Everyone, this is Joe. We became airplane friends on a recent flight from Syracuse to Chicago. I noticed Joe’s deep southern accent and asked him where he was from. When he told me Smithfield, NC I told him about how I went to school in Wilmington and the conversation flowed from there!
Joe is a sweetheart of a man who says “Yes Sir” and “Oh that’s nice” after just about everything you say. He used to be a TV repairman who worked on old tube TVs. The flat screen age put an end to that career so he became a truck driver. He knows the US interstate system really well but he told me that despite getting to see a lot of the country, he didn’t get to experience a lot of the culture because his truck was too big to get off the road and explore (future blog post about my thoughts on that coming soon).
Joe is now a school bus driver, but not the kind you’re thinking. 2-3 times a week Joe gets in an empty school bus in Tulsa, OK and drives 1100 miles to drop it off in upstate New York. He then flys back to Tulsa and does it again. Joe hasn’t been to his home in Smithfield since Christmas. Joe loves fishing, going on short hikes, eating haddock, Manchu Wok in the Chicago O’Hare airport, and the sweet Indian couple who owns the motel he stays at in Rome, NY before he flies back to Tulsa.
He and I both have older siblings and have very similar relationships with them – ones founded in love and support even though we don’t talk that much. There is no doubt that we have each other’s back, we just live independent lives. Joe, despite all of the flying he does, does not belong to any frequent flyer programs. I told him he needed to sign up for one because, as a fellow independent contractor, that’s one of the few ways we get “benefits” in our job and that he needed to treat himself!
Joe is a great man and one who’s path I hope to cross again, soon. Thanks for being my airplane friend, Joe!