On a damp, foggy day, an old truck driver pulled into a huge distribution center. He had never seen this particular place before, but he had seen its kind plenty of times – the truck staging area full of trucks, the driver check-in building (no doubt full of drivers), and the promise of a long waiting time.
He followed the signs that guided him to the truck parking area, and parked his truck in the nearest available spot, past the first thirty trucks. He put on his hat and walked through the cool mist to the huge, old building to check in, with boot heels clicking on the asphalt.
The sign on the door used to say “Drivers Entrance” and, by all accounts, it still was. The other buildings that surrounded him were all part of the ancient, sprawling complex. A hundred years ago this place had its heyday, and probably made something important, but today it was just a warehouse – a huge, old, cold, lifeless bunch of storage buildings.
The old trucker walked up a concrete step, pushed open a heavy, thick wooden door that probably weighed more than him, and entered the huge, old room, with peeling paint, concrete floors that might have been painted a lifetime ago, and gaps under the walls big enough to get him wondering exactly what crawled around in here at night. He fully expected exactly what it was – a line of about ten drivers, and another fifteen or so sitting at tables and in scattered chairs, talking and laughing about something or other. With the same characters, the same voices and the same stories (just different faces), this place was no different than most. At least the wait wouldn’t be boring.
He paused for a moment, taking in the scene – people of every size, shape, age and ethnic background. They were tall, short, thin, fat, young and old – the same as they always are at these places. The tall man with the big laugh, who seemed to have everyone’s attention with a funny story, saw the old trucker’s confusion and pointed to the long line of drivers, without even breaking the stride of his story.
The old trucker hoped he’d be the exception to the rule of the obvious long line of drivers, but not this time. At least ten drivers were standing, waiting, shifting their weight from one leg to the other, looking at their watches, or doing some other kind of fidgeting move to proclaim their boredom to each other. The old trucker nodded thankfully to the tall man with the big laugh and then got behind the last man, who was more than a little aggravated about the line, huffing and puffing about the complete ineptitude of the clerk.
The old trucker ignored the mumblings from the man in front of him and opted for the friendlier conversation at the table beside him. A big bearded man was bragging about his wife’s cooking, getting everyone hungry by describing every detail.
At another table, the story being told by the tall man with the huge laugh must have been funny to the teller, but not necessarily to the rest of his listeners. However, his pleasant demeanor and booming voice had the whole table smiling in anticipation of every word. The only woman in the room sat at the same table and listened intently as he talked of simple, daily chores as if they were exciting. He was a man who took pride in his truck and safety.
A man in a jogging suit was talking on a cell phone the whole time the old trucker was there, arguing about his crazy neighbors, totally oblivious to all of the eavesdroppers around him. A humongous driver quietly gazed out the window daydreaming until someone asked him about the weather – to which he responded with a thorough knowledge of the day’s forecast. Another driver put a shiny new boot up on a chair to pick off a tiny speck of something. Out of the clear blue, a small, silent man finally spoke, saying, “It really doesn’t take that long here. We’ll all be out of here in just an hour or two.” And a few people nodded approvingly.
A short, round man walked in smiling, holding up a deck of cards. “I told you I had some cards. Who’s up for some poker?” He sat at an empty table and dumped a pocket full of change in front of him. After sifting through the pile of coins he said, “I have about three dollars here for any takers.” A cowboy stepped away from the counter and said, “Don’t mind if I do.” Several more people sat around the table with him. Then a few others scooted in closer to watch.
At the sight of that, a man who wasn’t really noticed yet, stood up and announced, “Look how everybody jumps at the mention of poker. Well, I’m going to start a table for Jesus over here. Anybody who wants to sit and talk about Him is welcome.” The room was dead quiet for a few seconds.
Finally, the only woman stood up and quietly walked to the Jesus table. Then a few others straggled along.
From the corner, a scraggly man lifted his head from his arms as if he had just woke up, shook his head in disbelief and proclaimed, “Well, I’m just going to sit here and watch all the fun.” And then he proceeded to lean back into such a comfortable position that everyone thought he’d likely be sleeping in just a few short minutes.
The room was all-abuzz for the next half-hour or so – each table had a life of its own. There were stories about work, fighting, farming and many other manly things. The big laugh was ever-present in the poker game and in command of the tall tales. The silent guy next to him was winning all the money, but the loud guy kept smiling and bragging about one thing or another.
The old trucker nodded and sat next to a seemingly quiet man. The quiet man said under his breath, “I’ll be glad when old big-mouth over there leaves.” The clerk called from the counter for the next driver, which happened to be the tall guy with the loud laugh. He gathered up what little was left of his change and then left the room. Suddenly, it was very quiet.