“Tour De Farce”
One of the most memorable segments of my trucking career was doing marketing tours. I didn’t know what ‘Event Marketing’ was, before actually doing it, but the learning curve was easy. All I had to do was show up on time and was immediately everyone’s best friend. The best part was working with the same people every week, while the worst part was working with the same people every week.
I was just a freight hauler, back then, but I had two things going for me. First, I was good-looking, of course, but I also had a great-looking truck. Little did I know that charm and appearance ran a distant second place to timely performance. I struggled my whole life with mechanics, arithmetic, wimmen, and computers, but I was a quick learner, and it paid off repeatedly.
Tours lasted anywhere from three to six months, and from sea to shining sea, which was enough to keep my ex off the scent, and creditors off my back. It’s better to live on borrowed time, I learned, than to live on cash advances, so the marketing teams thought I was independently wealthy. Which you could say I was, in a way.
In truth I was a customer of Wells Fargo and never bounced a check, but after 14 years I had a credit limit in the hundreds. Instead of a Visa card lined in platinum, they gave me a debit card covered in coal dust. It didn’t get me in trouble till I’d been on tour a whole two weeks.
Checking into a four-star hotel in Sacramento, the desk clerk asked me for a credit card. “Why?” I said, too embarrassed to admit I didn’t have one. “Well,” he responded, “we just need it for incidentals.” “What the h--- are incidentals?”, I stammered. But before he could answer, the Tour Manager showed up and covered for me, telling the desk clerk to put all my expenses on the master bill.
“Incidentals” of course mean anything taken from the mini-bar, borrowed from the breakfast room, or stolen from the linen inventory. Marketing teams sometimes consider it a game to relieve the hotel of anything and everything. But me, I was afraid to keep even a used bar of soap. All I needed, after all, was some state trooper searching my cab for a three-ounce bottle of shampoo! “Never mind the drugs, “I could hear him say, “and ignore the automatic weapons. We’re here for the important stuff!”
So nightmares of stolen hair conditioner aside, I adapted pretty quickly, becoming an extra hand for operations, construction, running errands, and being the designated driver when alcohol was part of the problem, er, event. You have no idea how big a 44-ounce Margarita is until you have squeezed the perp into a passenger seat!
In downtown New York City, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta, they wanted the truck parked directly in front of the hotels, which required special permits, issued by agencies I’d never even heard of. It also required reserving up to eight car parking spaces, which left the four-wheelers furious with only you-know-who.
We shared hotel spaces with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where I met head coach Bill Cower, the Atlanta Braves, and the Oakland Raiders, where I learned right from John Madden what a Turducken is. I’ll just tell ya now, it was weird!
There’s a lot of night driving, whether you’re driving for Upstaging, Clark Transfer, Stage Call, Game Creek Video, or NEP, but they pay well, stay safe, and appreciate good jokes. Well, okay, you might want to keep a lid on the humor, but the camaraderie is worth every punchline!