By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 8/21/2018
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An entry from Alternate Roads: Paul S. Cilwa's Truck Drivin' Journal

Thursday, May 22, 2003

I had to check out of the motel at noon, but the first shuttle of the day leaves the motel at 2:00 pm. So I had brunch at the International House of Pancakes next door, then returned to the motel lobby to wait. The clerk was a man who looked frighteningly like Gene Rayburn, that host of the 60s TV show, The Match Game. When I had checked out, he expressed interest in my last name. "That sounds like an Indian name," he said. "What tribe do you belong to?"

"Uh, the Polish tribe," I kidded. "What does 'Cilwa' mean in a Native tongue?" I added, curiously.

He wasn't sure, but offered to find out, and took my email address so he could send me his findings. He explained that he had been adopted into one of the coastal tribes. I had a flash of intuition and blurted out, "When do you start training as a shaman?"

A startled look crossed his face and he blanched. "How did you know?"

I shrugged. "The ways of the Polish people are mysterious and deep." Then I grinned to let him know I was kidding. Sort of.

When 2:00 o'clock rolled around, he left the desk in the charge of his wife and went to get the shuttle. I was the only passenger, so on the way to the Operating Center we talked about how he had become friends with guys who lived on the reservation, and had come to the attention of a tribal shaman, who had recognized in him the spiritual depth required for training in the traditional ways. And so, even though Geoff wasn't an Indian, he was adopted into the tribe and began to walk the spirit path, even while he and his wife continued to live in the outside world running a tourist motel.

"But we had to move," he said, sadly. "The motel was bought by another company that was only interested in the bottom line. First thing they did was half the wages of the maid staff. Second thing they did was try to replace them when they all quit. It was awful. So my wife and I wound up working for La Quinta, training to manage this property. We had to move away from the tribe. So the training stopped."

"The spirit path can be pretty winding," I pointed out. "As an outsider who was adopted by the tribe, you have the opportunity to synthesize the spiritual ways of the Native People with Western ways. I wouldn't be so sure your training is over. I think it may just have taken on a new form."

He wanted to know how I knew so much about the Shaman's Way, and I explained that I was a Two-Spirit person. "You're gay?" he asked, surprised.

"Yup," I acknowledged. In native traditions, Two-Spirit people are those who combine male and female attributes. It is assumed we also combine other things, like the material world and the spirit world. We are said to straddle the two worlds, and were therefore sought after to become shamans. That is, before the Christian missionaries came in and taught the natives who weren't killed by smallpox and other European diseases, that everything they believed was wrong. The missionaries introduced the concept of sin and everlasting punishment to peoples who had had a much more enlightened view of God than their unrequested teachers. But, when an enlightened person is surrounded by the funeral pyres of his or her loved ones, slain by a mysterious illness that showed up with the very people who informed them that it was God's punishment for their sins, it is easy for fear to get a grip. And, once a person is filled with fear, the notion of a punishing God easily replaces the concept of a loving God. Fortunately, the shamanistic tradition is enjoying a resurgence of popularity, among native peoples as well as their devotees, people of European and African ancestry who find alternatives to the oppressive Christian faiths appealing.

We arrived at the OC and I said goodbye to Geoff, using his tribal name, and sharing mine, Rafting Bear. "Who gave that to you?" he inquired. "If you don't mind my asking."

"I gave it to myself," I replied. "My path has shown me that I don't need others to lead me to it. The path is where I am."


Inside, when I inquired about how my truck, the Eric Idle, was proceeding in its repairs, I discovered that they hadn't even started on it, yet. It had now been over 24 hours since I brought it in, so I ran back to the dispatch offices. Debbie wasn't there, but Jay, her boss, was. When I apprised him of the situation, he said, "That's not acceptable!" And, the next thing I knew, I had been assigned a "loaner". For a week.

The truck had been assigned to a driver who, I was told, was in the hospital. No one could tell me why the driver was in the hospital or what he was there for. I only knew he'd be there for at least a week, and so the truck would be mine for at least that long.

