Thank truckers, who are delivering us from evil
About that pack of disinfecting wipes in your purse or car or kitchen. Do you know how it got there?
If it’s Clorox brand, the wipes were manufactured in Atlanta, loaded onto a semitrailer and delivered to a distributor in Orlando. The pallets were unloaded and separated, then transported to grocery stores or other retailers.
Most people don’t think about any of that. All they care about is getting wipes before coronavirus gets them.
When you reach for a wipe today, pause a second and think of Tony Roddy.
“What people need,” he said, “I deliver.”
He’d just spent a long night rolling down Interstate 75 in his 18-wheeler. Roddy pulled into Orlando shortly after dawn on Monday, checked his watch and got worried.
“I was late for my delivery,” he said. “But because I was delivering Clorox products, they didn’t care. They said, ‘Bring it on.’”
Workers unloaded 20 palettes of Clorox disinfecting wipes, germicidal wipes, bleach packs, multi-surface cleaner, hardsurface sanitizing spray, hydrogen peroxide, bathroom cleaner and good old bleach.
At 70 cents a mile, Roddy earned about $315 for his night’s work. Along with that, we
should have given him a medal.
Sure, truckers are just doing their jobs. But these days, that job is probably more important than yours, mine or anyone who’s not on front lines in the COVID-19 battle.
“The Lord has always put me in a position where I can help people,” Roddy said.
His exact position Monday was at the Turkey Lake Service Plaza on the turnpike. He’d pulled in about noon and was observing the 10-hour break truckers are required to take after 14 hours on the job.
About 40 rigs were parked in rows, each purring like a giant cat. Truckers keep the engines idling for a variety of reasons, starting with the fact they power the mini appliances in their cabs.
They need a wellstocked refrigerators these days. All the fast-food joints at the service mart are closed. Chairs and tables are stacked and surrounded by yellow “CAUTION” tape.
The place looked a deserted crime scene late
Monday afternoon. The only person working was the cashier at the convenience mart. The only customer was Roddy, a 62-year-old bald guy with a surgical mask sitting on top of his head.
“All of us going to remember this,” he said, “just like we remember 9-11.”
He’s working about 70 hours a week, making round trips from Atlanta to Orlando and Atlanta to Miami. In an odd way, this vital link in the food-distribution chain was made for a pandemic.
“We’re always self-isolating,” Roddy said.
He passes the hours listening to Christian music and waiting for one of his granddaughters’ numbers to pop up on his cell phone.
“Ahh, every time I see that — grandbabies calling me — I’m in good shape,” Roddy said.
With his glasses and goatee, he looks more like a professor on holiday than a trucker on break. Before this, he was a Marine, he managed a Wendy’s, then he got a master’s degree in human services.
He became a counselor for at-risk kids, but their problems consumed him.
“I get too close to the kids, which I shouldn’t,” Roddy said. “But I can’t help it.”
An 11-year-old girl he was counseling was sexually assaulted by a 35-year-old man. Roddy was so torn up, he was afraid he might kill the guy.
“I wasn’t any good after that,” he said.
It doesn’t sound like your typical trucker’s story. But then, how many of us know what constitutes a typical trucker?
The only time we usually notice truckers is when we’re passing them on a highway. But there are 3.5 million of them in America. They combine to drive almost 300 billion miles a year. That’s a lot of selfisolated hours of listening to music, waiting on grandbabies to call and living out of sleeping compartments.
Do they really need 10 hours of mandated down time after driving all day or night?
“Actually, you do,” Roddy said. “You’re pulling 80,000 pounds. You’ve got to upshift, downshift, upshift, downshift. You can’t just kick back in a truck, because anything can happen.”
He had four more hours of idle time left Monday, then he would pick up a load of fertilizer and take it back to Atlanta.
After a rest, he’d head to a warehouse and get another delivery for Orlando.
“More Clorox,” Roddy said.
Remember that today if you go to the grocery store and someone is stocking empty shelves with packs of hand wipes.
“I just hope we’re doing enough to keep American citizens safe,” Roddy said. “People need food, people need vegetables, people need Clorox.”
People need truckers. It just took a crisis for us to truly realize it.
Tony Roddy has been hauling Clorox products from Atlanta to Orlando during the coronavirus crisis.
Signs along interstates may urge motorists to stay at home, but truckers must stay on the job in order for America to beat COVID-19.