Smoke and Doors

Truckers are the backstage crew that keeps everything moving so the rest of the world can act. They’re not welcome on stage, and of that they’re perfectly aware. Hence they do not feel particularly obligated to follow stage conventions in their own territory behind the scenes.

Out in the real world, for example, there has been a federal ban, for some time now, on smoking in most public areas. Them rules don’t apply at truck stops, Mack. Whether ashtrays are around or not, truckers light up wherever they damn please. are you old enough to remember when ashtrays were everywhere you went? Any sort of a public space where people would have to spend much time – airports, department stores, office buildings – there would be restrooms, water fountains, and ashtrays. There are truck stops where you can’t find a water fountain (cuts into beverage sales) but you will almost invariably find ashtrays in the truckers’ lounge.

I have no use for the truckers’ lounge myself, as there’s always a TV in there. TV and cigarettes, those are two of my least favorite things. There was that Petro in Colby, Kansas, though. Their WiFi was down, unfortunately. Fortunately, they let me hook up for free if I could plug into the wall at one of the tables in the what for lack of a better term you might call the snack bar. And the cashier at the fuel desk lent me a CAT5 cable so I could plug in. There were only two problems. One was the television set. Fortunately I was able to set it to ‘mute’ without anyone noticing. The second problem was the ashtrays.

 

A funny thing is that despite their toughness and gruffness, truckers can be some of the most courteous people on the planet. On their own terms, that is, and mostly among themselves. There is a code of behavior. A truck stop or any other place a truck might park for the night might have trash and pee bottles strewn all about, yet if a trucker tossed, say, a gum wrapper into another trucker’s cab, his own rig would eventually be reported as abandoned and his body would never be found. A trucker may go out of his way to let a 4-wheeler merge into a lane. A trucker leaving a building will hold the door open for another trucker if he sees that other trucker approaching the building and that other trucker is within, say, 500 yards. This is behavior that I have witnessed over and over, and so I, too, find myself holding doors open and patiently awaiting the approach of perfectly able-bodied males so that they will not be forced to open the doors on their ownsomes, a form of super-politeness that in the real world I engage in only in the cases of people loaded down with burdens, especially mothers carrying children, and of little old ladies.

 

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