What is Common Sense?

Common SenseAh, common sense. Something everyone thinks he alone has, but not many others do. Why is it that some people have common sense and others don’t? It sounds common, as though everybody is supposed to have it. But too often I hear people say that “other people” don’t seem to have any common sense at all. A dispatcher that I know always says that people with good common sense are very hard to find. But what is common sense, really?

Truckers have to have a lot of common sense.

It’s a juggling act. Schedules, safety, equipment, maps, food, sleep, construction, crazy four-wheelers, CB, pre-trip, road rage, traffic jams, breakdowns, home time, it’s enough to drive a normal person crazy. But, if you love your work, it’s easy.
Some people will tell you that common sense has to do with lessons learned in life. And the way you respond or react to a given situation. It’s a character issue. The way you were raised by your parents, or lack there of.

I think part of the problem is that we all have a different definition of what common sense is. So therefore, we can never live up to each other’s expectations. The dispatcher mentioned above, has an incredible work ethic. He works over sixty hours a week. He never missed a day’s work in over twenty years. He doesn’t get it, when wimpy people call in sick with an abscessed tooth. Because he would just go to work with a baseball on his face.

I used to be a supervisor to twenty drivers. One day, my boss told me I was too nice to the drivers. He said that all of the drivers liked me and that wasn’t good. And he told me “the next driver that walks through that door, I want you to tell him off. Find something on him and let him have it!” Well, the first one in the door was Sox. He had been working here for twenty years. He handed in his paperwork and it was flawless as always. So I said “looks great, have a good night”. And when he left, my boss said I didn’t know how to lead. He said you have to make them scared so they will listen. I argued that I could get my drivers to do more for me because I was cool and they liked me.

A common sense lesson learned in school.

Once, I was in a classroom with about forty people from over twenty different countries. And we spent the hour talking about our differences. I learned a very important lesson that day that I would like to share with you.

There was a woman from Mexico. She said that in Mexico, only women carry children. If a family was walking together, the father usually walks twenty feet ahead of the mother and children. Even if they have five small children, the woman has to carry them all because it is her job. And it would be too feminine for a man to do that. A macho man from Mexico, if he is any kind of man, doesn’t do that, she said. She also said that she was shocked when she came to America and saw grown men carrying babies and walking next to their woman.

There was a man from India. He said that in India, when a customer walks into a store, the storeowner would do anything he says. He said you could walk into a grocery store or even a restaurant in India and ask for a shoeshine and they will do it. It goes against their tradition to say “no”, no matter what the customer asks for. And he said that he was shocked when he came to America and was treated rudely by a store clerk. He really couldn’t believe how everybody here simply speaks his or her mind, without fear of offending anyone. And that Americans were amazingly tolerant of each other.

Then there was a man from China. He said that in China, people are generally shy compared to the people here, similar to India. He said that in China people don’t ask for help the way they do here. He said that if a woman had to carry six bags of groceries for two miles, and there was a strong man walking next to her, more than likely he would offer to help. But, there is no way that she would actually speak to a stranger and ask for help. And he was shocked when he saw a woman ask a total stranger for help with her groceries.

Then an American woman said that she was having a bad day once. She lost her job and husband all in one day. She wanted to crawl under a rock and just cry for a few days. She wanted to be alone now to collect her thoughts in peace. She went to a bar and had a drink. But the bartender kept trying to talk to her. So she left and went to a restaurant. She got a cup of coffee and sat in a back booth. But the waitress kept hanging around by her, trying to have a conversation. Then she took a taxi home. And the taxi driver wouldn’t shut up all the way home. Although she understood that these people were just trying to be nice to her, she just wasn’t in the mood.

Even right here in America, the people from each State are different from each other. In Texas men open doors for women. But not in New York.

Sometimes we expect people to act a certain way and they don’t.

You might expect that a total stranger would be kind to you, if you simply asked him nicely, what time it was. But what if seventy-five people already asked him that today? What if, everywhere he went, somebody always asked him what time it was? By the time you ask him, he might be ready to bite someone’s head off. Especially if he is not even wearing a watch.

Some people say that you can have the best education in the world and still not have any common sense. Or, you can have no education at all and still have great common sense.

You never know what’s on a persons mind. Or where they just came from. Many people have problems and complications in their lives. Some people are tolerant of that fact and some aren’t.
So what is common sense then, if we are all so different from each other?

I guess what I am trying to say is that common sense doesn’t exist. What everyone is talking about, when they’re talking about common sense, is, people who are just like them. So, just because someone reacts the same way you would have, you think he has good common sense. But someone else might be thinking that reaction was stupid. So there is no real common sense. Unless, maybe, I don’t have any.


Ken Skaggs Big City DriverKen Skaggs is a 30-year veteran trucker and safety professional, who has always been a writer, and an entrepreneur at heart. Since 2000, he's had 150+ articles published by Ten-Four Magazine, Careers in Gear, Driver Story Magazine, and dozens of websites.

2 comments for “What is Common Sense?

  1. Steve Blane
    January 31, 2015 at 9:09 am

    Truckers have a lot of common sense! That’s hilarious. I just read another article on this website saying how smart truck drivers are and blaming all the problems they have on everyone else in involved in shipping. I have been involved in the livestock business for years and this I know, truckers are the dumbest people involved in shipping livestock. Most of them go broke because they can’t do basic math and charge the right amount of money. Plus, everyone of them are experts on everything. If there is one industry I hope becomes completely computerized, it’s this one.

    • Ken Skaggs
      January 31, 2015 at 4:33 pm

      Dang Steve,

      I’m sensing a lot of animosity there. What I said was exactly true- it takes a lot of common sense to be a trucker. And most of them are very smart. In fact, in my 30-years of trucking I have met former doctors, lawyers, business owners, even a rocket scientist once who wound up driving a truck just because they wanted that freedom.

      The livestock hauling arena (no pun intended) is loaded with a lot of outlaw truckers. Those bull-haulers are the craziest drivers on the road, still today. In the old days, these were the guys who didn’t even have a drivers license. And they didn’t need one. They used to blow past weigh stations at 100 MPH, and the cops let them.

      Still to this day, from Texas to California they still do 100 MPH on the open highways. Which is another way they don’t do the math. (They’d get twice the fuel mileage if they slowed down.) But it’s a habit, especially in that line of trucking. But that’s how they roll.

      Bull-haulers think they’re the best. But they’re just the fastest, and probably the ones with the most tickets too. I expect there is a lot of turnover in livestock hauling.

      I can’t agree with you though. I’ve seen way too many smart ones over the years.

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