Sunday, August 16, 2015

08-16-2015 – Riding Shotgun – Communications On The Road

In the old days, truck drivers had only their lights to get ideas across to their fellow drivers. If memory serves me correctly, one flash meant a road hazard ahead. Three flashes meant a cop, and two blinks of the tail-lights meant “thank you,” when someone had blinked their lights to let you know that you were clear, after you’d passed them. Contact with the company office required a pay phone, though a few companies had company radios for local communication. These days, few folks know that simple code, even fewer folks say thank you, and pay phones are almost extinct.

I think it was the late 60’s when the CB radio became common in the truck cabs of America, and they were at their heyday during the 70’s and 80’s. Not wanting to divulge their real names, and since few bothered to register their radio, everyone had a “handle.” Mine was “Ridge-Runner.” By the 90’s, the cell phone was starting to be used quite a bit, and CB’s were losing ground. These days, most truck cabs still have a CB, but they’re used far less, in favor of cell phones. Few folks have handles anymore and you’ll rarely hear the old “breaker-breaker 19.” Most folks just try to talk over everyone else.

On my job, there’s a company radio in the truck, I furnish my own CB, plus, I have my cell phone. The company offered me a cell phone, for those times when I’m out of radio range, or there’s information they don’t want on the air, but I turned it down. I’d keep my phone anyway, so it wouldn’t save me anything, plus, they’d already gotten used to calling me on it; so why change?

The problem with having three devices is that sometimes all three are active at once. For instance, all I have to do to get the CB and shop radio to blare on is to try to call my wife on the phone. OR, if I’m talking with the dispatcher on the company radio, the phone may ring and the CB may come to life. After you turn the other devices down, you then have to remember to turn them back up when you’re done, or you could miss calls. It can be aggravating.

The opposite problem is when you get so far out in the sticks that NONE of them work. While I’ve been on some high hilltops (mountaintops?) in Ritchie, Doddridge and Tyler Counties where all three worked, I’ve been on others where it seemed that you see a hundred miles without a phone tower in sight. The CB might work with any other trucks nearby, but there’s no calling the office.

That’s less of a concern if you’re running in a convoy, as is often the case, or at least in pairs. However, if you’re running alone, or you’re a laggard in a convoy (as I often am), you can find yourself in God’s country with no way to tell the shop, should you break down or need information. Then you depend on advice that I used to give a friend years ago, “Always wave at the locals, you never know when you might need to use their phone!” Seriously, on the rare occasions when I’ve had to go begging for a phone call, I’ve always found country folks very kind.

I worked alone in the woods and on the farm for many years with no way to quickly get help if I needed it. That’s when you learn to be safe as possible in everything you do. And one thing about those times when I’m in God’s country, I know that until I get back to “civilization, I’ve still got one friend with me, so I talk to Him about any problems that I encounter. His line is always open. © 2015


Sixbears said...

I find the CB is useful for finding out what's going on locally. Great for detouring around accidents. NH just put in a hands free cell phone law. My new car came with a cell phone blue tooth connection. Feels really weird to talk to the car -not that I'm in the habit of using a cell phone while driving anyway.

Gail said...

His line is always open...I like that.

Gorges Smythe said...

We're hands free only here in WV too, Sixbears. I believe that makes all three of my devices illegal while moving.

Sometimes, ya can't beat the truth, Gail.

Mamahen said...

Brings back memories of my trucking days.....bitter sweet! Yes we can always count on His line being opens:))

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

My husband carries his ham radio mobile unit but it drives me crazy! He's used to it but all of a sudden it will screetch or a bunch of static will come across. There are those times too that he sees a ham tower when we are driving (like to Arkansas) and he has a nice conversation with a local guy.

Gorges Smythe said...

Guess there's good and bad in almost everything, Mh. And I'm glad one line is open!

I've never tried ham radio, Kathy, though I know a few folks who are into it.

Chickenmom said...

Remember when you needed a license to use the CB? I still remember my call letters: KBTV9661. My handle was 'Boondocker" but everyone called me "Boonie". Those were good, fun days! We had a base station and a huge antenna in our back yard. All the mobile radios had 'kickers' on them, too!

Harry Flashman said...

CB is useful here mainly for staying abreast of local developments. It's also handy when your power is out, and you can talk to others running on generators to see what they know about what happened and what is going on with restoration.

I keep the GMRS radio frequencies covered. I have a base unit at the house and a hand held in the truck or Jeep.

I have a scanner for my vehicle but I don't turn it on much anymore.

Cell phone coverage is very spotty here in the mountains. The basic rule is if you need service and don't have it, head up hill. At my house, I usually have to go out of the house, up through the meadow, to an outcrop of granite rocks to get a signal.

Gorges Smythe said...

Some still do, Cm.

Cell coverage is very spotty in our hills, too, Harry.

Joel said...

I used to have cb in my car too when I was a young one! It was good fun trying to evade the cops because it was illegal to use them. I had one hiding in a box between the front seats of the car. What gave the game away was the whip antenna outside. I was stopped once by a copper but he could not see the cb and I had rigged a diversion switch and had the radio connected to the cb antenna. I think he was a bit miffed but told me off because that antenna was whipping about and could have hit someone! Good fun that was ruined when they came up with legal sets. It became no fun then.

Gorges Smythe said...

Don't you hate it when that happens, Joel? lol