My Son, the Trucker
Everyone told my mom my love for trucking was just a phase
By David A. Kolman, Senior Editor
My dad was a successful salesman of high-tech electronic components. My mom was a teacher who worked with mentally challenged children. But even as a small child, I knew I wanted to be a trucker when I grew up. I had all kinds of toy trucks, plenty of kids’ books on trucks and could recognize truck brands when big rigs rolled by.
While my parents tolerated my love of trucks and my plan to become a trucker, they encouraged me to go to school, gain an education and get into a different profession.
In high school, I got a job driving trucks. Eventually, I was able to convince my uncle — who owned a wholesale food distributorship — to let me go to work for him. He, too, was of the firm opinion that I should be something other than a trucker.
My mother was not pleased with her brother. She didn’t think her first-born son should be a trucker. “Don’t worry,” he used to tell her. “David will grow out of it.” My father used to tell her the very same thing.
My uncle put me to work in the warehouse and had me make deliveries in a refrigerated straight truck, handling the worst routes. He figured I’d grow weary of the challenges. I never did.
Every Monday, a rig would make a delivery of pickle products to the warehouse. I became friends with the driver, a wonderful guy. He encouraged my aspirations of becoming a trucker and shared many of his experiences as a long-hauler. This only served to further my efforts to drive for a living.
Unbeknownst to me, my uncle worked a deal with the trucker to let me pull his rig from the dock and drive it the short distance to the main road. I was ecstatic — and extremely nervous.
I did an awful job. I wasn’t able to shift from one gear to another. I had to keep stopping and starting over. Nevertheless, I was hooked.
I kept bugging my uncle for more opportunities to drive a big rig. Finally, I think to get me to stop my constant nagging, he hooked me up with a freight company. One of their long-time drivers agreed to teach me to drive. All I had to do was pay him his union wage for the time he spent instructing me.
Every morning, this driver worked with me, teaching me the finer points of trucking, having me tool around the company yard, maneuvering and backing up. After several weeks of this, I asked him when we were going to get out of the yard and do some real driving.
I can still recall his answer: “Anybody can drive straight. By the time I’m done with you, you’ll be able to handle any situation.” And he was right.
I got my CDL and landed a regional hauling job. My first trip was from Baltimore to Boston. Before I left the terminal on that inaugural run, I called my parents and arranged to meet them at a roomy shopping center so I could show off my rig.
They seemed excited for me. I could see them waving goodbye in the mirrors as I headed north. Come to find out years later, my mother was in tears and my father tried to console her, telling her: “Don’t worry, David will grow out of it.”
I never did. I followed my dream and became a trucker. While not pleased about this, my parents accepted it, taking some consolation in the fact that I was genuinely happy.
Still, up until the day she died, my mother kept hoping I would grow out of my love of trucking. She regularly would hand me the employment section of the newspaper with “better” job opportunities circled in red.
My mother never let my uncle forget that it was his “fault” I became a trucker. But she also believed that if she hadn’t given me so many toy trucks when I was a young child, my career choice might have been different.
My younger brothers got doctor, engineer and scientist toys.