’t decide. Trying to tell himself that it wouldn’t make any difference to his sugar count, and, besides, nobody would know anyway.

Warren thought he’d make up some time by taking a short cut, which ended up costing him three additional hours due to road closures. Because of that, he missed a scheduled pickup and another carrier grabbed his load. He was wondering how he’d make up the lost revenue.

Me? I had run out of hours and was so tired I didn’t know which foot to put in front of the other. We were a sad, sorry bunch, but still smart and awake enough to know we had to get off the road to regroup.

Blaine eventually called in. Another driver let him borrow his cellphone. He called from the booth, with us listening in. He didn’t lose his job. The dispatcher was worried if he was OK.

Rod didn’t eat the piece of pie. He stayed on his diet, and substituted two glasses of water instead of the pie.

Warren was told of another load he could pick up the next morning in Portland, so he was happy not to be out of coin.

Me? I ate the damn strawberry pie, and glad I did. It was delicious.

So there. Decisions, decisions, decisions. All in a day’s work. We have it tough, don’t you think?

I could fill a news­paper with sto­ries about life on the road, but why not share yours with read­ers? Send them to Driving edi­tor An­drew McCredie at [email protected]

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