Being on the road all the time has its perks. No nagging wife, no rent, no worries. But when it's just you and the asphalt for 10 to 20 hours at a time, thoughts start to creep up that you'd rather not be having.
“Do I want to die alone?”
“Can I hold this dump until the next rest area?”
“Am I contributing to child slavery in third world countries by hauling cheap products for mega-corporations?”
But trucking is for the thick-skinned—those that have the balls to say, “You know what, eff it, I'm not going to fit into your pretty little labels, I'm just going to drive, and drive, and drive, for multi-national corporations that underpay and overwork me, because you know what, eff you mother effer! I'm a free man!”
Truth be told, freedom isn't for everyone, and free though I may be, some chains can never be broken.
The need to eat is one such chain, as is the aforementioned need to take a dump, and the consequences of both were weighing heavily on my mind one night on an otherwise entirely forgettable haul from Albany, NY to St. Augustine, FL. I was hauling a load of extremely disposable merchandise to a beachfront shop...sunblock, towels, “FBI: federal boob inspector” t-shirts, you know the deal. Touristy junk. If I was late, it wouldn't be the end of the world. Maybe another milk-skinned roly-poly gets a sunburn, big woop, did he not know he was going to the beach? Besides, there were other crappy beach shops in the area, and I really needed to dump, like bad bad.
The glow of a Flying-J sign, high above the side of I-95 near Richmond, VA, about halfway through my trek, called to me, like a moth to a porch light, and I quickly pulled off the highway, hoping to fulfill both of my urgent mortal necessities at one location.
The attendant gave me a nod as I entered the store, the universal sign of acknowledgement between dudes, and I returned the gesture. The walls and shelves were stacked with your typical convenience fare—slushees, Combos, candy bars, tater salad, you know—but something unusual caught my eye on an endcap; a collection of Chicken of the Sea brand sardine tins. Mediterranean Style, Lemon and Herb, Hot Sauce; man they make so many flavors now. I didn't know which of the 50 states of the USA the Mediterranean was in, and I still don't, but it didn't really matter; I was hungry, and the Mediterranean flavor looked cool as hell, so I grabbed a tin, making sure to signal to the attendant that I was not actually stealing them, just stuffing them into the front of my greasy pocket tee and carrying them around the store like that with no regard for common decency.
Now I just had to find a drink to pair with these little bastards. Pepsi? Coke? I would have got a beer, but after a very unfortunate event at my mother's funeral 10 years back I decided that alcohol wasn't for me, so I opted for a Coke Classic on this particular evening. They say caramel color lowers your IQ, but that don't make no sense to me.
The attendant rang up the goods. $3 for the whole meal. I've been on the road for a long time; trust me when I say that you really can't beat a deal like that.
I popped into the facilities, loosed my deuce, and hustled back to my truck with a bit of a spring in my step. I love a good deal, and I had just left 3 to 5 pounds of highly concentrated stink behind in the disabled stall, so I was feeling pretty damn good.
Back in the driver's seat, I peeled back the top of the tin, tossed it through the open window, and placed my Coke into the cup-holder.
I expected a fishy smell to fill the cabin, but it never came. Strange, but, I wasn't complaining. The 8 hours remaining in my haul were improved by only having to smell my usual cocktail of man musk and BO—no fish smell needed, thanks.
Sitting squarely in the tin were 3 rather thick and wide bodies topped with what must be “Herbs of provence”, and a stack of sliced olives. I had to hand it to those Chicken of the Sea guys, these looked pretty good, and not like chicken at all.
I fished one of the bodies from the tin with my bare hands, like a real man; they had no tails, and were quite firm to the touch. I tossed it down the hatch and found the flavor to be pleasantly sweet with only the slightest bit of fishiness. They didn't taste at all like tuna, or sardines for that matter, and the olives and herbs lent the fish a sweet smell and flavor. They were elegant and tasty, perhaps too elegant and tasty for a trucker. I couldn't help but feel inauthentic, like I was committing a crime against the gods of trucking by eating them. Give me a can of tuna, a loaf of white bread, and some off-brand mayo and I'll whip you up a meal fit for a king of the road. These Mediterranean style sardines were for ladies, and men that act like ladies, sitting in front of a computer all day writing sardine reviews.
I scarfed down the rest of the can, and wiped my hands on my shirt, making sure to leave oily marks down the front. If a can of fish was going to emasculate me with its deliciousness and affordability, I had to find a way to make up for it. My testosterone spiked from this act alone, but in a final demonstration of defiance I tossed the can out the window and took a big swig of Coke. Now, that's the stuff.
I started up my rig—she belched loudly and so did I. Cheers to both Flying J and Chicken of the Sea, that pit stop was so quick that I wasn't even behind schedule. If it weren't for you, some poor sap might have tried to buy a “Federal Boob Inspector” t-shirt and found that they were out of stock in his size.
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