Truck drivers and the death – why am I combining these two elements when we talk about hitchhiking? Our explicit aim of this project is to not let the old cliches revive by putting these terms together. I want to see the death in this case as something neutral, which is inevitably part of our life but at the same time it is not a catastrophe.
One thing is certain: they are both closer to us when hitting the road on such a trip as in our normal everyday city life. Truck drivers are an important part of the traffic on the road and going by hitchhiking always involves the danger of an accident, in the same way as when you drive by yourself or with your friends. What I don’t want to imply is that truck drivers are closer related to the death than other persons.
Getting a ride in a truck has always a special note. When do you drive in a truck in your normal life? Right, never I guess unless you have a trucker in your closer family circle. We are talking about big machines that roar along the roads, loud snuffling sometimes, a symbol for power. They bring the goods that we buy in the supermarket every day. Or they transport some parts for a car factory. Or maybe they even carry something mystical that the driver doesn’t want to tell you. And there is the truck driver itself of course.
Truck drivers are a folk of their own. They lead a lonely life; don’t see their families very often and due to their job they are having quite some responsibilities that you would have never thought of. And all this mostly for a fairly mediocre wage. They come from everywhere and go to everywhere. Some of them only speak their native language and there is no conversation possible. The whole ride keeps passing in silence then, with your only hope that the driver and you were talking about the same destination before you got in. Other truck drivers know more languages than the instruction label of your sleeping bag.
They come from Poland, Bulgaria, but sometimes also from the Middle East or Russia. Sitting in the truck’s cabin makes you feel a bit like being the king of the road. There is decent space for your stuff and your legs and sitting higher than in a normal car gives you a nice panoramic view. Normal cars appear all of a sudden small and vulnerable.
Since those trucks don’t go that fast normally there is plenty of time to ponder about many things. Maybe you imagine for a while how your life would be having the same job. Or about your family and the people that pick you up and ask you full of surprise why you hitchhike. They tell you that it is highly dangerous and you could die easily. The own mortality is something that you come across more often when having such an adventurous trip. Crazy drivers that let you doubt to reach your next stop in one piece, long waiting times for the next ride in remote places. Or the simple issue of an accident. You don’t know, maybe your time is coming.
It was somewhere in Romania, we got another ride with a Turkish truck driver. As I know Turkish, I could easily talk to him about the things that I normally talk with the other drivers; like where are they from, for how long they have been a truck driver, if they have family, and sometimes about politics. Some truck drivers are surprisingly educated and passionate about their life. Others don’t really enjoy their job and just do it because they have to.
So when we were with our Turkish truck driver and after holding the conversation for a while, I asked him how much longer he expects to work as a truck driver in his life. And after a second of processing this question, his simple answer was: ölüme kadar – until I will die.