Invest in a great sound system was the best advice I ever got when I became a long hauler. I don't know how truckers who prefer silence get by on the amount of sleep we live on without "It's raining men" blasting in their cabs in the wee hours of the morning.
I know that I would have plowed this road train into a couple of mountains by now if I didn't own Disco's Greatest Hits. When my eyes start to droop I just crank up the Weather Girls, channel my inner gay boy from the eighties and sing my imaginary, flamboyant, magenta silk covered heart out.
It keeps me awake long enough to get to the next greasy spoon.
Speaking of which, I could see the lights from Sal's up ahead. And not a minute too soon. I was starved and really in need of a bathroom. I wanted the bathroom to be followed in short order by a huge plate of eggs benedict served with a nice glass of dry chardonnay.
Since what I was pulling my rig into was a truck stop, not a cozy little bistro, what I would settle for is a semi clean bathroom, a strong cup of coffee in a mug that might as well be a tin cup for all of the elegance it possessed and enough fat, grease and gristle to choke another couple of my arteries into oblivion.
At a truck stop a semi clean bathroom all by itself earns four stars; strong coffee adds a fifth. Sal's gets five stars. I like Sal's and I like Sal. She's a pip. And she always has a story for me.
As I stepped out of my rig, two teens looked up and checked me out. I smiled at them and one smiled back while nudging the other.
They walked along behind me, apparently thinking that being sixteen also makes your conversations inaudible by anyone over the age of forty.
I didn't hear part of it, but the part I heard made me laugh to myself. The smiling one said something, and the other replied "No wedding ring, but dude, she's old. She does have a sweet little ass though."
I filtered his statements through the appropriate brain waves and took the good away from the encounter.
Smiling, I swung my sweet little ass through the door and saw Sal behind the counter talking to a big hairy yahoo in a ten gallon hat.
Sal looked up and grinned.
"Hey, Chelsea! You got one?"
"Yeah, 'We Polka' - just saw it though, didn't talk to them, but I think it speaks for itself. You got one?"
"Nice. Back story?"
"You know it. I'll tell you while you eat. You want coffee?"
I nodded and went on into the ladies room. I took the grease pencil hanging on a string and added "We Polka" to the wall.
Sal had been collecting vanity license plates for years. If you saw one and put it on the wall, you got a free fill up on your coffee. If you had a back story, real or made up, you got pie.
Sal made great pie and truckers have a lot of time on their hands. There are a lot of pretty wild tales floating around about some of the people who own vanity license plates.
I did what I needed to do and went back out to the restaurant.
The big hairy dude had something sitting at his table perched on a couple of old newspapers. As I got closer I thought that the something he had looked like a numbat. But then I decided it couldn't be a numbat. They're protected under law since they're endangered. But, no when I got right by his table, sure enough, it was a numbat.
The yahoo leered up at me and said, "Hey hot stuff. How are you tonight?"
I decided to ignore the hot stuff remark and asked him about the numbat. He explained to me that he was working on a plan to breed them and sell them to business owners to use as natural exterminators for cockroaches.
He said that Sal had asked him to wait while she looked over his proposal so she could give him a down payment.
Curiosity satisfied, I disengaged figuring Sal had called the cops by now on this looney toon since a) he was trying to illegally sell protected animals b) numbats only eat termites and c) Sal didn't suffer fools gladly, especially big dumb hairy ones trying to part her from her hard earned cash.
I sidled on past him, retrieved my coffee from the counter and selected a booth in the back that was out of his line of sight but had a great view of the parking lot. I grinned when I saw the cops arrive and leave shortly thereafter with the protesting numbnut in cuffs, the numbat in a big have a heart carrier.
Sal came with my free refill, took my order and gave me a paperback to read while I waited.
She came back with my food and told me the back story to "snouts."
Apparently the couple who owned the license plate raised pot bellied pigs and in their house on any given day there were snouts and arseholes as far as the eye could see.
But arseholes was already taken.
I enjoyed that idea, my food and the rest of my conversation with Sal.
Full and empty in the right proportions, I hauled my rig back out onto the open road, Weather Girls raining men all the way……
The list of 46 stories at Mad Utopia