Radio Rambo

I started driving truck way back in 1989. Shortly thereafter, I obtained my first CB radio. With that radio came an introduction into a whole new nomenclature. The “old hands,” threw out words and terms like they were a part of the everyday language. And in that world, they were. One of those terms was “radio Rambo.”

It was very confusing for me at first. As I am sure it is for anyone who first turns on a CB radio and was never exposed to the language of the two-way radio beforehand. I was always one to listen and learn. Rare was the occasion when I came right out and asked why they call a state weigh station a chicken coop (It refers to what they looked like in the early days of weigh stations). Many years went by before I learned why they referred to them as chicken coops. But my patience paid off.

However, it wasn’t just the language that was intriguing about the CB radio, it was the fact that you could be anyone you wanted. It afforded a certain anonymity you did not find with other forms of communication of the day. No one knew where you were, what you looked like, your background, ethnicity, or education level. Though the latter was usually figured out in a matter of minutes.

It was because of this anonymity that people, mostly men (it was a man’s world back then), could pretend their lives were more interesting, they were luckier than life really afforded them, they were suave and debonair, they were taller, bigger, meaner, tougher, than what they were in reality.

In reality, most of the stuff you heard on the CB radio was absolute bullshit.

If I had a $100.00 for every time, I heard the guy telling the story of…

“I was sitting at home going through the classified ads (old time version of Craigslist) and there was this ad for a 69 Camaro for $5000.00. I called the number in the ad, and an elderly lady answered. I asked some questions about the car then asked if it was okay to come out and see it. When I arrived, it was a farmhouse, and out back by the machine shed was a smaller shed. The lady led me out the smaller shed and opened the doors. There, sitting in the shadows, covered under a layer of dust was a pristine 1969 Camaro SS.

“I asked her to tell me a little about the car. She said her son bought it before he shipped off to Vietnam. He never came home. ‘We hung onto the car all this time because it was a part of him. My husband died a couple years ago, and now I think its time to let it go.’

“Let me tell you hand (CB lingo for another CBer), that car was mint. She wanted what her son paid for it. I told her it was worth much, much more and offered her twice what she was asking. Couldn’t rip the poor old lady off…” yada, yada, yada.

Or the story of the blonde, red head, brunette, depended on who was telling the story. She patrolled Hwy 61 along the river in Minnesota between Winona and Red Wing. Smoking hot young thing. She would flash her headlights at truck drivers, convince them to pull over. Once she was in your truck, she would make all your dreams come true.

How about a similar story in Pennsylvania along Hwy 322? In one of the many small towns along that twisting and turning road there was a house. If you went straight, you drove right through that house. The story was, if you paid attention, there was a hottie who would stand in front of the window naked when she heard a truck coming. Well, I drove that road every week for a couple of years, and there was no naked woman in any window…anywhere.

If I learned anything in all my years of truck driving. Any man or woman that wants to be seen naked in public, is probably not someone you want to see naked.

Yes, there were stories galore. As my experience grew, I learned to spot the bullshit v. the truth. I also learned to not fear the “Radio Rambo.”

There were a few truck stops that offered a driver the chance to unwind with a drink or two, or twelve. The bar would close, and we would all stumble out to our prospective trucks, and some of us would be dumb enough to turn on our radios.

Inevitably, there would be some jackass out there taking on everyone that challenged him. He would talk big, talk tough, talk tall. But never tell anyone where he was. If he did, it was someone else’s truck.

You don’t have to sit in a truck stop parking lot long to see that there are not a whole lot of truck drivers that were built like Rambo. One of the reasons most drivers embrace truck driving is because you don’t have to do anything but hold a steering wheel. Not exactly the kind of work that builds muscle and cardio.

But the anonymity of the CB radio allowed these men, and occasionally woman, to be something they are not. Speaking of woman. A woman, on the CB would stir up the hornets’ nest more thoroughly than a bear looking for honey. I know, hornets don’t make honey, it was a stupid bear…okay? If that woman could put just the slightest hint of sultry in her voice, drivers would walk all over each other for the chance to get her attention.

