Brandie Diamond parks her FedEx custom key truck on her days off in a Walmart Mall parking lot in Columbus, Ohio.Meg Vogel of NPR hide caption
Brandie Diamond parks her FedEx custom key truck on her days off in a Walmart Mall parking lot in Columbus, Ohio.
This story is adapted from a rough translation of the latest episode.Listen to Apple Podcasts, Spotify or NPR One.
So she drove her new 18-wheeler to the house she once shared with her ex-partner.That was 2010.In her wallet was cash she had stashed for several years, as well as a newly issued commercial shipping license.
In the cab of her truck, there’s an empty berth for someone special: her 10-year-old daughter, Halima.
“I came in, packed her up, went to school, told her she was no longer in school, and we hit the road,” Graham said.
Graham had never considered trucking as a career before, but she knew she had to distance herself from her daughter’s father, who, Graham said, was verbally and financially involved in the course of their romantic relationship. abused her.
“[There were] certain things we did in survival mode that I turned into the game,” recalls Graham.Halima would skate in the truck stop parking lot where they rested and entice truck drivers in the driver’s lounge to hand over the TV remote so she could watch the Disney Channel.
The day-to-day duties of a long-haul truck driver become a learning opportunity.Whenever the pair crossed state lines, Halima studied geography, or made pit stops at historic sites, and practiced math by budgeting for their daily meals.In the absence of a blackboard, Graham taught Halima long division using an unlikely scratch pad.
“We had dry erase markers and she just wrote on the windshield the math problem she was working on. So we walked through it together…as I drove down this road,” Graham Say.
Jess Graham’s situation — at home, school and working in an 8-square-foot truck cab — might have seemed extreme a decade ago.
But these days, many of us are used to our work selves, family selves, and social selves clustered together in one space, like a mother and daughter crammed into an 18-wheeler tractor.Or maybe we’re used to working from home alone all day.
This is especially true for women, who often don’t enjoy the camaraderie of their peers and feel cut off from the home network, whether in trucking or in many other male-dominated work settings.”I think I’m ahead of the curve here,” Graham said with a laugh.
As part of the @Work series, NPR podcast Rough Translation interviews truck drivers about what it’s like to experience life on the go in the small space they call home.
Their stories of loneliness and liberation, isolation and belonging, all played out in the cab of a truck, tell us something about working remotely throughout our lives: how we use our alone time to figure out who we really are and what we really want what do you want.
Brandie Diamond describes herself as a “trans truck driver/chef/jack of all trades”.But her trucking career began in the mid-1980s, before she became transgender.Meg Vogel of NPR hide caption
Brandie Diamond describes herself as a “trans truck driver/chef/jack of all trades”.But her trucking career began in the mid-1980s, before she became transgender.
Truck drivers spend a lot of time alone — like many of us these days — and they’ve learned how to use every second to solve problems big and small.
Brandie Diamond now describes herself as a “trans truck driver/chef/jack of all trades”.But her trucking career began in the mid-1980s, before she became transgender.
Diamond remembers the macho heroism portrayed in classic trucker movies like “The Big Smoke and the Robber” or “High Bounce,” and country music singers like Dave Dudley and CW McCall singing sparkly Kenworth Trucks, Diesel and CB Radios.”Truck drivers are like bandits on the road!” Diamond exclaimed.”I just feel like I’m bigger and worse than everyone else because I can drive a truck.”
Diamond was drawn to the masculinity she saw in the industry, but over time she found herself turning into someone she didn’t know.”You become a super truck driver. You tell people dirtier jokes. You don’t really mean them, but after you tell them, you’re like, why am I saying that? You try to be the best people can be. Can’t see your true identity.”
Diamond faces a choice: continue to pretend to be “big and bad” like the other drivers, or interrogate that character in a quiet taxi.She chose the second option, and the decision would change her life.
Brandywine’s cat scout walks on the dashboard of the truck as it is parked.Meg Vogel of NPR hide caption
“That’s when you sit behind the wheel and look at the windshield and see what’s in the world,” Diamond said.”Just to give you time to think and settle down.”
Diamond said she uses her windshield time to immerse herself in her favorite movies, figuring out how she’ll play a song on guitar and coming up with new cooking recipes.Diamond Uses Windshield Time for Self-Reflection: Exploring Her Identity as a Transgender Woman.
