Tucson’s Salena Lettera is a minority – and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
The particular minority group to which she belongs lets her travel the country, constantly hang out with her boyfriend and makes her more money in a month than she used to make in an entire year.
The feisty female, 42, is a truck driver. Women make up a scant 4.5 percent of truckers that trek through the nation, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
You wouldn’t guess Lettera’s a trucker just by looking at her. While she said some of the trucker stereotypes are true, she won’t fall prey to them.
“There are tons of sloppily dressed, unshaven, infrequently bathed individuals out here,” she said. “They don’t always have manners and they aren’t always very socially adept. I think this job is a little too perfect for a person who likes to be alone and who doesn’t really socialize all that much with the general public. And for the guys who have been doing it for so long, I think they ‘forget’ how to act around others.”
Heck, Lettera won’t start the day without her lip gloss.
“My atypical girlie checklist makes me an anomaly in my industry,” Lettera says of the list that includes the lip gloss along with coiffed hair, spritzed perfume, silver hoop earrings and flip-flops with a matching purse.
“Although I’m no stick figure, I do try to work with my size – most women out here do not care about what they wear, they don’t do much to their hair, they rarely wear makeup and they don’t really ‘girly up’ their image,” Lettera said.
She travels with Ed, 35, her boyfriend of six years. He skips the perfume and silver hoop earrings – but has helped guide her in the profession.
No, they didn’t fall in love at a truck stop over corned beef hash. The two met online and have been a trucking team of owner-operators for the past three and one-half years.
“I guess it both makes us stronger AND makes me want to scream,” Lettera wrote in an e-mail. “Ed is very easygoing, while everything annoys me. You have to have a strong relationship to be able to be around each other 24/7 – most relationships are never put to this test.
“We do argue, but I guess for the most part you need to have tolerance (which Ed has in bucket loads over me) and have some similar interests. I think the real secret is that we love what we do.”
Lip gloss, good money and hanging out with Ed aside, Lettera’s favorite part of the job is the absolute freedom of it all. No time clock, no demanding boss, no windowless office.
“I have been to all 50 states, 11 Canadian provinces and three Mexican border towns. I love waking up every day in a new place and being able to visit family and friends at any time along the way,” she said.
She and Ed clock in an annual 150,000 miles and more than 300 days on the road.
Born in the Bronx and raised in the Catskills, Lettera’s current home base is Tucson, where she and Ed have their stuff in storage and stay with her mother while in town.
“It works out much better,” she said. “We’re still always on the lookout for a house, but we can’t agree as to where we really want to buy. So – we don’t have a house that collects the always present dust of Tucson and my Mom gets all our mail. What a deal.”
Another cool deal is the constant change of scenery – not to mention some of the kookier things she sees on the road.
She ranks the kookiest as the burly, mean-looking trucker dude they spied at a rest stop – whose toenails were painted a bright, glittery red.
If she had to pick a favorite state she’d go with Tennessee. She rates Texas the most rancid.
“It’s big, ugly, hot, dusty and I’ve never been to any part of it (and I’ve traveled it east to west, north to south) that I find remotely likable,” she said.
But even the Lone Star State’s dust can’t blind her enthusiasm.
“I think it’s a great career, a fabulous way to see our country, a learning experience almost every day and something I wish I discovered earlier in life,” Lettera stressed. “I can’t think of any negatives that would make me NOT recommend doing this to someone looking for a great job. Of course, it’s not for everyone, but sometimes people (like me) just KNOW whether they’d like it or not.
“I think everyone who knows me knew that I had a bit of wanderlust and that this job fits my personality perfectly.”
Check out Salena’s adventures on her blog, The Daily Rant at SalenaLettera.com, that comes complete with artistic photos. She is also a blogging expert Big Truck TV and has a host of photos at Flickr.com
Keep on truckin’, Salena, you’re one cool lady!
Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and TucsonCitizen.com Ryngmaster who would love to be a trucker if she could do it from home. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at RynRules.com and Rynski.Etsy.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any other women or men you know have unconventional jobs?
What’s your dream job?
Would you want to be a truck driver?