Remember, these ladies drove, or rode in a semitruck all day.

With experience I also learned to turn the radio off. Most of my trips were from Minnesota to the east coast. Once I got past Madison or Milwaukee, I would usually reach up and turn the radio off. By the time you got past Chicago, the noise on the radio was so vitriolic, I could not take it anymore. The only time I would reach up and turn it on was if I saw someone I knew, or traffic was doing something out of the ordinary.

Until 1996, I never encountered something quite like the CB Radio. It was in 1996 I bought my first Packard Bell computer. With it came a trial subscription to CompuServe. CompuServe had a function called the CB Radio. A place where you could chat with other subscribers.

I didn’t make the connection back then. The similarities between the CB Radio world, and the Internet world. But believe me you, the similarities are there.

Even in the modern day of multiple social media platforms, there is still a certain level of anonymity. Just because you can click on a person profile pic and see a picture, read the about information, does not mean they are genuine. We’ve all received friend invites from people who are all ready our friends. My profile picture has not been a picture of me for months. Even though most of my social media friends are people I have had some sort of face-to-face interaction with, there is still a certain level of anonymity when on the Internet.

Never, before the Internet would I have handed one of my coworkers, or neighbors, anything I wrote and said, “Here, read this.” Now, I do it with regularity on this blog.

Some of these people performing on Tic-Toc probably wouldn’t do the same thing in a room full of family members, but they will do it in front of the world, because the world doesn’t know them.

The Internet allows us to be something we are not. We can be bigger, stronger, more intelligent (for a while) than in real life. We can live experiences we never lived. Tell stories we’ve never experienced. Shout out to the world what we believe.

We can be bullies.

Anonymity allows us to be less polite. Less kind. Less considerate of others. It’s hard to look someone in the eyes and be demeaning to them. To see the hurt well up in their eyes. It’s easy to type out a bunch of words in Google docs, then copy and paste it into a hurtful blog post.

Those you injure, are replying with just more words. You don’t have to deal with their real feelings. It’s like being an artillery officer. Tell the men under you to point their big guns at a target and shoot. You don’t have to see the devastation, the shattered lives, the broken bodies.

That is the Internet.

Second only to porn is the cyber bully. The Radio Rambo.

We all know of the story of a fifteen-year-old committing suicide because he was cyber bullied incessantly by his redneck classmates because of his homosexuality. Or the seventeen-year-old cheerleader who had to quit school because she was so badly bullied after a wardrobe malfunction in front of the whole school during a pep rally. These examples are terrible, especially when someone takes their life.

But the Radio Rambo’s that make me want to turn off the Internet are those that participate in the cancel culture. As human beings, we do not have the right to not be offended. We also have the right to disagree. And, for the most part, there is nothing you are going to say or do that will change my mind when it comes to my ideology.

Its one thing to setup a blog and tout your view with words and videos. We do have the right to free expression after all. However, when you are so astute that you feel you need to correct a wrong, punish someone or something for disagreeing with you, that you jump on Reddit and call for the boycott of a legitimate business, you are now a cyber bully. The modern-day equivalent of a Radio Rambo.

The difference between the latter-day Radio Rambo and the politically correct cyber bully is, the Radio Rambo was harmless. When these cyber bullies bully a business into dropping an add campaign or we will boycott you, innocent people are being hurt. You are messing with people’s livelihoods. The worker on an assembly line has no bearing on the political beliefs of a chosen spokesman for an add campaign. The salesperson spending two hundred days a year away from home selling software was not sitting in the board room when her company placed adds with an event you don’t agree with. The promoter of the concert and all the worker bees that support said concert have nothing to do with an insensitive tweet from the drummer who may have been stoned out his mind when he tweeted.

Like the CB radio east of Chicago, social media has become so vitriolic, that I have bailed on all but a couple of platforms. The single biggest reason I keep Facebook is to keep in touch with people who I otherwise would never have the opportunity.

Social media should be fun. It should be a place where we share our accomplishments. Connect with like minded individuals. Share the exploits of a grandson with the grandparents who live half a continent away.

And, when we cannot agree on something, we should agree to disagree.

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