Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Ready to Give the Reason
Allan needed this break. Time to stretch. Check the tires. Load security. Last time here was about six weeks ago. Good food. Always full of drivers. Probably would recognize some. First name basis. Easy discussion about loads. Different fleets and working conditions. Police from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
This part of Pennsylvania was beautiful...particularly in autumn. Rolling hills. Small well-kept farms. But treacherous with the lowering of the sun. Lengthening shadows. Sudden steep down-slopes or curves. He felt his eyes strained and his frame tense.
Thankfully no bothersome "lot lizards" getting in his way as he did his walk-around (pathetic young prostitutes cruising the service stops in vans).
Once inside he immediately appreciated the warm lighting, cozy temperature and delightful smells. Waitress with the poofy hair and knowing smile gave him a grin and pointed to a few empty tables in the far corner by the mural with all those beautiful painted Kenworths.
What would it be this time? Breakfast? Hearty dinner? On the road daily regimen was cast aside when it came to eating or sleeping. Sleeping. Yeah, that had been the topic of conversation last time here, with a couple of drivers from Quebec. They had heard of a casual acquaintance who had fallen asleep at the wheel on these hills and missed a hazardous turn. Dead. Perhaps the trucker's greatest enemy. That and the usual squeeze faced by broker drivers in their company arrangements. Mileage allowances. Weight and hazard adjustments. Inter-state licencing. Fines. Fuel prices. Maintenance and repairs. The little guy's tab seemed endless.
Waitress with a badge stating "Marge" arrived offering menus. "Good evening Stretch. Haven't seen you for a while. Where you from again?"..."Kingston. Got a big load of steel coils coming back from the mill. Been hittin' the stop-and-go pretty heavily on these hills of yours."... "Yeah, but they're beautiful, aren't they?"
"I guess I'll have your hot roast beef sandwich with mashed, mixed vegetables, side salad with French and a pot of tea."
"Right away Stretch, uh Allan. I'll bring that tea and a paper."
Allan rubbed his eyes. He knew that he wouldn't be straining at the newsprint. Most of the drivers had teamed up in twos or threes at the tables. Craving company. Conversations were up and running on the Penguins, local election issues, activities of sons and daughters, gadgets and equipment to help with the job.
From behind and above he heard a familiar voice: "Allan. Remember me? Jerry?"
Allan did remember. Two visits ago they had sat and talked. "Hey Jerry. Sit down I've just ordered." Marge was quick on the uptake. Jerry opted for breakfast and coffee.
Their previous encounter was sifting through Allan's memory. Jerry was driving a loaner. His rig was in the shop. Serious accident in a light snowfall. Problems with insurance adjustment. Loan payments. Imposing fuel bills lingering on. Company threatening to replace him. Not enough time at home. Tension developing with his wife Stacy. One boy starting high school and getting grades well below his potential.
Yep, Jerry had really wanted to unload. And he had chosen Allan.
Good choice. For years Allan had been a member of Transport for Christ. Monthly meetings. Phone network. Frequent literature. Women's groups for the wives left at home. Allan had even considered chaplaincy work full-time, but eventually opted to stay in the field "speaking words in season to those who were weary".
Again Allan could remember his part of the conversation. "Jerry, I've seen a lot of it. Booze. Pills to keep awake. Crazy scheduling. Picky highway officials. Tricky loads. Expenses juggled frantically. A mess once with another woman. Near divorce...I finally had to concede that I did not have all the answers. At a certain point I had to let go. I needed a steady helper. I needed Jesus. I was never going to be perfect. Jesus didn't expect that, or wait for it. He just wanted a partner. I have become that partner, and prayer and study of the Bible have taken on a completely new place in my life. Jesus is close. I know it. These battles I continue to encounter are the Lord's battles."
Jerry had been quiet, respectful and appearing somewhat puzzled. They had talked back and forth for a good ninety minutes.
And now, here was Marge arriving with the food. From the look on Jerry's face and the tone of his voice, Allan expected that he was about to hear something good...
(1 Peter 3:
15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:)