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In case you haven’t noticed, it’s January of a new year. For some odd reason, we puny humans associate this with being able to make a new start in life. As if we couldn’t do it at any other time of the year. But for a change of pace this year, why don’t we aspire to something that we can actually do. I mean really, what are the odds that you’re actually going to learn Mandarin Chinese? Face it. When the Chinese take over the world, they really aren’t going to care whether you know how to ask them where the toilet is. So instead, let’s lower our standards and work on 4 ways to be an awesome trucker.
Awesome Trucker Goal #1: Get healthier
Okay. I decided to do this one first because I’m expecting about 95% of you to skip on down to the next topic. But before you do, hear me out. I’m not saying that you should set some lofty goal that you’ll never be able to reach. Let’s start out with something simple; your food.
Reduce your portions
I was in a Hardee’s not too long ago when they asked me if I wanted to upsize my meal. I said, “No thanks. I don’t want to look like the rest of these truckers out here.” That got two of the employees talking about how disgusted they are with some truckers. One of the ladies said, “I just don’t get it. These huge guys walk up and lean over the counter, completely out of breath. Wheezing they say, “Give me a Monster Burger meal, and upsize it to a large.” They usually get a dessert too! Some of these guys have black and blue legs from diabetes! What are they thinking?”
The fact is, no matter how big your gut is, the human stomach is only about the size of your fist. When I eat fast food, I almost always stick with the small fries and drink. We don’t need more than that, we want more than that. And when you’re ordering that value meal, be sure to do this next thing.
Lay off the soda
Experts say that cutting soda from your diet can cut 24-35 pounds per year. So go with water or unsweetened tea if you’ve got the option. If you just can’t handle unsweet tea, make a compromise and mix a little bit of sweetened into it. It doesn’t take much to give it a hint of sweetness and it’s a heck of a lot better than going with full sweet tea. That crap is too sweet anyway! No wonder you southerners don’t have any teeth! 😉
Replace your snacks or cut them altogether
The only time I have snack foods in my truck is right after Christmas. I blame my mother entirely. Thankfully she went lighter this year and stuffed my stocking with more healthy stuff than candy. Despite this, I’ve put on 5 pounds since after Christmas. That’s why I don’t keep any snacks in my truck. But if you’re a snacker, just replace your Cheetos with almonds and your M&Ms with raisins. And toss in some apples and bananas while you’re at it. You’ll be surprised how good you’ll feel when you cut the junk food.
Get some exercise
Once again, I’m not suggesting you start training for a marathon. Start with something like walking around the truck stop parking lot a few times. If that’s all you can manage, well you’re still better off than you were before.
If you want to move up a step, take a look at a free app I’ve been using on my iPhone called the Gorilla Workout app (also available on Android). Now I’m far from being in shape, but I look like Olive Oyl compared to most of you guys. Now don’t be afraid that it’s going to be too hard. The Level 1 workout starts out with really easy workouts like 1 wall push-up, a few sit-ups, and a few squats. For the most part, it builds slowly so you can keep up. All of these exercises use your own body weight, so you don’t have to buy a lot of equipment either. These workouts don’t take very long either, so that’s always a plus.
If you’re ready to move up from there, check out my workout videos called, How To Do a Full-Body Workout Inside the Cab of a Semi. Of course, you can do most of these exercises outside if you choose. I just like to do them inside so no one bugs me. Another great resource for all things trucker fitness is The Healthy Trucker Web site. Remember, anything you do to make yourself healthier is making you more awesome. Even the smallest of things.
Awesome Trucker Goal #2: Truck stop etiquette
Oh my. This is a long one. I’ll make this as brief as possible. Cue the bullet points.
- When you’re driving through a truck stop parking lot, go a moderate speed. I’ve heard people say 5 mph, but that’s just too stinking so unless there’s a chance of a pedestrian or another truck popping out suddenly. But hang on, speed demon. 30 mph is too fast even in a wide open lot. There’s a happy medium in there. Find it.
- Before you pull up to back into a parking spot, let other truckers go around before you block the whole isle. Actually, this rule is in affect everywhere. I had a driver do this to me last night. At a shipper, he made like he was going to back into a spot but instead got out and opened the trailer doors, effectively blocking me from my trailer. Now I realize some places force you to do this due to limited space. This was not one of those places. Uncool, man. Uncool.
- When you do get parked, make sure you’re between the lines. If I have to explain why this is a good thing, do me a favor and smash your fingers in your cab door the next time you get a chance. Thanks.
- The fuel bay is not your drive-thru window. If you can get your food without delaying the driver behind you more than a couple of minutes, have at it. However, if when you go inside you see that the line at Subway is longer than the shower wait at a Love’s truck stop, go back out and park your truck. Or if you’re one of those finicky people who insist on fresh fries every time, please oh please just go park it first.
- When in the fuel bay, actually give a damn where you’re squirting the water hose. That is all.
