I wrote a recent post called Truck Driving: An Office With A View and that post had a lot of descriptions of the beauty this country holds. But out here on the road, our office doesn't always have such a great view.
As truck drivers, we are usually sent to the "other side of the tracks." You know, the places you won't ever find in a tourist pamphlet. The slums, the run down areas of the city, the industrial parks, and all of the filth that goes with it. In a way, I actually enjoy this. I get to see America for what it really is. Some parts are beautiful, and some parts are borderline scary. But I see this country without any filters. I see the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's nice to see this country from all angles, and really understand what it's made of.
But there are days like today when it can be a bit depressing. I'm going to pick on Cincinnati, OH for a moment, but Cincinnati is not unique when it comes to cities that have some rough areas - because they all do. I'm simply using it as an example because that's where I happen to be today.
I had to make a pickup in an area that obviously isn't one of the nicer parts of town. This particular customer had a satellite gravel parking lot where I was to drop my trailer. Upon backing into an open spot and getting out of my truck to unhook the trailer, I was immediately greeted by a very dirty looking female with all of her teeth missing. She asked me for money the best she could, but I said no. She then asked if I had anything cold she could have to drink, as she was very thirsty. If I did, I would have given it to her. But this was one very rare occasion that I didn't have anything on the truck to drink other than alittle bitof water that I had already drank out of. So I once again told her I couldn't help. After she realized she wasn't getting anything from me, she moved on to another truck driver in the area. It didn't look like she had much success.
Once I disconnected from my trailer, I went a block down the road to hook up to my loaded trailer. As I was walking towards the back of my trailer with my load securing devices (called load locks), a male - in worse shape than the female I was talking to earlier - told me he could help me put the load locks in. I declined his help, but he was very persistent about helping. After giving him the cold shoulder and being pretty rude to him, which is hard for me to do, he just sort of stood around, pretending he was helping. When I was done securing the load, he asked if he could have some "gas money" as he was trying to get to Nashville. Basically, he made up a story that I've heard 100 times by now. I told him no and that I had a tight schedule and had to leave. He thanked me for my time, and left.
I couldn't wait to get out of that place, so I hit the road. But I got to have the pleasure of driving through some downright slums before I could get to the expressway. The first intersection I came to, a young lady stepped right in front of my truck, forcing me to stop. I was already slowing down for a red light, so it wasn't entirely dangerous, but still not something I'd ever do in front of a truck. Once again, it was somebody begging for money. This time, she needed money for the bus. I once again refused, and was on my way.
It was then that I really started looking around. I don't mean to offend anyone who grew up in low income areas, but I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was as if I was in a different country. Trash everywhere, buildings falling apart (literally), and just total poverty. I saw little kids walking with their mothers, wondering if they even stood a chance in this life. I saw elderly people trying to walkwho should have been in wheelchairs, but could only afford a cane. I saw some very terrible conditions. And I began to get very angry that we spend so much money helping other countries, when parts of our own are so terrible. The poverty was sickening, and I actually began getting depressed. I don't know if I should feel sorry for these people, or feel angry towards them. Why don't they do something with their lives? Why not become truck drivers?? Do they not care about their neighborhoods? Their living situation? Their safety? Are they simply trying to get by on government dollars and don't care about where they live, or are they people who simply have circumstances in their lives that I can never imagine, and they can't change their situation, as hard as they might try? I don't know....I just don't know. But sometimes, these are the views we see outside our office. It's not always mountains and sunsets.
I finally made it onto the expressway, and after I passed 2 or 3 hitch hikers, wound up in a truck stop about 60 miles north of Cincinnati. Upon walking towards the building, I hear that famous pan handle sound...."excuse me, sir?" Here we go again....
Truck driving gives a very unique view of the United States. Like I said, I actually enjoy seeing all aspects of this country - all cultures, all races, all classes, from all areas.I don't want to go around with my rose colored glasses on all the time. I do want to see this country for what it is, both the good and bad. I've never seen so many people looking for handouts before in my life.The truck stops alone are constantly filled with people looking for rides and money. And each person has their own sob story to go along with it.
Today, I was on the other side of the tracks for a little while, and it really made me appreciate everything I have, where I grew up, and what my life is. I wish I could help those who have it much less fortunate than me, but I just can't. Maybe someday they'll cross the tracks too.
Until next time, drive safely!
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