By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 2/28/2020
Topics/Keywords: #18-Wheeler #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver #TruckDriving Page Views: 276
An entry from Alternate Roads: Paul S. Cilwa's Truck Drivin' Journal

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

After an unexpectedly long time at home (during which I still didn't have a chance to read my mail), I received an assignment this morning to run an empty trailer to Kingman, Arizona, and take a load from there to Albuquerque, NM.

The trailer I was originally assigned wasn't at the lot, of course; I found another and informed my STL that was the one I would take, which was no problem. I then headed up US 60 (known as Grand Avenue in Phoenix) to US 93: The "back road" that leads directly to Kingman.

Most people automatically run up I-17 when they want to get to the northern part of the state. It's quick, and it is a beautiful drive that includes a precipitous climb up the Mogollon Rim. However, that precipitous climb is less fun when one is pulling a trailer, even an empty one. US 93, on the other hand, has no really steep grades at all (at least, not between Phoenix and Kingman), and a lot less traffic than the Interstate. So, that's how I chose to go.

My load was supposed to be ready at 3 pm, and I didn't get started until 10 am, so there wasn't much time to dawdle. I did stop once to fill my refillable, insulated soda thermos from Pilot Truck Stops. And then, a few miles later, with 32 ounces of Diet Coke in me, or rather, in my bladder, I realized that there is a down side to taking US 93 instead of I-17.

US 93 has no rest areas, and practically no other places to stop.

It's beautiful, and rugged, and really lets you see the Arizona of centuries past, with cacti and thorny acacia trees and scrubby brush and wild, forbidding mountains topped with thunderous storm clouds with jagged lightning and rain.

But there ain't nowhere to stop and pee.

This is an ongoing truck driver problem, and I've seldom seen it discussed publicly and then, only to disparage the "urine-filled Mountain Dew bottles" thrown on the side of the highway from speeding trucks.

At the best of times, stopping the truck to take care of bodily functions is problematic. It's just so much effort to park a big rig. First, you have to find a place to pull over. Does it have enough room for an eighteen-wheeler? Will I get stuck? Have to turn around? Even if it is truck-friendly, is it already full? I have, more than once, driven into a rest area with legs crossed, only to find I have wasted precious minutes pulling into a place which already has a rig parked in every slot.

Then, you gotta park. Rest areas are pretty easy, because they usually have pull-through parking. The trick then, is sliding into the slot so the rig is centered. If you want to make a truck driver mad, park in a pull-through slot so that you occupy the vacant slot next to you as well. That will really piss him off, especially if he had to piss, too. You might just find yourself ducking a flying Mountain Dew bottle, later.

Truck stops, ironically, are usually harder to park in because most of them have back-in parking, only. I can back in pretty well by now; but it isn't as easy when one's abdomen is about to explode and every fiber of one's being is screaming, "Just leave the damned truck and run, don't walk, for the bathroom!"

But, on US 93, no truck stops…no rest areas.

I began eyeing my empty soda cup from McDonalds. Made of some kind of plastic, it probably isn't biodegradable or, if it is, the time it takes to degrade is probably measured in half-life's. I don't really know how big my bladder is, but that's a 44-ounce cup and, in spite of the fact that what was now in my bladder came from there, I felt sure the cup could contain it all.

If I could get it in there.

Why did I wear long pants, today? Usually I leave Phoenix in shorts, but today I wore some kind of light-colored Dockers whose appearance would not be enhanced by a yellow blotch across the front or, worse, down the leg. I would have to remove them, first.

When I was married to my ex-wife, she used to perform the amazing feat of removing her bra without taking off or even opening her blouse. She did it in one smooth motion I never could reverse engineer. I was not so smooth. I positioned the steering wheel as high and straight up as it would go, and pressed the compressed air button to raise my seat a few inches. Then, holding the steering wheel steady with my belly (and how sad it is that I can dothat), I unzipped my pants, half-stood, and was just pulling them off my butt when another truck driver passed me, giving me the habitual cheery wave even as his expression indicated he wasn't sure what he had just seen.

Finally, I sat back down, my Dockers around my ankles. Thank God I don't wear underwear; I don't think I could have managed the whole production a second time.

Okay, so now, the cup. I slipped it into position and realized that, John Holmes, I am not. I would have to scootch forward a bit if I wanted to hit the cup and not my seat, which is stained enough already from the previous inhabitant of the truck (and, too late, I wonder if he stained it with food or drink and, if so, was it before or after ingestion?).

It isn't easy to throw away fifty years of potty training. No matter how I looked at the scenery, the clouds, the mountains, Mr. Happy didn't want to relax enough to fill the cup. It was almost as bad as when I took the pee test for my CDL; but then I was in a bathroom, filled with bathroom things. Even then, I had to position myself over the toilet as if I were going to use it.

I tried to imagine I was in a bathroom.

Finally, cup filled—not overfilled, thank God—I then had to figure out what to do with it.

I was certainly not going to hurl it out on the highway. My psychic prohibition against littering is even stronger than my block against peeing while I drive. I decided to put it back in the drink holder for now, pending later disposal.

More pressing was the fact that I was hurtling down the highway with my pants around my ankles. What if I had to shift or hit the brake?