- Be considerate of other drivers when parked. Just because you’re awake, doesn’t mean everyone is. I once had a trucker wake me up with his loud music when he pulled in. It was around noon, but I had driven all night. I had to get out of bed and go pound on his door. He peeked out and promptly ignored me. I stood there pounding for another 2-3 minutes before he finally turned it down. By the way, if this happened to you at the Flying J in Walton, KY, I’m the guy who called your company and reported your inconsideration. Cheers!
- Control your mutt. I typically hate dogs for a variety of reasons. The first of which is dodging dog poop as I walk into the truck stop. Here’s a rule to live by. If there is a direct line between any truck and the truck stop, don’t let your dog poop there. I’m pretty sure even dog-lovers don’t like picking dog crap out of their Adidas treads with a plastic spoon. Secondly, if your dog barks all night, I officially hate your guts. Make him shut up for Pete’s sake. And if not, please leave Fido tied up outside so I can “accidentally” run over him when I pull out in the morning.
- Stop flirting with the staff. This one is for the dudes. Not only are you holding up progress with your lame attempts at humor, but you’re also more likely to develop a super-power than you are to impress any of these ladies. Let it go, man. Accept that they don’t think you’re the least bit funny… or cute… or even remotely interesting for that matter.
- If a driver looks occupied, don’t talk to him. It’s amazing how many drivers will interrupt me while I have a movie playing on my computer and I have earbuds in. Call me stupid, but I just can’t remember the last time I stuck in my earbuds thinking, “Man, I sure hope all these truckers don’t think I’m being unsociable.” I AM BEING UNSOCIABLE! GO AWAY, JERKFACE! And for the record, I’ve tried the ginormous headphones that make me look like Princess Leia too. It didn’t help a bit.
- If there is a shower wait, hurry the heck up! As I said earlier, I’ve been doing the Gorilla Workout lately. I usually do this in the shower room before I shower. But here’s the rule. If there is a shower wait, I skip my workout. Not only is it the considerate thing to do, but it’s also an awesome excuse to skip a workout. It’s a win-win! So that’s it. If people are waiting, do what you have to do and get the heck out.
- Ah, the truck stop bathrooms. I have four simple rules that will make the truck stop bathrooms a better place for all humanity: 1) No grunting, wheezing, heavy breathing, or groaning. Unless you’re crapping up one of those giant worm things that invade your intestines, there is no need to make noises while you’re doing your business. 2) All poop and poop-related accessories go in the toilet. 3) Flush. Need I say more? 4) Don’t make or leave a mess. Actually, this leads nicely into our next topic.
Awesome Trucker Goal #3: Conservation
Bet you weren’t expecting that, were you? So exactly what does conservation have to do with leaving a mess? Well, it starts off with a pet peeve of mine.
Folks, water is a valuable resource. Why are you wasting it?
It happens all the time, on various levels. The worst offender is the driver who walks in and the first thing he does is turn on the water full-blast. Then, with the water going full-bore, he gets some paper towels, wipes down the counter a bit, sets his manly-man grooming kit down, forages for his toothbrush and toothpaste, and finally starts brushing his teeth. When he’s done brushing, the water stays running while he shaves, washes his face, fixes his hair, and generally admires himself in the mirror. About 90% of that 5-10 minutes he wasn’t even using the water. Grrr. The only guys who make me madder is the germaphobes who leave the water running and walk out of the restroom. Sheesh. If you’re OCD about germs, just say so and I’d be happy to turn it off with my tongue.
Now I may not be awesome at lots of things, but I do excel at water conservation. Whoever you are, I encourage you to examine your morning ritual practices. I’ll bet you a peanut butter and jelly sammich that you’ll see ways you can conserve more water. Here’s my ritual. Observe my awesomeness!
- Don’t turn on the water until you need it. Get the toothpaste on the brush and then give the spigot a quick turn on and off. Ta-dah! Your brush is wet!
- Brush until you need to spit. Well… spit already. Give the spigot another quick turn on and off to wash your nastiness down before it has a chance to stick to the sink. Oh, come on! It isn’t that hard to turn it back off. Your hand is already on the handle for crying out loud!
- Repeat until your teeth are pearly white. Okay, I guess a dull yellow will have to suffice. Turn on the water only long enough to clean your brush and the sink afterwards.
- To finish up your ritual, if your hands, face, or comb isn’t requiring water at that precise moment, turn it off.
I often find myself wanting to say something to these water-abusers, but I never do. Why not? Stay tuned for Awesome Trucker Goal #4. But first, let’s finish up with conservation.
If they’ve got an air dryer, opt for it instead. If you aren’t a fan of those you can still take it easy on the paper. I saw a TED talk video (only 4:32 long) about paper towel usage last year and I’ve been doing it ever since. It’s a simple method of shaking your hands (in a controlled manner) and folding the paper towel to maximize its absorbency. Yes, I realize that sounds like a hokey Bounty commercial, but it seriously works. I kind of make a game out of it to see how little paper towel I can get by with. You’d be surprised how little it takes. So no more excuses for you guys who rip off 5 or 6 paper towels and barely use it!
