Worn Out Handles

CB handles, I mean.

The CB radio used to be a lot more prevalent than it is now. For reasons too numerous to even begin listing, it’s popularity has waned considerably. I might get another one someday. Who knows. 

A ‘handle’ for a truck driver used to be similar to a callsign for a fighter pilot, except with way more heart disease and back aches. Maybe a few missing teeth. Truck drivers are the nation’s fighter pilots of the ugly people. And there is no Top Gun school. Fortunately, I still have all my teeth, and have never had to eject.

I searched for ‘Top Gun’ and this came up. Your guess is as good as mine.

Some handles were unique, and interesting. Many people who’ve been around as long as I have remember the NC CAMEL JOCKEY, for example. This man not only had a CB presence, but wrote his name on absolutely everything in the entire country. There wasn’t a payphone or bathroom stall that didn’t have NC CAMEL JOCKEY written in heavy black Sharpie ink anywhere. I talked to this guy on the radio once headed into NYC to sleep on a street somewhere, and he was going through New York into New England someplace. Every single person on Channel 19 that night knew who this guy was.  Our conversation wasn’t much to remember, but I know I talked to this man. He was just as crazy as you might think of someone who manages to write their name almost everywhere, and makes it a priority in life to do so.

But I distinctly remember way too many drivers calling themselves “Cowboy”. Second to this was “Outlaw”. 

Let’s look at “Cowboy” for a second. At the time it was probably the most unoriginal thing a driver could name themself. Most of the guys that called themselves “Cowboy” were in fact, not. Or “Outlaw” for that matter. That may be a surprise to someone outside the industry, but trust me. CB handles didn’t have to be an accurate descriptor. But as much as anyone heard it, they’d have to agree, “Cowboy” was a pretty worn out handle.

But what is a Cowboy? The American western mythos, which is probably largely true in this regard at least – tells us that this man is strong and rugged. He’s not a whiner or complainer. He can withstand great adversity and still get the job done.

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Tough and Rugged.

Sometimes trucking can be pretty adversarial. Weather can be a challenge. Fatigue. Tight schedules. Maybe even other tired, cranky drivers. The sudden, desperate need to poop at the exact wrong time. On and on. But you still have a damn job to do. And mostly, it gets done. Nationwide, millions of miles are traveled every day, and countless loads picked up and delivered. So really, there’s nothing wrong with the handle, despite the fact that I spent a lot of time rolling my eyes every time I heard it back then. We will also ignore the fact that many of us wouldn’t make it as 1800’s cowboys for a week before we died of something really stupid like an infected cut. There were precious few antiseptics back then. Also, it’s a lot harder today to be an OUTLAW, so we won’t even get into that.

But what I saw a little while ago made me roll my eyes once again, just like the good old days. The good old days of CB chatter, pre-paid calling cards for grungy payphones with mystery slime on them, rental cassette tape audiobooks, cash tolls, ephedrine pills, and getting directions from receptionist women who had no clue where they were sitting, and praying to God as you dove off the Cross Bronx Expressway into Manhattan leaving the NC CAMEL JOCKEY to continue on into the night.

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Those good old days.

It was on the side of a lease operators truck. From what I know, it’s not one of the companies that has a high success rate of completed leases, and paid for trucks. The truck was parked, and idling at about 1200 rpm. It’s 59 degrees out. I looked at the drivers side door, just below the window and saw the most worn out handle I’ve seen since all the “Cowboys” went away. 


Yup. I rolled my eyes. I have a sneaking suspicion that the person who did that lettering probably did too.

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Standard ‘Big Dawg’ apparel.

I know when I did my year as a lease operator (as a last resort because of a bad economy and few company driver jobs available), one of the things that enabled my success was the fact that I did not high idle the truck in temperate conditions. But that was a decade ago already. I’m still using a blanket my wife made for me back then that has triple layered batting in it for insulation, because I had to really adjust my definition of ‘temperate conditions’ down to about 20 degrees before I’d idle the truck. It was a very thin year. Maybe lease deals have changed, and people are making the big bucks so they afford to blow fuel right out the stack. Maybe BIG DAWG has a badass CPAP machine that he needs to run. I mean, there could be a reason.

Maybe he’s even a really cool guy, like Urban Dictionary says. The definition can be found here.

I had to look it up. That means I’m probably not cool like BIG DAWG.

Somehow between then and now, we went from cowboys, to “dawg”. I don’t understand the significance of misspelling the word. But I see this a lot. It’s called a ‘phonetic rendering’, and was in the past a sure sign of ignorance. If you didn’t know how to spell a word, you ust sort of winged it with similar sounds, and hoped for the best. Fully as many people that used to be “cowboy” are now some type of “dawg”. “Cowboy” was always spelled correctly.

Let’s do the same thing we did with “Cowboy” and analyze “Big Dawg” a little bit.  I can’t count the number of western movies I’ve seen where a cowboy doesn’t think much of a lowly dog. “Mangy cur” was something I think I’ve heard in a movie. Of course there are plenty of classic movies where dogs do great things, but never “dawgs”. 

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Hurry up and finish the article! You’re boring Lassie to sleep!

So if we’re to rely on imagery, like we did with Cowboy, and draw a parallel, what are we supposed to picture when we see “Dawg”?

Unoriginal, barely literate, grungy fat guy is what comes to mind for me. I know that’s very judgmental. But where I don’t have experience as an 1800’s cowboy, and the truth versus the legend there; I do have a firm grip of what the modern image of a “dawg” is based on my experience. I don’t think I’m too impressed.

Maybe try to be a little more creative when giving yourself a nick name.

An unfortunate reality is that people do judge you before you even speak to them.

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And no, I don’t give out my old CB Handle. It’s honestly the only one I’ve ever heard. I went out of my way to do that. 

Nobody talks on the CB anymore anyway. 

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