Friday, March 16, 2018

AT THE TRUCK STOP: Giving out Christmas gifts favorite pastime for trucker Jesse See

Thursday, January 2, 2014
by Dorothy Cox

Trucker Jesse See in his Santa suit dis-cusses Christmas wishes with a child named Slade. See began dressing up as Santa and giving away gifts in his town of Titusville, Fla., about 10 years ago. His New Year’s wish is for people to quit being prejudiced. (Courtesy Jesse See)
Trucker Jesse See in his Santa suit dis-cusses Christmas wishes with a child named Slade. See began dressing up as Santa and giving away gifts in his town of Titusville, Fla., about 10 years ago. His New Year’s wish is for people to quit being prejudiced. (Courtesy Jesse See)

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Truck driver Jesse See of Titusville, Fla., got into trucking because he loves to drive. He got into playing Santa Claus each year because he loves to give.

“Honestly,” he said, “I love to drive. I just love to drive, whether it’s an 18-wheeler or a car, I love to drive because it’s relaxing. To go out there and see the country is just awesome.”

“I don’t treat this like a job,” he said. “If you do that you end up getting stressed and overworked. … In a way it’s an adventure … .”

See started out to become an OTR trucker more than 10 years ago for Swift, the company he drives for today. After driver training was over, however, there wasn’t a truck available for him for a while and See fell back on his experience in health care to put bread on the table.

See got burned out in health care, however. He would get attached to patients who died and it was emotionally wrenching, he said.

Ten-plus years later — after working in ancillary care for the physically and mentally challenged (his job was close to what a certified nursing assistant or CNA does, he said), installing counter tops, working in road construction and helping wire traffic cams and laying underground cables for traffic signals — See was ready to try trucking again.

Plus putting a jackhammer through his foot was a good reason to get out of road construction. See barely missed having to have two toes amputated in what he called a “freak accident” with the jackhammer. Always one to put a positive spin on things, he joked to the medical staff attending to him: “If you amputate those two toes I can’t play in the World Soccer Cup.”

“I try to make the best out of a bad situation all the time,” he said.

See went back to Swift when he was ready to drive OTR.

His trainer/mentor for getting out on the open road was Herb Diaz, who got to know See pretty well. It was Diaz who let The Trucker know that See is not only a professional driver, but that he’s a giving kind of guy.

He called See “a God-send to many people who’s not looking for recognition.”

Indeed, when called by a reporter, the 36- year-old See didn’t know quite how to respond.

“A simple thank-you is good enough,” he said. “I didn’t want to be recognized as somebody who does something good … that’s why this whole situation is awkward.”

See grew up in a family that struggled financially.

“We didn’t have a lot of stuff,” he said. “My mom had food stamps and government assistance. I was in the sixth or seventh grade when my mom did ‘Secret Santa,’” or signed up to get Christmas gifts from community and charitable groups.

“My school gave gifts to underprivileged kids and my class actually donated gifts to my family and I didn’t realize it until Christmas morning. I didn’t realize how bad off we were.”

“Ever since then,” he said, “I’m always give, give, give. I don’t like to receive stuff.”

Dressing up as Santa, he said, started about 10 years ago when a friend he worked with in his hometown of Titusville, Fla., asked him to help her family out and take over playing Santa for her uncle, who was too inebriated and full of holiday cheer.

The boots to the costume she provided were too small but See made it work and enjoyed it so much he did it the next year and the third year bought his own Santa suit.

Last year was See’s first time to play Santa since he started driving OTR. He said he had a couple of days off and spent the entire time in his Santa suit.

And he was expecting that to be pretty much the case again this year, he told a reporter shortly before The Trucker went to press just ahead of the Christmas holiday.

While at home during Christmas last year “I spent all day from 9 a.m. to 11 p. m. in my Santa suit,” he said. “I drove around Titusville and if I saw a family struggling I would donate some presents and find out how many kids they had.” He also gives away food, usually purchased by his fiancé when she is shopping for the couple’s own pantry.

Eventually, See wants to save enough money from truck driving to buy a barbecue restaurant.

“I want to donate meals, food for the hungry and have a big barbecue going and have some people who are less fortunate to get some free food,” he said.

Would See recommend that other truckers emulate his giving?

“Oh man, for sure,” he said. “You see these kids standing out by the road, and honking the air horn [for them] is one thing … but there’s nothing like seeing a smile on a kid’s face whose family is like down” financially. “Just go for it, man. I’ve been knocked down and had to start from scratch. It’s especially hard right now with the economy like it is.”

His New Year’s hope is that “Honestly, I wish people would get over the physical appearance of people regardless of what race or sexual preference they are. Man, I don’t care whoever it is, if I see someone in need I’m going to help. Race, creed, color, sexual preference doesn’t matter to me. That’s why I like being in a truck; I don’t have to deal with a lot of the prejudice that goes on.”

As in years past, See said he and his fiancé, who he describes as “an avid beach-goer,” will probably try to get to the beach over the holidays and “jump in the water,” even though “normally it’s really cold.”

“It’s the last silly thing of the old year and the first silly thing of the new year we can do,” he said, laughing.

Of course for this tradition, See will have to take off his Santa suit. “I love my Santa suit,” he said.

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