When I was a growing up, a brand new walkie talkie was about the coolest thing a kid could get for a birthday present – and this was back when antennas were telescoping metal devices that would inevitably break as one tried to return them to their home position. Regardless, every kid I knew either had a pair or wanted a pair.
Channel 14 was always the default channel for kids. Growing up in the trucking business, I knew that channel 9 was reserved for emergency calls and I imagined what penalty might result by its unauthorized use. I also knew that the holy grail of channels was the one “reserved” for truckers: Channel 19. Channel 19 was, for us 10-4 types, the professional level of push-to-talk discourse. There was a certain mystique to it. It was a tool of the trade. And best of all, it came with its own language. You got your ears on? You copy me? That’s right. Its own language. And although I wouldn’t part with my smart phone, I miss the days of politely asking for permission to speak by first exclaiming “Break 1-9” on a CB radio that was nearly the size of a dual toaster.
Break 1-9 meant “Can I break in here or is someone already in a conversation?”. If no one was currently discussing the location of a bear (police officer), some other CB enthusiast might reply “go ahead, break.” That meant it was your turn to speak. You could ask a friend about their 10-20 (location) or the location of the nearest chicken coup (weigh station) ahead. You might find yourself close behind the driver to which you spoke. In that case, you were at his or her “back door”. If they were going too slow, you might suggest them to “stand on it” (speed up) or you’d have no choice but to “blow their doors off” (pass at high speed). Doing so might require a “triple digit ride” (truck that could exceed 100 mph) which was of course impossible if you were driving a parking lot (truck hauling cars). Some things made total sense: like “double nickel” was 55 miles per hour. Others, not so much: like why a truck that went slow uphill and fast downhill was sometimes called a “dragon fly”. I never figured that one out.
There were a million other terms and points of etiquette that every experienced truck driver seemed to know. I relished in them all. And I miss them. Hands-free communication has made talking with our fellow drivers safer, faster and more private. That’s a good thing. But we lost a little bit of comradery when we lost the CB radio and a little bit of the shine off the inside joke. And that’s a shame. Maybe I’ll start answering the phone ….. “Go ahead, break.”
Thanks for reading. At Ross Neely, we strive to make our work environment family friendly and fun. And, we’re always looking for qualified Class A CDL Drivers that are interested in a career with a company that puts drivers first. If you know anyone looking for a job as a truck driver, please refer them to this link.