After riding emotional highs and lows from days on the road, your heart can only focus on one driveway. That simple concrete slab called home.
From my darkened driveway, I stop to watch a brilliant orange sky light up the evening after a very long week on the road. Thank God it’s Friday! It’s not that I’m physically tired like my father was after a long week in the factory or mentally tired like my school teacher sister, I’m just emotionally drained. But when I walk in that door I know I must garner enough strength to feed the psyches of three loving faces.
Actually my week on the road is T.N.T; Tuesday through Thursday. Monday and Friday are office days. Monday is usually a planning and briefing session and Fridays are debriefings but this Friday caught me in an emotional extension on the road.
The office techies keep saying that we’ll soon be replaced by the internet and ‘computer-to-computer’ decisions. Sometimes I wish it were true but in my heart I know that ‘pressing the flesh’ will always have a place in the human sales equation.
Colored clouds float by spewing dramatic dark orange and red highlights that entertain my thoughts, punctuated by headlights of other cars scurrying like ants on a hill, weaving their way to some quiet solitude. I am no different. I sit in the driveway with my headlights off and linger in contemplative review letting my psyche rewind. I too am one of the ants. I stop to look skyward once more before opening the door and remember the old Indian saying; “It is a good day to die!” But which life would cease? Is it all worth it, this double life of duplicity and deceit? I am only a minor player in corporate America. Every lonely sunset has become my friend, my lover, my mentor. There is never a duplicate, just as love is, easy and forgiving. There are smiling faces behind that door only for me. To be loved is a special thing and I think I have found more than my share in this double life.
As a Young Turk in my mid-twenties I received my golden spurs; road warrior by choice and avocation. Eager successful years promoted me to an expanded agenda with titles that I proudly accepted along with the ensuing money. Titles are always part of the package and are only meaningful on an embossed business card. Was I good? Was I right? You judge, because I know you will!
Early on I borrowed a great ploy from a mentor. When I landed in a local area, my eyes searched for a street urchin. I gave the carefully chosen kid a mind boggling five dollar bill to carry my card up to the receptionist and announce my appointment and presence. I was rarely kept waiting. My natural success was never about my ability to talk but more to observe and listen.
Corporate customers lie more than any peddler in the world. They assume their crown will hide everything. But I always found the facts and the truth on the factory floor. A twenty dollar lunch with a line supervisor gave me everything I needed to know.
Endless hotel and motel chains with earned honor points became my second kingdom but in the end it was only a plush lonely bed at the end of the day. Of course there were lavish dinners out with exec customers but most evenings end with a B.L.T. room service sandwich and two scotches from the mini bar.
As in any upgraded city-center hotel, there was the ‘road warrior’ clan. Black Jack always seemed to be my shadow. He was neither black or Jack; he was simply Dan. The moniker came from his prolific love of Jack Daniels. He never asked what you were drinking but to order a Jack-on-the rocks and let you choose a mixer of your choice. He personified the negative side of our trade. Jack loved to bemoan proliferation of skirts in our brotherhood. Most of the women were pharmaceutical or retail reps and rarely industrial but Jack never missed a chance to hit on them every chance he got. Jack’s mantra was; no sex was worse than bad sex but most of us chose conversation and camaraderie at the bar. We were a fun loving family of ‘Can you top this?’ and most of the time it was yes.
Personal or professional problems were rarely up for discussion but when it came into the mix both genders advice flowed faster than the booze. We were family for the night.
When you work the Midwest, massive snowstorms and bad weather are facts of life. Familiarity with the hotel staff or guaranteed hotel reservations is your only port in the storm. When you’re one of the lucky, the peddler creed says that you share that extra double-queen in your bedroom.
Your eyes search the bundled bodies in the overbooked hotel lobby for a familiar face and you offer. If your heartfelt invitation goes out to a ‘skirt’ you might be branded as a ‘dirt bag’ but most of the seasoned ‘road warrior’ gals know that it’s a sign of respect and accept graciously.
Sex is never the equation but only happens as an answer to a long night of camaraderie in the hotel bar. It is that natural and constant need of humanity to be validated by the intimacy of wanting and being wanted.
A late breakfast in the dining room brings news that the highways will be open by early afternoon. Hugs and well wishes flow over the tables and within a few hours the vast migration of the road warriors suck the hotel empty.
You learn early on to never check your baggage on airline travel. Carry-on is the only way to go. If you’re driving, it’s a short walk to the parked car and a dreary log jammed expressway hour home and you realize that you’re just one of the leaf cutter ants in the colony, heading down the jungle road with your order prizes on your back.
The headlights quickly pop on like stars in the early darkened skies and after fifteen years on the road, you wonder. How long before I get the home office promotion? How long before I have only one life to lead? But as you pull up into a darkened driveway and contemplate; you know she knows; she knows but tolerates the deception as the pretty little lady at all the corporate functions. She smiles graciously and makes the required small talk and does her part to be the perfect corporate wife. She is well paid for her pain but money will never soothe her emotional scars. Was she a ‘sell-out’ just like me? She had a talented career that she chose to disregard for an easier life.
We all have a pound of flesh to sell in the ‘Persian Bazaar of life; it’s simply a matter of price!
I can hear the lyrics to Tina Turner’s song, ‘What’s love got to do with it’ rattling around in my brain. I know it’s just a matter of time. How long before she gets tired and takes the kids and leaves? How long will the duplicity last? Have I become just another ‘Black Jack’ road junkie? And then you have to finally admit to yourself that you’re just another road warrior addict and the split in your personality is slowly becoming permanent.