A Letter to a Truck Stop

 

To Whom It Should Concern:

The attached photo, taken in your restaurant this morning, where I spent $10.99 on a “Little Smokies” breakfast, advertises that I can get a T-Bone Steak breakfast or dinner, including side item and beverage, for under $13. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for your showers which, I found out this morning, have risen to 13 bucks. For 13 bucks, I ought at least to get a baked potato with my shower, don’t you think? And a beverage, preferably something strong to take the edge off having to pay more money for the simple act of bathing than for consuming a T-Bone Steak.

By the way, I noticed that my $13 shower came equipped with an already-chewed sunflower seed hull on the floor by the toilet, next to the used toothpick. You’d think that for that much money, I could get a few un-chewed sunflower seeds and a stack of individually wrapped toothpicks, like the ones by the cash register in the restaurant.

I also noticed that the mold that adorns the room, on the floor, throughout the shower, on the walls and around the mirror, hasn’t been upgraded to reflect the superlative amenities of a premium-priced moldy shower. No, it’s the same mold as before, a boring slimy green in color (though thoughtfully variegated around the toilet, next to the chewed sunflower seed hulls), and I appreciate the variety of course. If we aren’t going to upgrade the quality of the mold, I ought to at least be given a Certificate of Inoculation printed for my next Department of Transportation Physical Exam, to prove that I am now immune to everything from polio to the plague and pestilence courtesy of your rather opulent facilities. After all, as the grime and sludge in your $13 shower demonstrates, sometimes quantity is quality.

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself, which I tend to do when carried aloft on the general exuberance of having been mugged. I forgot to tell you about the adventure of even accessing the shower in the first place. As you know, if you ask the cashier, she needs must direct you to the kiosk where you tap the screen a few times to get to the proper menu and then deposit your money. The only problem was, the kiosk didn’t want my $13. I thought, fleetingly, that the absurdity of the price had registered even with artificial intelligence, and that the machine had shut down on sheer principle. But even the cashier, who was as kind and charming as the day is long, couldn’t jam my money into the machine. So she rang it up at the register, which brings up another point. You need new machines. 

For 13 bucks, your little kiosk should speak kindly to me, in an accent of my choosing, take my dollar bills with no fuss, thank me, and then reach out with automated hands and give me a massage followed by a cigarette. Hell, for $13, hot towels should be offered by kindly young ladies who provide the same side items and beverages consumers of your cheaper-priced steaks receive. And for 13 bucks, you should answer a simple question from one who lives on the road: Are you on amphetamines? Are you aware that, while truckers must park at places that accommodate truck parking, we do have a few options left, the exercise of which will likely not help your bottom line?

And speaking of options and bottom lines, if you wander into the men’s room of your truck stops in the morning, as many families do while traveling, you will be greeted by the sight of truck drivers standing at the sinks, in various stages of undress, shaving kits on the counter, conducting personal hygiene. I’ve noticed that this often times unsettles the children and serves further to underwrite the stereotype of truckers as animals. Would you be kind enough to post signs notifying your customers that their wait time in the restroom may be increased as your shower prices have exceeded the cost of dining?

Speaking of dining, your restaurants are starting to smell of body odor. That’s because we on the road, like you in your climate controlled office, operate on a thin profit margin. Faced with the choice of eating and bathing, well,…you can’t survive without food, right? But at least we can brush our teeth. In time, your customers might get used to being assaulted by the aroma of minty-fresh buttocks when they walk into your establishment, but I won’t. And neither will anyone that I can convince to take their business elsewhere, to avoid suffering the indignity of paying premium prices for facilities more suited to a hazmat team than the motoring public.

There are 20 comments.

  1. Member

    Dave,

    Find a public library. Many public libraries these days have showers so that the homeless can shower up before or after surfing for pornography on the public computers.

    • #1
    • June 7, 2013 at 1:15 am
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  2. Member

    Well, if the truckers refuse to pay the new bath prices but take advantage of the food, would you say they were revolting?

    • #2
    • June 7, 2013 at 1:16 am
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  3. Inactive

    The market is king mate, you’ve spotted a unfilled niche in the market so either set about competing and hopefully beating them (Perhaps an updated version of a WW2 shower truck.), or accept the status quo.

    • #3
    • June 7, 2013 at 1:37 am
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  4. Inactive

    I bet the steak is hidden beneath the sugar . 

    • #4
    • June 7, 2013 at 2:17 am
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  5. Thatcher

    I can remember back to when for twelve bucks more your shower would have come with a bed and a color television set.

    • #5
    • June 7, 2013 at 2:46 am
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  6. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author
    Robert E. Lee: Well, if the truckers refuse to pay the new bath prices but take advantage of the food, would you say they were revolting? · 1 hour ago

    Rebutting, would be more like it, Bob.

    • #6
    • June 7, 2013 at 3:11 am
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  7. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author
    splatterguard: The market is king mate, you’ve spotted a unfilled niche in the market so either set about competing and hopefully beating them (Perhaps an updated version of a WW2 shower truck.), or accept the status quo. · 1 hour ago

    Well, …kinda. For the first time in many years, I began reading von Mises’ book Socialism again last night. Perhaps his comparison of the free market to a plebiscite can apply here, in which I have the extra option of taking my vote elsewhere. Enough people do this and the truck stop chain might reduce the price of a shower, which a couple of the competitors have already done, by the way. The market is indeed king.

