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Lady Driver

Hey Bill, wouldn't you like to have a set of nuts like the ones on that bull out there in that field?

By Novella Carpenter

Truckers don't like to be called truckers. I know, because I had the pleasure of interviewing Suzie Baxman about her experiences as a driver--a lady driver. She's done long haul and local driving on and off for the past 30 years, driving a 1945 Diamond Rio, a yellow school bus and her current ride, a 1984 Peterbilt 359 with a dump box on the back!

Suzie Baxman, Truck Driver

Do you use a CB radio? Are fellow truck drivers surprised to hear a lady on the other end?

"The CB radio is both a pain in the ass and incredibly helpful. Men have always accused women of yakking too much-‹well, put a CB radio microphone in one of their hands, and they never shut up. They go on and on about everything. They can also be very entertaining. Somewhere in Texas, I was listening to a couple of guys chatting when one of them said, 'Hey, Bill, wouldn't you like to have a set of nuts like the ones on that bull out there in that field?'"

Have you ever had to use one of those run-away truck ramps?

"A run-away truck ramp is affectionately called a 'sandbox.' I have never had to use one. I try to plan ahead better. I've seen others use them. Once your truck reaches the end and stops, you then have to deal with the cops and pay for a very expensive tow truck to pull you back out. There will probably be some kind of repairs, and they ain't cheap either. The way I look at it is 'I'll ride it out.'"

Tell me about the 'lot lizards': truck-stop prostitutes.

"If there were no market for their 'talents,' they wouldn't be there. The lesser known 'lot buffaloes' don't get the stickers, but I've heard them out there. They attract the wrong kinds of people and just add to the negative way people think of truck drivers. With them comes a host of other problems like drugs and STDs to bring home to some poor unsuspecting partner."

Do you have one of those semis with the plug-in stove and espresso maker and television?

"There are some pretty plush trucks out there that have living quarters nicer than most places I've lived. Kitchen, potty, shower, etc.--nice amenities for living on the road, but they add weight. The sleepers were pretty basic: a bed, cubbyholes, shelves and a place to hang clothes. We had a color TV (13-inch) with a built-in VCR. Once we were stranded by blizzard conditions on an interstate going into Denver. Spent 28 hours there. While we were lounging in the bunk watching the local news, they showed a live picture taken from a helicopter of the interstate with all of the stranded motorists. And there we were."

Is the high price of fuel making it hard to make a living trucking?

"I get paid by the hour to operate a truck that someone else has to keep full of fuel. At $2.14 a gallon--and a truck averages about 4­5 miles to the gallon--my boss is the poor bastard who has to fork over the big bucks."

Do you enjoy truck stops?

"You've heard the saying that wherever you see a lot of trucks the food must be good? Bullshit. It only means that the parking is good. I love truck stops. I prefer them over a mall. They can also be very scary and teeming with lowlifes. My favorite truck stop is probably the Iowa 80 (on I-80 in Iowa). It's privately owned and has a to-die-for chrome and a truck goodie store. Paved parking, too."

Have I asked every cliché question that people ask you?

"Your questions are pretty common ones. When someone asks me how I can do such a tough job, you know, being just a girl and all, I tell them that in the many years I've been doing this there has never been anything come up that made me think, 'Damn, this would be a hell of a lot easier to do if I had a set of testicles hanging between my legs.'"


Novella will take some Gummi Bears and water, no ice; email her at novellacarpenter@yahoo.com.

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From the July 28-August 4, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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