By this time next month, trucking will have just lost a good friend.
No, no, Mr. Deejay, hold up on the somber string quartet. That’s not the mood we want. Quite the contrary. This is about somebody who has decided to step on life’s gas pedal.
Dorothy Cox, whose thoughts and talents have been gracing the pages of The Trucker for the past 20 years, took a little time off around this past Thanksgiving. Her birthday is in that neighborhood, too, so it made for a nice personal festival for her.
You know that feeling we all get when a vacation is ending, that, “No! I’m never going back to that rat race!” feeling? Well, Dorothy got that feeling during that personal pit stop, only this time she took it seriously.
She’d been a journalist long before she came to The Trucker, and she’d been toying with the idea of retiring for a while. During this extended time away from it all, she came to the conclusion, “You know what? Life’s too short, what am I waiting for?” and announced it was time call it a career as of April 1.
As the day got near, and we found ourselves approaching a Spaghetti Junction of overlapping deadlines, Dorothy agreed to give us one more month and help see us through it.
Even with the delay, her departure will leave a sizable hole here. Whenever an organization loses someone with 20 years of accumulated knowledge and memories and insights, it’s hard to quantify how much of an asset is walking out the door. It’s way more than, “Oh, we’re one short.”
It’s incalculable on a personal level, too. Dorothy’s down-to-earth sensibilities have been an important element of this newsroom. If this were an episode of “Seinfeld,” Jerry and George would label her an “easy laugher.” She looks for the humor in things, and nine times out of 10 she finds it, and enjoys it for all it’s worth.
Next to all that truck industry knowledge, there’s a designated little corner of her brain that is like a candy jar filled with sourballs, only these sourballs are a collection of some of the corniest puns the English language has ever produced. Just like sourballs they make you wince, but you can’t wait for another.
And there isn’t an off-color joke in the batch, I should add. She’s the kind of person who’s been around the block but hasn’t become jaded by it. There are no sharp edges in her personality. It’s very easy to feel comfortable around Dorothy. That’s a valuable talent in today’s high-strung world, and she’s one of the best at it.
I’ve watched her approach truckers at the truck stop and I’ve heard her with them on the phone. They don’t just let down their defenses with her, it’s like they don’t even have any. They instantly, instinctively recognize, “Hmm, she may not have a CDL, but she’s one of us.”
When I go to trucking events, I lose count how many people want to know, “How’s Dorothy?” and want me to tell her they said hi, even if they haven’t seen her in years.
That affection is both for Dorothy the person and Dorothy the journalist. Through her writing and reporting she’s proven time and again that she has drivers’ best interests at heart. Like an old friend, she isn’t shy about acknowledging drivers’ shortcomings, especially when they are self-defeating. But she’s also always been a champion for drivers.
In the two years I’ve been going to the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, several people have confided that it was her prodding on drivers’ behalf that sparked the momentum that has made the health and wellness pavilion such a prominent feature of that show.
In recent years, she has been a stalwart supporter of making the industry more welcoming to women. And she’s been deeply passionate in her coverage of the human trafficking problem in this country, and in setting the record straight that truckers are among the front-line heroes in that fight.
And while it isn’t as heavy a subject, she’s always been keen on promoting drivers’ creative endeavors. She especially seems to have a soft spot for musicians, probably because she is one herself. Her Arkansas twang puts her somewhere (geographically and vocally) between Loretta Lynn and Reba McEntire. I’ve heard her, and she’s good, and she’s retiring so I don’t even have to say that.
She has some friends who’s she played with for years, with whom she does a gig every now and then. In the couple months since she announced her plan to retire, whenever anyone’s asked what she plans to do with all the free time she’s going to have, the only specific thing she comes up with is maybe she’ll get more into her music.
As I try to think of a lyric that would make a fitting sendoff, I have to admit I’m not much into country music, but I grew up on all that baby boomer oldies stuff. So as a formal adieu to my friend and colleague Dorothy Cox – Mr. Deejay, if you would, cue up a little Supertramp:
Goodbye, stranger. It’s been nice. Hope you find your paradise.