From 2003 to 2006 I drove through Texas many, many times. I liked the people in Texas--they always called me "ma'am" and were respectful and helpful. I liked the can-do attitude there. It seems to be a very self-reliant state. And if you ever run out of dinner plates, you can borrow somebody's belt buckle.
The reason I drove through Texas so much was because I used to be a long haul trucker. Those who know me aren't surprised. Those who don't know me so well are. I guess it's because most women don't become truckers. But that's a subject for another post, another time. No, today I want to tell the story about something that happened to me when I went to make a delivery in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Before I do that, though, I have to do a teeny bit of back story. I've worked for two different trucking companies in my long haul trucking career. My last job trucking was with Auto Truck Transport. It's an awesome company with great benefits. They aren't driver sweat shops like some outlaw companies are. It's different than probably every other trucking job in that they deliver brand new trucks to trucking companies and other places. They can deliver anywhere from one to four trucks at a time per driver. A four truck delivery would be three trucks attached piggy-back style onto the chassis of another truck. I don't know if you've ever noticed a bunch of trucks toolin' down the road like this, but it is interesting to drive them. After we get to the destination, we have to take them all apart. This means some disassembly and reassembly of the trucks. I got to be a mini-mechanic, and it was fun! After drop off, since I had no more trucks to drive, they would fly me to the closest terminal (usually) and I'd pick up some more trucks to deliver.
Now, I mentioned that I like the people in Texas, right? My overall experience with them has been pretty good. That's why I was surprised at the reactions I got from a bunch of cops in Corpus Christi, because their reactions didn't fit the mold of everyone else I had interacted with in Texas.
It was back when I had just started at Auto Truck. I was still in training, and I drove one set of piggybacked trucks while my trainer (I'll call him Steve) drove another set. I was in the lead, and he was following. We had driven from Portland, Oregon and were finally at our destination-Corpus Christi. During our trip planning, we knew we were going to get there after dark, so we decided to rest up at this one hotel and then in the morning we would deliver the trucks when the place opened. So I took the off ramp to our hotel.
When driving brand new trucks, drivers must be aware that they are sorta like test pilots of new aircraft. Nothing in the trucks have been worn in, none of the equipment has been used. So if something isn't installed correctly or perhaps a part is faulty, the driver of the brand new vehicle is likely going to have a problem.
On the off ramp, I got to experience that problem. The clutch dropped straight to the floor, and no longer engaged anything. I couldn't get it in gear and had to coast to a stop right on the off ramp. Fortunately, the off ramp was a two lane ramp. Steve passed me and pulled into the parking lot of the hotel we planned to stay at, which was literally 50 feet or so from the ramp.
Breaking down on my first run was actually a good thing in that I got to learn what the procedure was for breakdowns (and trust me, it wasn't the last--I had turbos go out and many other things go wrong over my time with ATT). Meanwhile, I put up the traffic warning triangles and called it in.
While calling it in, I had a Corpus Christi police officer leave the freeway and pass my truck on the off ramp. I thought great. Cops always like to bug drivers--they want to see our log books, and do inspections. Being broken down like that was an invitation for all kinds of questions. Fortunately for me, I had always been very meticulous about my pre-trip inspections and my logbooks, paperwork and permits, but it was still very easy to be paranoid about police. I didn't want any blemishes on my record for some thing I may or may not have forgotten. Thankfully, the cop didn't pull over, but instead pulled into the hotel parking lot. In the parking lot was a Mexican food restaurant.* The policeman got out and went into the restaurant. Whew!
After calling it in, all I could do is wait for the wrecker to come move the truck. Steve and I waited. Another cop car went by. He didn't stop, either. Instead, he went and joined the other cop car at the restaurant, and the cop went inside. A few minutes later, another cop car came in from another direction. He stopped and went into the restaurant, too.
While we waited, Steve went and checked us into the hotel. When he came out, he told me to go ahead and get my gear situated and come on back out. I did so. By the time I got back out, I saw another cop car had joined in with the other three.
We hadn't had dinner. It was after 9pm. Steve suggested he go to the restaurant and get us some food while we waited. Another cop car showed up and a cop went into the restaurant. That is five cop cars all told. By this time, I'm thinking it must be a really damn good restaurant and probably the safest place to eat in all of Corpus Christi!
Steve came back a while later with some food. I asked him if any of the cops in there quizzed him about what was up with our trucks. He said that one cop asked him something.
"What did he say?" I asked.
"Well, he said, 'Is that your truck broke down out there?'"
"I said ,'Yup,' and he said, 'okay,' and that was that."
My brain was boggled. It was so....un-cop-like. Aren't cops supposed to be the guys who are helpful and want to see what problems are and help keep problems from getting worse (i.e. traffic incidents from one lane being blocked, for example)? Maybe it was break time or something, I don't know.
The next day, we finished our deliveries and took the trucks apart and everything. After we went back to the hotel and cleaned up, I went back to that same Mexican restaurant for lunch. There were a couple more cops in there then, too. I just chuckled to myself and ordered lunch anyway.
And boy, was that food damn good!
*My sister tells me this story would be better if I substituted doughnut shop for the Mexican food, but I like the truth better. Doughnuts are so cliche!