First, though, there was a problem. (Isn't there always? Sometimes it seems as if my path has more than its share of rocky places.) The driver to whom the truck was normally assigned, had taken the keys. Sly, the capable guy at the fuel desk, knew what key was supposed to work and cut me a pair…but they did not, in fact, work. Apparently, sometime in the truck's past, the ignition and door locks had been changed. So Sly sent me out with the full set of master keys, some eighty of them, and the assignment to try each one until I found one that worked.

I lucked out and got a hit on the third key I tried.

Sly then made me two copies of that key (the extra is in case I lock the first one in the truck and is usually kept in my pocket). Now that I could get in, I had the task of consolidating the previous driver's stuff and getting it out of the way so I could get my stuff in. I was given the choice of boxing his stuff and leaving it at the OC, or keeping it in the truck. When I examined the truck, I found that it was packed like New Orleans on Mardi Gras night. He had every trucker's toy there is. A TV/VCR combo. A cooler. An XM radio. A powerful CB radio with retractable microphone and additional antennae. A fan. A rechargeable flashlight. A power inverter. Pictures of nude women taped to every exposed surface. Confederate flag decals glued to the outside of the truck. And, of course, all his clothes and bedding. And his paperwork; obviously he had left in a hurry. His log books, left in the desk drawer, revealed his name was Laine. Photos of himself and his cats, taped to the underside of the upper bunk where he could see them when he laid down, showed him to be a heavyset thirty-something with light brown hair and a rather androgynous face. It was, in fact, so androgynous that I was no longer certain he was a he. And his or her name was no giveaway.

And the truck was filthy.

But the electronics had been carefully mounted in place, and, not only would it have taken me hours to unmount them, but it would then have presented him with the job of re-mounting them when he got back from the hospital.

So I chose to consolidate in place. I gathered all the clothes and bedding and put them in the space beneath the lower bunk. I cleared the bottom two shelves in his/her "pantry" and placed those canned goods with his/her clothes, leaving two shelves for my own canned goods. I took down the nudie pictures and added them to the stash. On the other hand, I left the electronics where they were, rather than disturbing the mountings. Which would, of course, give me the option of using them.

Then I started scrubbing. When the top layer of grime was removed from the windows and dashboard, I found that this truck was actually cleaner than mine had been. Of course, it was two years newer, too. Oh, it was plenty banged up. The farings had been bent by too-close encounters with trailers. Chips of paint were missing. There was even a small chip in the windshield. Inside, I found mounds of old pretzels under the mattress. I had to remove the mattress in order to get them all out.

Finally, I was ready to put my stuff in. I made the bed, put my clothes in the newly-cleared closet and shelves above the TV, my food in the lower two shelves of the pantry, and my books and books-on-tape in the overhead shelf above the dashboard.

I logged into the Qualcomm and immediately received my first assignment in the new truck: A relay load, taken from the OC where I was, to Stockton. I found the trailer, and coupled to it. So far, so good; Matt's truck ran pretty well, though the clutch was 'way stiffer than Eric Idle's had been. I pulled out of the OC, and onto I-10 heading west toward I-210 and I-5 north. The tractor handled well, in fact, so much like Eric had (on its good days) that I found I forgot I was now in a truck with power windows and spent moments trying to find the window handle when I needed to roll my window down at a weigh station.

Even though I wasn't going to be in this truck for long, I decided it needed a name, something other than "Laine's truck." I thought of all those Confederate decals on the outside of the truck. I hadn't removed them, for fear of pulling paint off with them. Besides, if they did come off, Laine wouldn't be able to put them back on. I had taped my rainbow Gay Pride flag to the inside of the driver's vent window, where it was partially-obscured by a "No Lot Lizards" decal but, at least, it partly made up for the Confederate decorations. Obviously, Laine was a self-styled Redneck. And so, in homage to the comedian who first made Redneck-ism respectable, I dubbed the truck the Jeff Roadworthy.

And headed for my 4 am appointment in Stockton.