So she made a plan in the cab of her truck: That weekend, she’d dress up in women’s clothing and venture out to a convenience store for the first time.The decision led to her coming out as trans in 2015 and changing her name and pronouns.
The concept of windshield time does not require an actual windshield.The loneliness of working remotely can be ok.Earlier this year, The New York Times interviewed 30 sources who said working remotely has given many transgender people the flexibility and privacy to prioritize their transition.NPR recently documented other major changes remote workers have made since the pandemic began — from reinventing themselves to demanding better work-life balance.
For Jess Graham, windshield time has given her the courage to expand her world and turn isolation into community.
Her daughter Halima stopped riding when she entered middle school.By then, Graham had saved enough money to buy them a house in Washington state and hired a friend to be Halima’s live-in nanny while Halima was in public school.
Graham hit the road again, this time alone.But she found that as a single woman without a daughter, the industry was a less hospitable place.”You get this attitude from a lot of men: Why are you here? You should go home with your kids,” Graham said.
She said she started avoiding other people.”When we see another woman here, we tend to stick to ourselves. It’s easier to keep our heads down than to interact or make waves.”
Graham said she doesn’t even feel overwhelmed when she goes to the grocery store or family gathering.When she’s in town, she doesn’t tell friends anymore.This went on for nearly a decade.”I’ve lost all the normal day-to-day life that most people do.”
Brandie plays video games in the cab of her truck.She often plays virtual games with her daughter.Meg Vogel of NPR hide caption
Graham knew she had to make a change.”I was really alone, but I was always looking for my team, this core group of friends, that almost everyone had to encourage them and help them through. That’s when I found them.”
She discovered Real Women In Trucking, an organization that advocates for sexual assault awareness training for trucking schools and new drivers on the road.
“A lot of people out there have had the same experience as me, and instead of letting it chew on them and then spit it out, they band together to make a change,” Graham said.
Today, Graham sits on the board of Real Women In Trucking, and last year she received the Trucking Industry Trailblazer Award at the group’s annual Queen of the Road Awards.
In addition to her volunteer work, Graham became a sort of quarantine counselor during the pandemic, often calling her mom who lived alone and the dispatcher she first started working from home to accompany them.
“I think I’m now able to talk to people about what we’re all going through, the disturbing silence, because I’ve been able to truly embrace them. Instead of letting them eat me alive, I’m used to them finding out who I am, What do I want, what do I want to be.”
A spice rack is displayed in the cab of the Brandywine truck.She has been studying culinary arts on her days off.Meg Vogel of NPR hide caption
A spice rack is displayed in the cab of the Brandywine truck.She has been studying culinary arts on her days off.
Doing what you love can be difficult when you feel trapped in your circumstances.Brandie Diamond, a trans truck driver who came out in 2015, has wanted to be a chef for years.Her trap?The culinary school is in a fixed location, but she’s always on the move.
She actually thinks trucking might prepare her for being a chef, because cooking and trucking are actually very similar: you have to follow a route or a recipe, keep the clock in your head, and get to where you’re going – Or the dish oven – on time.She imagines the future as a successful chef in a demanding kitchen.So she went to culinary school in 2010.
It didn’t work out.Between the long commute and tuition, Diamond had to drop out.
But she didn’t give up.With almost everything going virtual during the pandemic, Diamond discovered an online cooking school and signed up.
Today, Diamond is learning to be a chef in the cab of her truck, which is equipped with a mini fridge, stovetop and convection oven.
She is making an online cooking school for her.At rest stops in the evenings, she’d park at a Walmart, buy ingredients in-store, and get back to the truck to complete her task — taking step-by-step photos of her intricate meals and describing them for her trainer.The next day, she’ll clock in to work and push out again.
Diamond said she has no plans to quit the trucking industry after she graduates from culinary school this year.”Hey, I might be sent to the food truck. I don’t know. I haven’t made those decisions, but I have that tool in my toolbox.”
Now, Diamond says, what drives her forward is the pride of graduating, finishing what she started more than a decade ago, not after.”Cooking is my hobby.” Her kitchen has wheels.
Brandie Diamond has been driving trucks for over 30 years.Currently, she and her wife live in the truck they drive together.Meg Vogel of NPR hide caption
Post time: Jul-23-2022