Semi driver Dave White happily sequestered himself in his rig at a truck stop on a rural stretch of Interstate 80, waiting to pick up his next haul: 45,000 pounds of Spam. He used to loathe the downtime in his job.
Then, he bought a sewing machine.
Since last year, when the economy left drivers with fewer hauls,Mr. White, a 6-foot-2, 240-pound ex-Air Force mechanic with a bushy mustache, has hunkered down inside his truck in his many off hours, making quilts from patterns with names like 'Meet Me In Paris.' When he's not sewing, he's daydreaming about it, he said as he ran a square of yellow cotton with little violets through his machine. 'Oh, there's many a time you're just going down the road at O-dark-thirty in the morning and you just start thinking about a particular pattern.'
有些卡车司机发现，他们在路上的空闲时间更多了。美国货运协会（American Trucking Associations）的首席经济学家鲍勃•科斯特洛（Bob Costello） 说，2009年，卡车司机的货运量下降了15%，跌至1.7亿车，这是现代历史上的最大跌幅。货运量下降是紧随货运趟数缓慢下降而出现的，货运业不无遗憾地将这一现象的原因称为商品“小型化”：运送平板电视和iPod比运送笨重的前代产品所占的地方要少。
Some truckers are finding themselves with more spare time on the road. Loads of goods delivered by truckers fell 15% in 2009, to 170 million loads, the largest drop in modern history, said Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations. That came on top of a slow downswing in hauls because of what the industry laments as 'miniaturization' of goods: It takes less space to move flat-screen TVs and iPods than their clunkier predecessors.
With declining freight, truckers who drive hundreds of miles to make a delivery may not immediately have a load lined up for the return trip. So they bide time at truck stops, where they can shower, dine and sleepin their rigs. A couple of years ago, a driver might drop off a load and pick up a new one in two hours; now the wait can be two days, said Mr. Costello.
货运业团体和货运公司老板们称，业余时间的增加使卡车司机培养了更多兴趣爱好，尽管这只是根据粗略估计得出的结论。“我们的卡车司机有喜欢歌剧的，有喜欢摄影的，也有喜欢跳伞的”，车主-运营者独立司机协会（Owner-Operator Independent Drivers' Association，一个卡车司机团体）发言人诺里塔•泰勒（Norita Taylor）说。
Though evidence is anecdotal, industry groups and trucking-company owners say the increase in spare time has spawned more hobbies. 'We've got guys who are into opera, photography, skydiving,' said Norita Taylor, spokeswoman for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers' Association, a truckers' group.
怀特的雇主是位于爱荷华州的Don Hummer货运公司（Don Hummer Trucking Corp.），这家公司去年开办了一个组织松散的“缝纫俱乐部”，鼓励擅长针线活的司机们在总部展示他们的手工作品。“我们希望他们能在闲暇时间做一些让自己开心的事，而不是在等待中消沉”， Don Hummer货运公司的人力资源部经理德娜•贝尔特（Dena Boelter）说。她本人酷爱缝纫，说这项爱好是一种几乎可以在任何地方进行的有效减压方式。
Mr. White's employer, Iowa-based Don Hummer Trucking Corp., last year started a loosely organized 'sewing club,' and encourages drivers who are nimble with a needle to show off their handiwork at headquarters. 'We want them to pass the time to make themselves happy, rather than get frustrated waiting,' said Dena Boelter, Hummer's human-resources manager, an avid sewer who calls the hobby a great stress reliever that can be done almost anywhere.
Kevin Abraham-Banks, a 37-year-old trucker with a shaved head and dragon tattoos, passes time at truck stops with his cocoa and knitting.
Mr. Banks, who lives in Sioux Falls, S.D., and hauls romaine lettuce between California and the Midwest, learned to knit last year after load-volumes slowed. Creating something tangible beats sitting around the truck stop 'talking about who has a bigger radio,' he said. He's finished a scarf and socks, and is working on a sweater for his wife.
'The fact that you can take strands of thread and basically make something out of it, that's awesome I think,' he said. 'It's pretty cool stuff, man.'
但货运业仍是一个充满阳刚之气的行业，感觉上和编织或缝纫有些格格不入。美国货运协会称，大约95%的卡车司机都是男性。爱荷华州80号公路卡车休息站的标志牌将这里称为“世界上最大的卡车休息站”，在这里的电影院中，最受欢迎的片子是《警察与卡车强盗》（Smokey and the Bandit），司机们常常是在自己试着拔牙未果后才跑去看驻站牙医托马斯•罗默（Thomas Roemer）。47岁的长途货车司机马克•桑切斯（Mark Sanchez）说，他可不要做针线活，那是他学妈妈做的事情。
Still, trucking can be a macho world that doesn't feel conducive to knitting or sewing. Some 95% of truckers are men, said the ATA. At the Iowa-80 Truck Stop, whose signs bill it as the 'World's Largest Truckstop,' a top request at the theater is for 'Smokey and the Bandit' and the on-site dentist, Thomas Roemer, often sees drivers only after they've tried to yank their teeth out themselves. Crafting with fabric and yarn is 'nothing I would do -- my mom does that,' said Mark Sanchez, 47, a long-haul trucker.
Thomas McConnaughy, a married grandfather from Hemet, Calif., hauls cereal, reads his Bible, plays Sudoku, and talks trout fishing at truck stops. He doesn't let on to other drivers that he keeps 15 coils of yarn in his cab and makes what he describes as 'really cute slippers.'
'In the truck stops, it's usually a bunch of guys watching football,' he said. 'If I sat down with my knitting, I think there would be some funny remarks.'
Mr. White, the quilter, who is 53, came to his new passion last summer after feeling he was wasting time 'waiting on freight.'
He drove 2,600 miles a week on average in 2009, versus 3,200 in 2008, even though he spent the same amount of time -- about three weeks at a stretch -- on the road.
He struggled to find a hobby, having burned out on reading. He tried carting along a remote-controlled helicopter, but it kept falling on him from a shelf in the truck. His wife, Dee, an accountant at their home in Colorado Springs, Colo., is a quilter and suggested he try it. By August, they had outfitted his truck's sleeper cabin with a $179 sewing machine, supplies, and a starter's pattern. 'Boy, let me tell you, I created a monster,' she said.
Since then, Mr. White has made seven quilt tops, which are finished with a filling and backing between trips. He spends three hours a day on his hobby, sitting on his bed, with his sewing machine next to his mini-fridge. Flowered 'project boxes' sit next to neat stacks of blue jeans and baseball caps. Quilting, he said, 'gives you a little bit of ownership. You've actually accomplished something with your time off.'
他曾经在途中停车参观过位于肯塔基州帕迪尤卡市（Paducah）的国家拼布被子博物馆（National Quilt Museum），而且如果时间允许，他还会去逛逛途经小镇上的布料店。
He pulled over once to visit the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Ky., and if time allows, visits fabric stores in towns he rolls through.
In his truck, he showed a quilt with illustrations of fruit, and emphasized the importance of strategically placing quilt blocks so that 'you don't get three lemons in a row or two plums in a row.'
His blue eyes widened behind his glasses as he moved to the topic of thread. 'There is a variegated thread that goes purple to white then back to purple,' he said. 'Oh! Just beautiful.'