Creature Comforts

My acquaintances have called me adventurous, courageous, even fearless, as they’ve seen me on the periphery throwing myself at all manner of challenges and risks they themselves feel no need to face. But those who are close to me—a small circle—know that I’m mostly a homebody. I like my cozy things: blankets and PJ’s, movie days on the couch with my cats and an art project, home-cooked meals, books in bed, and keeping my castle just so. Domestic, even reclusive, life appeals to me and as a homeowner, I take a lot of pride in making my space personal and welcoming. After growing up in a small apartment and then rented house, painting the rooms and putting guilt-free holes in the walls gives me a special kind of fulfillment. The sense of control, convenience, and comfort is centering and makes my animal self very, very happy.

The truck initially felt like it had none of these things. Those who have been to our home in Fort Worth know that it’s quite spacious, with something to do in each room. Those who have been in our truck know that there are only the two “rooms”: the cab and the sleeper. Maybe three if you count the second bunk as the “upstairs”. Chris and I have no issue being in close quarters; the more opportunities we have to be on top of each other, the better (heh). That was one of the considerations before taking a job like this: we read that if you’d like to experience what it’s like to drive OTR with your spouse, spend a few days together living in your walk-in closet or bathroom and you’ll have a good idea.

That’s not much of an exaggeration. Our ’16 Freightliner Cascadia is pretty roomy, all things considered, but between the two of us and our stuff, that space gets eaten up. Maneuvering around each other and prioritizing our personal tasks takes some practice, though we are settling into somewhat of a groove. We make it work. It helps that while Chris is six feet plus, I’m five feet minus, and a natural hobbit who doesn’t mind small spaces. Though I rest well in our sleeper cave, Chris can never really stretch out, and he doesn’t drop off quite as easily as I do.

But what mattered more to me, what I wanted to carry over from our grounded home to our wheeled one, was the personal and aesthetic inflection I could add to our space. I wanted to assert something that could give me a sense of belonging, identity, and yes, comfort. I wanted organization, methodology, and tools at my disposal. When I entered the truck, it was very much a Christopher space, one I hadn’t created, and one in which I felt like I didn’t have much to do.

My favorite hobbies—drawing and painting, cooking, gardening, cat-bothering, and yoga—were all home-hobbies, necessitating the space and tools and immobility of a house, not a truck. Chris and I both are still trying to balance time to drive, sleep, AND work on our projects, but the latter is pretty much impossible, at least until we become owner operators (fingers crossed). That combined with being new to trucking made me feel very out of place, out of control, and out of self. Sufficed to say, trucking was, at first, out of my comfort zone. Which, to be honest, is a place I am often comfortable going.

The ways to use our free time weren’t the only thing we took for granted, or had to sacrifice. The other most glaring was access to running water. I know many people who live on the road and did my share of research, but this simple fact of life doesn’t really become starkly apparent until you can’t just walk to the bathroom half-blind in the middle of the night, or run the tap to rinse, or throw a favorite piece of clothing in the wash. I was worried I had become spoiled. I was worried I had become high maintenance. I was worried my small bladder would be my undoing.

And it was, and I was, for a little bit. But, like with every other change in my life, I adapted. I experimented with a few travel urinals, eventually settling on a much simpler though maybe less sophisticated combination of water-proof blender bottle and female funnel. Water is life. Indoor plumbing and sanitation is man’s greatest invention. Fortunately, a whole state’s worth of people live this kind of life, and most truck stop bathrooms and showers are quite nice, clean, and modern. There are some off-brand ones, however, that I hope to never return to. The smell-scapes got to me more than chipped vinyl, dirty floors, or stall graffiti. There was one that smelled strongly of mortuary formaldehyde, one whose industrial disinfectant made my eyes sting all the while I was there, and one in Arkansas that had to be right next to cow field or slaughterhouse, because the stench of manure was so strong. The olfactory sense is a fabulous shortcut for memory, unfortunately.

You can make the animal body work for you, if you take care of it. We’re trying to take care of ours, but eating well, exercising, sleeping, relaxing, and stimulation all together can be hard to achieve on the road, for reasons I mentioned above. And despite the time and space restrictions, we really miss having a furry animal or two around to give us our doses of oxytocin and dopamine when human cuddles just aren’t cutting it. We desperately miss our cats back home, and wish we could take comfort with those creatures. But they’re keeping our house warm and the time we do share with them is really special.

At this point in early November, most of the places we deliver to are well into autumn and early winter temperatures, and on our last weekend at home we stocked up on our cold-weather wear. I don’t really feel high maintenance when a warm outfit, a hot meal, and husband bear hug get me straight for the day. Everything else is bearable at worst.

Chris and I are both very cerebral people, but to be such we’ve learned, often the hard way, how to appeal to the creature that keeps the whole ship afloat. Life, and this life in particular, is a balancing act of both needs. So give your intellect and your anatomy a well-deserved treat, because they’re what keep you trucking.

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