“Never go to bed angry” is a bit of relationship advice that you’ll get from every relationship guru on the planet. Clearly, these know-it-alls have never driven a team truck with a co-driver. Well, in my infinite knowledge cough, I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to go to bed angry. Sometimes it’s even the smartest thing that you can do.[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
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When The Evil Overlord and I started looking into truck driving, I talked to a lot of truck drivers. As a dock worker, I had access to plenty of them. And as you well know from reading my blog and my twitter stream, it’s not exactly hard to get a truck driver to talk. Anyway, when these truckers discovered that I planned to drive as a team with my wife, nearly every trucker had the same advice: “Don’t do it if you want to stay married.” There’s a lot of truth to this.
Many a story has been passed around about team drivers not getting along, whether it be husband and wife teams, two members of the same-sex, or even two unmarried members of the opposite sex. Nearly everyone has heard stories of two co-drivers duking it out on the shoulder of the highway. Quite frankly, I’m a little peaved that I haven’t witnessed even one knock-down drag-out in all my 13 years. Other tales involve one of the team members being stranded somewhere by a co-driver. I’m sure that The Evil Overlord has contemplated this on numerous occasions. Luckily for me, she hasn’t had the cojones to do it just yet. The point is, that if you want to drive a truck as a team, you had better choose the right co-driver.
So who is the “right” co-driver? Well, it better be someone you get along with… a lot. Not just someone who you think is okay. Not just someone who seems like a nice person. You need to know this person intimately. Husband and wife is a likely pairing, but if you already get annoyed by your spouses habit of picking their toenails and leaving them lying around, getting into a truck cab with them is only going to make things worse. That’s like those demented couples who think that having a baby will help their already-stressed relationship. Yea. A crying infant that craps more than a herd of water buffalo is great for one’s nerves.
Parent and child teams can sometimes work, although I’d imagine that would take a certain kind of relationship that I can’t possibly comprehend. More common would be co-driving brothers or sisters. After all, your sibling already knows all of your annoying habits yet they still answer the doorbell when you ring it instead of diving behind the couch. Best friends can manage it too, but you better make sure you’ve known this person long enough to know most of their faults. Another plus is that you can slug a best friend now and then, and still remain friends. Still, losing a best friend because of trucking would kinda suck and stuff. I also hold little hope for two people who choose to team together just to make more money. Likewise for someone who wants a co-driver so that they won’t be so lonely.
Now every team is going to have spats. There’s no getting around it. Any time you have two people crammed into such tight quarters for weeks at a time, bad stuff is bound to happen. And let me tell you from experience, that certain bodily functions really don’t help matters any. The key is knowing when to drop, or ignore, the subject. In other words; when to go to bed angry.
I’ve found that the longer you remain in the truck together, the quicker the tempers get. The Evil Overlord and I have figured out that it’s dangerous for us to stay out more than three weeks at a time. Any longer and someone is likely to wake up with a bungee cord wrapped around their neck. Your threshold may be different. Sometimes you’ve just got to realize that what you’re fighting about has little to do with the topic at hand, and much to do with the fact that you’re just edgier than a wet golfer in a lightning storm.
When you get to the point that the sound of the other person’s voice makes you want to drive into the nearest telephone pole (after putting your seat belt on, of course), the last thing you need to do is stay awake and try to talk the issue out before you go to bed. The thing is, it takes time and experience to know when there’s a legitimate argument going on and when you’re just pissed off about nothing in particular. Until you’re able to figure that out, you’re treading on thin ice. But if you can go to bed angry, many times you wake up and life goes on as normal. Turns out, it was a stupid argument over stupid stuff.
Again, I stress that this is only if you both realize that you’re fighting over trivial things. If you’ve got big, legitimate issues, you probably need to have some overnight talks. I’m sure that your dispatcher will give you a night or two down if you tell them that someone’s going to be murdered if you don’t get a break soon.
The fact is, team driving is hard. When you’re a solo driver, you get to shut the truck down and sleep in peace. If you’re a team that’s working for a good company, you’re going to be busier than a corn cob pipe vendor at a hootenanny. That means that you’re going to be moving most of the time. Learning how to sleep while you bounce is perhaps the hardest thing that team drivers have to get used to. On I-40 in Tennessee, you’ll sleep like a stoner. On I-95 going through New York City, you’ll think your co-driver has learned some sick black magic skills and is practicing levitating your prone body.
People get crabby when they can’t sleep. Crabby people attack the person within reach. Solo drivers would have to go find somebody to scrap with, but a team driver has someone just sitting there asking for it. I’m convinced that the lack of quality sleep is another factor in the ongoing battle between co-drivers. Unfortunately, the driving route you take isn’t always in your hands. Neither is the choice to shut down to get some real sleep.
So here’s my advice to those of you who may be considering team driving. If you like your potential co-driver, and are willing to accept that you might occasionally, but briefly, hate this person for no reason whatsoever, go for it. If you have a history of working things out and tolerating each other, go ahead. If you have any doubts, either drive as a solo driver, or not at all.
Now, if it’s too late and you’ve already chosen a co-driver that is driving you to the loony bin, here’s my advice. For now; go to bed angy. As soon as possible, find a new co-driver or go solo. And you should probably toss that steel-tipped tire thumper out the window before someone gets hurt.
Photo by hang_in_there via Flickr