This couldn't be very safe to do, but I swear there was nothing on the CDL test about it at all.

On the other hand, it was safer than driving with my legs crossed. Anyway, it was done and now I just had to get back to normal. I tried the reverse motion, holding the steering wheel with my belly but then I couldn't reach my ankles. I wound up holding the steering wheel steady with one shoulder while I bent over and grabbed the waist of my Dockers. Then I could use both hands to pull the pants up while my stomach steadied the wheel.

I was just catching my breath after this operation, when I saw a truck parking place on the expanded right shoulder of the highway. Some part of my brain was still looking to park the truck, I guess, because I suddenly found myself parked there.

There were no restrooms. On the other hand, I could see there were trails entering into the grove of trees that lined the parking area that, undoubtedly, had been used by generations of truckers needing a little relief. And I did have that cup to empty. It was a little gross; but, after all, if I had come to this place sooner I wouldn't have thought twice about peeing in the woods. So why not put the pee there, anyway, even though it wasn't quite as fresh?

There was another truck parked ahead of me, and I felt a little odd about taking the cup out of the truck with me. What if the driver was watching me from his mirror? What if he saw me take the cup with me, and knew that I was going to empty it out? Because, of course, I was going to bring it, empty, back to the truck—I would never leave trash in the woods. I've been a backpacker far too long to do such a thing. Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures, that's me. But what if the driver didn't know the cup was full of pee? What if he thought I was going to pee in the cup, then bring it back into the truck with me for some reason? No, that didn't make any sense. Obviously, I was thinking about this too hard. But, just in case, I put the cup near my lips so anyone watching would assume I was bringing my soda with me. Which I was; it just wasn't fresh soda.

There was a trail leading into the woods just at the side of my trailer. I headed into it, ducking under the low-lying tree branches partially obscuring it. The branches grabbed me. That's when I realized they weren't just any kind of trees. They were acacia trees, whose limbs are covered with thorns that tend to catch in the clothes and hang onto one. They hung onto me. As I struggled to free myself, both arms became entangled with the thorns and then, my Dockers, which I had forgotten to actually zip and button when pulling them back on in the truck, began to slide off my hips.

So, there I was, stuck in an acacia tree at the side of the road, holding a soda cup full of urine, and with my pants rapidly falling to my ankles.

I began to see the upside of hurling Mountain Dew bottles out of the truck. Yes, it's messy and unsanitary, but it does keep one out of acacia trees.

I sighed and realized I would have to focus. I began by tossing the contents of the cup over the roots of the acacia tree, which I felt deserved it. I then dropped the cup, disentangled my arms from the thorns, pulled up and fastened my pants, got myself disentangled from the thorns again, picked up the cup, got back in the truck, and got back on the highway as quickly as I could.

No wonder so many truck drivers get kidney stones. They're less trouble.

Finally, in Kingman, I found the shipper—directions wrong, again; even Microsoft Streets and Trips was wrong, as the City of Kingman had extended a road and closed the old one. But I found it. This company, which makes cabinets, has come up with a new definition for "no-touch freight"—they don't touch drivers. They won't see us. They won't talk to us. They have a cabinet (naturally) in front of the shipping door, with a sign that says, "Look in here for your Bill of Lading. If it's here, your trailer is ready. If it's not, it isn't." My trailer, of course, was not ready.

It was supposed to be ready at 3 pm. I got there at 3 pm. I napped for an hour, and checked again—still not ready. I could see the trailer; it was docked and the light was green—but the Bill of Lading wasn't in the cabinet.

Other drivers had congregated and I joined them. "Guess my trailer isn't ready," I said.

"When was it supposed to be ready?" one of them asked.

"Three," I replied.

They all laughed. "You haven't been here, before," one said.

"No," I admitted.

"It may be ready tonight," another explained. "And it may not."

"I've been here since yesterday," another Schneider driver told me. "I drove into town, saw a movie, had lunch, came back. It's still not ready."

I looked around. "Is there a driver's lounge somewhere?"

"Nope," I was told. "They won't let drivers in the building."

"Uh, where do we go to the bathroom?"

The Schneider guy shrugged. "If it's serious, you can always drive to the TA truck stop in town. Otherwise…" His voice trailed off and he pointed to a row of trailers.

I chatted awhile longer, then came back to my truck and napped, wrote, read, napped some more. Finally, about 9 pm, I saw the yard dog put some papers in the cabinet and ran to check them. At last! My trailer was ready. I coupled to it and, wanting to get a few miles towards Albuquerque, at least, I headed east on I-40 and drove for almost three hours. Finally, a little shy of Flagstaff, I found a pull-off on the crest of a hill and parked the truck. When I got out for a breath of air before turning in, I found the side of the turn-off was littered with soda bottles, Mountain Dew and other types, full of liquid and with caps screwed on.

How did I never notice this sort of thing before I started driving? Can't anyone acknowledge that this is a problem, and put a port-a-potty at these pull-offs? Or, at least, a garbage can?

Still, it was a quiet, cool, moonlit night, and I had the pull-off to myself. I went to sleep rocked by the passing of occasional trucks and, because all that pee was in sealed bottles, smelling only the sweet smell of pines, junipers, and acacia trees.