Not much to say here except to knock it off. I once watched a guy at a fuel bay crawl up onto his running board, grab his little trash can, and dump it on the ground by his truck. It all fell at his kid’s feet, which just so happened to be about 3 feet from a trash can. It stayed there when he left the fuel bay. Nice parenting, dill-munch.
Really folks, do we have to go over this? Trash goes in the trash can, preferably without full bottles of piss. And if you dog owners want to pick up your dog’s poo, well I’m sure the trash bin will accept that too. Man, I may as well wish for Warren Buffett to adopt me while I’m at it.
Okay folks, if you need to idle your truck to stay cool or warm, buy all means do so. But if you’re going to be out of your truck, why does your truck need to idle? Granted, I know there are exceptions to the rule, such as faulty starters, a sleeping co-driver, and cold temperatures that cause fuel to gel. But if you’re running in for a shower, why leave it running? Not only is it spewing fumes into the air, but it’s also sucking fuel at a rate of about 1 gallon per hour. So not only are you saving money for yourself or your company, but you’re also helping to stick it to the man.
So that’s it for conservation. Trust me here. I love trees, but you’ll never seeing me hugging one. I just see that God gave us this great planet and he told us to subdue it and use it. I can only assume he meant to use it wisely. And being wise makes you awesome.
Awesome Trucker Goal #4: Take a chill pill
Chill pills are great for your well-being. They take stress from your life. They cause you to relax. And, as I’ve already mentioned, they keep you from confronting water abusers. (Side affects may include: dizzyness, nausea, crazy bone tweaks, shin splints, cooties, and bleeding from the ears, rectum, and peehole.)
Ask yourself this? When was the last time yelling at a shipping or receiving clerk accomplished anything? Any experience trucker will tell you that the louder you bark, the slower they move. I listened to a guy cuss out a forklift driver the other morning. Guess who got finished first? Him or me? Righty-o. So not only are you not being professional, you also aren’t helping your cause any. Time to pop a chill pill, man.
If another driver takes your dock, try to assume someone made a mistake. With a calm voice and a smile on your face, ask the offending driver if he was told to take that dock. Better to assume that than to accuse him of cutting the line only to find out he was just following the confused directions of an overworked shipping clerk. Now if he’s one of those jerks who is well aware that he’s cutting the line, take it up with the shipping clerk, again, with a pleasant tone. If neither refuse to correct the issue, take another chill pill and overdose on calmness. It’s really not worth the stress of an intense argument, or in a worst-case scenario, a beating and/or an all-expenses paid trip to the hoosegow.
With other drivers
Once again, when another driver does something stupid or just plain mean, pop a chill pill. Getting your blood pressure boiling is going to accomplish jack squat. Here’s an example of both right and wrong behavior.
I was in the fuel bay at the Pilot in Marion, IL. The team drivers in front of me took forever to fuel (even with two of them), but they had finally pulled up. I pumped my fuel and waited for them to move. They weren’t in their truck, so I went back to my cab and waited. A few more minutes and I took a chill pill. I thought, “I’ll just run in and leave the toilet a big present while I’m waiting.” I did. Afterward, I came out and they still hadn’t moved. I went in and had them paged. Finally they come walking out at a leisurely pace. But they still weren’t moving. That’s when I saw them walking to the McDonald’s next door. I ran toward them hollering that they were f*$%ing jerks, which is pretty harsh for a guy who doesn’t normally cuss. Well, clearly my chill pill had worn off. But what good did it do for me to get my panties in a wad about it? If they heard me, they did a good job of pretending they didn’t. I was all wound up and they couldn’t care less. This was a giant failure on my part. Granted, they were jerks.
But a couple of nights ago, I made up for it. I was at a shipper with limited space. I saw a local driver unhooking from a trailer, so I crowded him a bit so I could scoot up and let another trucker get off the street. Well, when he pulled out, the poor guy had to do a three-point turn in order to get out… in a bobtail. The horror of it! Well, he just so happened to catch me walking alongside my trailer when he drove by. He laid on the air horn, which was deafening right beside my head. I’m sure he expected me to react, but I didn’t. I actually had a smile on my face while he blasted away. Win for me! Now could I have flipped him the bird or yelled at him? Yes, I could. Did he deserve it? Yep, he sure did. But again I ask, what good would it have done? I forgot about the whole ordeal in a few minutes while I bet he was steaming out the ears for a good half-hour. HA! Who got the last laugh, punk?!
In short, jerks will be jerks. And unfortunately there really isn’t anything we can say or do that will change them. Old Solomon summed it up pretty well in Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” The Bible says Solomon was the wisest man in the world. Hard to disagree with that here. Have you ever tried to argue with someone who refuses to argue? It just takes the wind out of your sails. And when you can be the bigger man (or woman), that’s awesomeness personified.
To sum up…
Well, I hope you find a way to implement at least some of these things into your daily life. If you’re an underachiever, just make getting a prescription of chill pills your priority. Once you start letting other people’s meanness and stupidity roll off your back, you’re on your way to having a better year. And if you’re going to remain a fat, grunting, water-wasting trucker who lets his dog poop in my path, well, you’re going to need all the relaxing you can get to ease your guilty mind. 😉