Tonight I was sent to a church service for truckers. At one of the local truck stops, a ministry has a trailer with a chapel inside. Anyone is welcome to come for services, taught by Pastor Charles Clarke.
When I walked in early, there were three truckers seated and waiting for the sermon to start. I immediately introduced myself, letting them know I would be photographing the service and asking if they were comfortable giving me their names.
This one guy, a 50-year-old trucker out of Oklahoma asks, “What’s your angle?”“I’m just photographing the service,” I said. “Just showing people what happens here. No real angle or anything.”
He started peppering me with questions:
“Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Chris? Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior? Do you have Jesus in your heart?”
He starts getting into how the media is liberal. He tells me that conservatives won World War 2, not liberals.
At this point, I probably made a mistake. You see, I can listen to anyone and whatever they say doesn’t bother me. And my mistake is thinking that this Oklahoma trucker was like me.
“Wait a second,” I said, wanting to make a point about World War Two. “What about the liberals in the Red Army who helped us beat the Germans? Didn’t they help us win? Weren’t the communists liberals? They broke Hitler’s back on the Eastern Front.”
The guy was confused, and I would only realize how confused at the end of the meeting. Now the sermon started and our conversation was on pause.
The guy had given me his name, and I had planned on moving to the front of the tiny chapel to photograph him as they talked about the coming rapture and went through bible scripture. But there was a weird vibe, and I ended up not photographing the guy.
After it was over, I was sitting in the back row and the guy came back and kept making eye contact. I pretended to be engrossed in another conversation, but it didn’t work. The guy sat down right in front of me and was talking about how high he was from the sermon.
“I’m so filled with the spirit. Let’s go run around the parking lot!” he said.
After a couple minutes he calmed down, and looked at me, his lips curling with disgust.
“How can you do what you do?” he asked. “How can you do that job?”
“I love my job,” I said. “I love telling people’s stories.”
He goes on this long rant about how “Six people own every television station and newspaper.” And how, “You guys take everything and twist it.”
And then about how the media doesn’t respect President Bush: “You just make fun of every word he says. You shouldn’t criticize and disrespect our President. That harms our country!”Again, at this point I’m dumb enough to think I’m speaking with someone who can listen, think, and respond.
“Okay,” I said. “I’m just playing around. Let me ask you a question.”
“Don’t play around. Don’t play around.”
“I want to ask you a question. Was it okay for people to criticize our previous President?”
At this question, the guy went completely psycho on me.
“That scumbag?! The man who brought whores into the White House?!”
Like an idiot, I still think there’s a conversation to be salvaged. “But weren’t they criticizing our elected President? Is it the office of the President that you object people criticizing or just Bush?”
At this point, the guy gets up, and starts yelling in my face. Any second he’s going to hit me.
I’m sitting in a trucker church and a guy is red-faced swearing at me with words like “Fuck!” and “Liberal!” Just great.
Then he’s leaning into my face yelling, “Have you ever bled for your country?!?”
Through the tantrum, I just said, “I’m sorry if I’ve offended you.” Then, “We’re done here.”“Have you ever bled for your country?!?”
He yelled a couple more times and then made his way to the exit, where I heard him yelling to someone else about me. “Liberal!”