Connecticut Voice

Your LGBTQ+ Voice

Chion: Keep On Truckin’, Women

One of the questions I get the most about making Audacious is where do you come up with these show ideas?!

I’ve gotta’ admit, the question always surprises me. Have you seen the human race? We are loaded with amazing stories! And sometimes these stories start as one idea of a show, and ebb into another, even better idea.

After passing a tow truck driver on I-84 one day, I told Audacious producer Jessica Severin de Martinez that I wanted to do a show about them!

I already had a hundred questions: what’s the make and model of the car that has the most problems? This is a dangerous job. Have you ever been hurt? This work has you on the road for long stretches. Why do you do this and not something else? How do you take care of yourself? And you must have so many stories about the people you help…

Jessica had a hard time getting any tow truck driver to get back to her–let alone say yes–until she connected with Chantal Comeford, a driver for  Meagan’s Towing & Recovery out of Danbury.

A female trucker! I have a hundred more questions! How do most people react to having a female tow truck driver show up? How are your experiences different from your male counterparts? How many women are in this industry? Why do you think there aren’t more?

Spending nearly 10 hours on the road with Chantal was eye-opening and heart-opening. Her father taught her everything she needed to know about vehicle maintenance and more. He made her feel like she could do anything. As we were crawling through traffic on I-95, she told me how she hears his voice sometimes, especially when she’s helping someone. She still feels his pride.

What surprised me most was how emotional this work is–not only for her, but the people she helps. They are sometimes having the worst day of their lives, and they take it out on her. Or they are super-friendlh and treat her like an angel in work boots and reflective gear.

It surprised me, too, to see how many people she met within a single shift. The people with the broken-down cars, yes, but when she would bring it to a mechanic’s lot, she would coordinate with their staff. Did they expect her arrival? Did they have room for the drop-off? How are they doing, are they okay?

And, of course, she touches base with the people who share a payroll– dispatch and other drivers– who are under their own time constraints and quotas and pressures.

So yes, she’s alone a lot of the time. But when she isn’t, it’s meaningful.

After she transferred three cars, I began noticing a pattern in Chantal: At each drop-off, she hopped back into her cab with a certain kind of renewed giddiness. I asked her about that. She said she gets a dopamine hit after she finishes each job. It makes her hungry for more. Frankly, I suspect that if she didn’t have a family to go home to, she might spend her whole life in that cab.

Because the idea for that episode morphed into one about female truck drivers, I was able to spend some time in another cab– one owned by Michele Howard, owner of Affordable CDL Training School in Colchester.

We talked about how, when she was younger, she got a job pouring concrete. She started off not knowing a damn thing about it, but in a matter of months, became obsessed with the perfect pour. And she got really good at dealing with the misogynistic crap that some of her clients put her through. Eventually, she made such a name for herself that they would request her–and only her­–for the job.

The third woman in this episode was Hope Alexander. She’s a trans woman who drives all across the country. She’d been in the industry for twelve  years, but only came out to her colleagues in the trucking world about two years ago.

I braced myself as I asked her how the news was received, with an obvious cringe at the end of my question.

But much to my surprise, she said everybody has been amazing! People are respecting her pronouns, supporting her through her transition, and checking in on her to make sure she feels safe and supported.

I told her to give me a holler the next time she’s passing through Connecticut. That she is very much welcome here.

Hear the full episode here.