In 1980, having completed three years at Colby College in Waterville, Finn Murphy made an announcement to his parents. He was dropping out to become a tractor-trailer driver for a moving company.
After finishing the school year with the best grades he’d ever gotten, Murphy moved into the basement of his parents’ home. A few weeks later his father approached with several papers in his hand and said he’d like to finalize some financial arrangements. “This first page is the tuition we’ve paid to Colby for the past three years, which we’d like you to pay back,” he began. “The next page is the rent you owe us for the past three summers. The third page is the rent you’ll pay if you want to continue occupying these premises.”
That night Murphy slept in the sleeper of his truck. For the next two years he and his parents didn’t speak. And so begins “The Long Haul,” Murphy’s funny, lively, informative account of his life on the road over the last 37 years. He’s not just a driver—he’s a mover, responsible for loading and unloading his customers’ most cherished possessions, overseeing his crew, dealing with people who are good, bad and sometimes just plain crazy.
The book takes you into a world you probably know nothing about. Movers, for instance, are known as bedbuggers, and their trucks are called roach coaches. Other truckers have their own names. Flatbedders are skateboarders and hazmat haulers are suicide jockeys. Drivers listen to a lot of public radio. “The great thing about NPR,” Murphy writes, “ is that when you lose one signal you can pick up another that continues the broadcast.”
Life on the road has been good for Murphy. Because of his clientele, he makes $200,000 a year. “I basically move rich people. Like somebody going up from, say, Greenwich, Connecticut, to Deer Isle. Those are my people,” he says with a laugh.
Fueled by Dr. Cola (half Dr. Pepper, half Coca-Cola), Murphy has driven hundreds of thousands of miles, observing with a keen eye and a lively sense of the absurd the best and worst in every corner of the country. So let’s end with three quick travel assessments. The prettiest part of America, he says, is the Florida Everglades. The ugliest part: the Washington, D.C. beltway. And the place that everyone ought to see: the Grand Canyon.