    Now, if the government were involved, there would be a shortage of showers, people waiting in lengthy lines waiting for showers, a shortage of water, and we’d be asked our political affiliation before admission.

    • #7
    • June 7, 2013 at 3:18 am
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  8. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author
    Percival: I can remember back to when for twelve bucks more your shower would have come with a bed and a color television set. · 31 minutes ago

    Those were the days….

    • #8
    • June 7, 2013 at 3:21 am
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  9. Inactive

    Now, if the government were involved, there would be a shortage of showers, people waiting in lengthy lines waiting for showers, a shortage of water, and we’d be asked our political affiliation before admission. 

    I think Kelvin McKensie said something similar that made me chuckle I paraphrase from memory, “if the government was in charge of bread supply, a bureaucrat would turn up on Monday and take $50 off you, and come back a week later with a stale cake and no change.”.

    • #9
    • June 7, 2013 at 3:24 am
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  10. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author
    splatterguard

    Now, if the government were involved, there would be a shortage of showers, people waiting in lengthy lines waiting for showers, a shortage of water, and we’d be asked our political affiliation before admission. 

    I think Kelvin McKensie said something similar that made me chuckle I paraphrase from memory, “if the government was in charge of bread supply, a bureaucrat would turn up on Monday and take $50 off you, and come back a week later with a stale cake and no change.”. · 1 minute ago

    Exactly!

    • #10
    • June 7, 2013 at 3:27 am
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  11. Member

    I found your description of the filthy conditions in the showers to be compelling. Price regulation can be left to the marketplace. But is there no place for local health authorities (i.e., government) to enforce minimal standards of cleanliness in these public facilities?

    • #11
    • June 7, 2013 at 3:33 am
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  12. Member

    “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.”

    Milton Friedman

    • #12
    • June 7, 2013 at 4:20 am
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  13. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Cutlass, when I first went on the road in January 2004, they were $5. So they’ve increased over 150 percent since then. I wonder if they are considered medical devices under Obamacare? (Just kidding sorta) If you purchase 50 gal of fuel at the truck stop, the shower is free, but unfortunately, my company doesn’t use that particular truck stop chain. Everything at truck stops is overpriced. You can’t sneeze for less than $10. Part of it might be to compensate for other amenities, though I’ve seen some charge $15 a night for parking too. We’re a captive customer base, and they know it. We can’t go home, and we can’t park just anywhere, and they know that too.

    • #13
    • June 7, 2013 at 5:37 am
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  14. Thatcher

    Pilot-Flying J perchance? They have been in the news lately, and I regretted not having the chance to ask you about that when you were in Seattle.

    Kenworth makes nice sleepers. Maybe it’s time for them to add a shower!

    • #14
    • June 7, 2013 at 5:52 am
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  15. Reagan

    Only you, Dave – could take this subject matter and make it hugely entertaining.

    Here’s my “bottom line”: I want to thank you for not ruining our personal mental imaginings by posting actual pictures of that “thoughtfully variegated” mold.

    • #15
    • June 7, 2013 at 6:19 am
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  16. Thatcher
    Dave Carter

    Now, if the government were involved, there would be a shortage of showers, people waiting in lengthy lines waiting for showers, a shortage of water, and we’d be asked our political affiliation before admission. · 3 hours ago

    You forgot to add: And they would monitor our shower activities for us. In the name of prudence, and self-defense.

    • #16
    • June 7, 2013 at 7:22 am
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  17. Inactive

    What do/did trucker showers normally cost? Some context for what is considered a fair or typical price would be helpful. I always assumed it was a buck or two in quarters.

    Given that you could theoretically take a 12 hour shower in a motel 6 for $40 it does seem was overpriced.

    The only moderately reasonable explanation I can think of is that the truck stop sees the shower price as compensation for all of the other trucker facilities – lounge, cable TV, restroom, parking area, etc. I suppose they could claim that they’re saving you $60-$80 for a motel.

    On the other hand, a warm clean shower and comfortable place to rest strikes me as a reasonable courtesy to offer customers who in one visit are likely to spend hundreds of dollars for diesel, food, supplies, etc.

    • #17
    • June 7, 2013 at 10:07 am
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  18. Member

    When I was in my driving school we took a trip down 5 to the scales and stopped at a truck stop for lunch on the way back. One of my classmates took a look around the dining room at all the men eating alone and quit school the next day. It’s not a life for everyone.

    • #18
    • June 7, 2013 at 12:59 pm
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  19. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Think you Nanda. Alphonse would be happy with a rain storm and a bar of soap…

    • #19
    • June 8, 2013 at 4:49 am
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  20. Member

    Och, poor Dave! Your ability to let your trials bring us a smile is a blessing! Your perseverance is amazing. I wonder what Alphonse would make of this situation?

    • #20
    • June 8, 2013 at 8:26 am
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