Few times of the year are as emotionally jacked-up as Christmas.
Even if you're at home, comfortable, blessed with good kids, and your bank balance is in the black and not the red, emotions and expectations still run high at Christmas. It's part of the season like reindeer, carols and egg nog.
But, for the over-the-road trucker working during the holidays, life is no Hallmark Christmas movie.
While there's no substitute for being with loved ones and friends this time of year, there are things you can and should do to survive the holiday season while on the road and working at Christmas.
1. Stay connected to the ones who matter. This could be your kids, your spouse or significant other, extended family or friends. Regardless, make an effort to know what they're up to and feeling, and so they can know where you are and what you're doing. Digital and cellular technology make it possible to stay connected. It may sound trite, but you can use Zoom, Facetime or Skype to be present as they open their presents back home. Technical tip: install and do a test connection so there are no glitches the day or night of the big celebration.
2. Do something special BEFORE you hit the road or after. While Christmas comes officially on Dec. 25, it doesn't mean that you cannot celebrate it early or once you're home from your latest trip. It's possible to create a pre- or post-Christmas tradition and actually extend the holiday and give your family even more to celebrate.
3. Temper your expectations. In these pandemic days more than ever, it's important to keep in mind that not everyone is going to be filled with the holiday spirit. People, where you pick up and deliver, may be more focused on celebrating with their families than accommodating your arrival. Folks working at truck stops may be anxious to get home, and other truckers may feel compelled to get ahead of you at the fuel island, so be ready to smile and just roll with it.
4. Expect to share the road with holiday travelers. If Thanksgiving is any indication, people are not letting COVID spikes keep them at home. Look for traffic to start getting heavier Thursday afternoon, Dec, 23, and continue through Monday, Dec. 27. Four-wheelers are likely to be distracted by visions of sugar plums, so stay alert so you don't end up leaving the interstate and going over the river and through the wood in a way you don't want.
5. Plan your trip as Santa plans his. You don't have to deliver to all good boys and girls all over the world in one night (though, your dispatcher may make it seem you do), but it still makes sense to spend extra time planning your trip. Doublecheck to be sure of the hours and availability at your destination. Check the weather before you leave and during your drive. A closer look at everything during your pre-trip will help keep you from spending Christmas in a mechanic's bay or alongside the interstate with a broken belt or flat tire. Be sure your paperwork is in order.
6. Be of good cheer. It's likely you're not the only trucker working on Christmas. No one expects you to be Buddy the Elf, but neither should you be the Grinch. If you're able to stop for a sit-down dinner, and you can afford it, give your waitress/waiter a little extra tip. Wish other drivers Merry Christmas, and mean it.
7. Take care of yourself. This is often easier said than done, especially this time of year. As we said, expectations run high at Christmas, especially if you're a spouse or parent or have others who rely on you. Bur, try to care for yourself as you care for others. Find ways to celebrate even if you are alone and on the road. Enjoy the inevitable holiday feasts, but don't over-indulge too often. In that same vein, resist your good intentions to overspend when gift-giving. Try to get the sleep you need, dress warmly when outside, and relax at the end of the driving day so you're at your best for the next day's driving.