| LifeTakes |

The Long Road  

 It’s hard to go slow when you’re waiting. For people. For answers. For the questions. To go home

“Can we stop at the farmer’s market?” my sister asked me.

We were in line at a gas station coffee counter, somewhere off the 87, waiting to pay for the Coke and chips.

“I’d really rather not,” I told her. The roads were stormy that weekend and our usual three-hour drive upstate was taking much longer. “We already did four hours of driving, this line isn’t moving, and then we have at least another two hours until we get home.”

The man standing in front of us turned around. His arms were covered in tattoos, his ears in piercings. I expected his voice to be rough, but it was clear and strong. “Is that all you have?” he asked, pointing to the snacks we were holding. Yes, we told him. “Then go get back on the road,” he said. “I’ll take care of it for you.”

“It’s okay,” we told him. “We really appreciate it, but we’ll pay on our own.”

“It would make me so happy,” he said. “Really, just pay it back to the next truck driver you meet.” He went on to tell us that he’d heard me mention the long drive, and that he understood. That day alone, he’d been on the road for nearly seven hours — and it was only noon. He had another few hours until he would drop off his cargo, then he still had a long way back home ahead of him.  “I know what it’s like to want to go somewhere,” the man said. “We all want to be there already.”

The line continued to snake forward and the truck driver continued to chat. He told us that he’d become a trucker after a stint in the army, and that he had a toddler daughter back home. When it was his turn at the cash register, he tried to include our snacks in his order.

“No, no,” my sister and I both said at once. We were fine paying for ourselves, we repeated. “But we’ll still pay it forward to another truck driver,” I reassured him.

“I’d appreciate that,” he said. Then he tipped his cap and walked out of the shop. As the cashier rang us up, I watched him climb into the front seat of his truck and pull out of the parking lot, heading back onto the long road to somewhere. He probably wanted to be there already.

I remembered a time, years before, when my friends and I were pulled over on the highway. “Where are you off to?” the state trooper asked my friend when she rolled down her window. She told him that our friend was getting married that night, and we were on the way to Montreal.

“Oh, wow. No wonder you were speeding,” the trooper said. “That’s a long trip ahead of you.” He gave us a stern warning — along with a ticket for only 10 miles over instead of 20 — and waved us back onto the road.

It’s hard to go slow when you’re waiting. For people. For answers. For the questions. To go home. It’s hard to hold back, not to press on the gas.

I thought about that truck driver again this week. I was back on the 87 with more than 70 miles before my next turn. I kept looking at the GPS, willing the numbers to grow smaller. And I was itching, itching to press harder on the gas — anything that would get me there sooner.

A truck driver in the next lane turned on his blinkers, politely asking if he could merge into my lane. I didn’t want to let him through. Trucks are big. They hog the roads, obscure the view, block the mountains. They make it take longer for me to get home.

Then I thought about the truck driver offering to pay for our snacks. Behind the wheel of that big noisy thing was a person, and he wanted to get home, too.

So, Mr. Truck Driver, wherever you are, I wanted to let you know that I turned up the music and sat a little straighter so that, beyond the top of the truck, I could still see the mountains.

Then I slowed down and let that truck driver go ahead of me.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 800)

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