Thursday, September 19, 2013

Chapter Five - Life Is A Bowl Of Toilets and I Feel Flush - #Humor husband finally got our to trucking school and got his new Peterbuilt and led me to believe I could retire as a correctional office and never have to make another career choice.  WRONG!  Somehow, I became is navigator...or NAGavator as he called me.  I found myself buckled in the cab of an eighteen-wheeler, traveling down the highway, nail prints imbedded in my palms and sweat beading my brow.  I'm still not sure if it was a good idea to have someone who required binoculars to read street signs in the distance and a magnifying glass to read maps should be in this spot.

It wasn't all about the driving though.  We spent more time sitting in truck yards than we did moving. Most dinners were in truck stops because you can't find that many places to park, and you can't drive through McDonalds.  It's no fun sitting among unshaven, unwashed and pissed off truckers...most angry because they ran out of time, broke down or waiting for a delayed load.  There are showers and bathrooms, but not enough to go around, so to say that cleanliness is a big issue is an understatement.  I cringe when we shower in one of the public places, so I became a "Huggies Wash" baby most days when we couldn't find a suitable shower.  PTA took on a whole new meaning from when the kids went to school.  Now it stands for pits, tits and ass, not to be crass, but those are the areas that need daily attention.  Intimacy became fond memories because of the bunk beds and very limited area.

I missed by bathroom.  I absolutely refused to do "number two" in the porta-potty because I can barely stand the stench in a large room.  Riding 500 miles with the smell before finding a suitable receptacle for disposal didn't appeal to me.  Besides, going potty has always been a private affair for me.  No way do I want my husband to hear me making "bathroom noises."  If you read my first book, you'll remember the part about bathroom slippers.  I won't explain it again, because curiosity might cause a surge in sales, but I went to great link to remain anonymous  Besides, I need to make money somehow because I'm absolutely through with the trucking scene

After only a week on the road, I decided the wages weren't worth the insanity.  Twenty-Six cents a mile!!!  Are you kidding me?  You get paid nothing for all the sitting you do, because if the wheels aren't turning, you aren't earning.  The miles are charted by the company via a Telecomm and I think we made the most money being lost.  We were soooo lost one day, we spent eighteen dollars in tolls trying to find our way.  You can't just whip a big rig around like you an a car, and if you end up on a dead-end street (which we did more frequently than I like to admit), you're in a real pickle.

We soon discovered that the directions the company sends you don't always jive with arriving at your destination.  We were on I-70 and the directions were from I-295. Left and right didn't jive and we spent the night at our drop zone, parked on a ramp and trying to sleep without rolling out of bed because we had no more driving time.

Trucking is a great way to learn time-keeping.  Drivers operate on three schedules to which they must adhere by law:  The fen, fourteen, and seventy-two hour clocks.  You can drive ten hours out of fourteen daily, but no more than seventy hours in a week.  I think!  I really never got the hang of it.  Anyhow, that's the reason you'll see trucks parked alongside the road on off-ramps, truck stops and occasionally at rest stops if they plan to sleep only a few hours.  Most states limit the time you can park in a rest stop, and sometimes truckers are miles from a decent place to stop when the law says you have to turn off the ignition.

The Telecomm told us how many hours we had left and when your time expired, you couldn't move until you regained driving time.  We sat in Springfield for twenty-four hours before we could move.  I always sucked at math, but who knew I'd need to be a wizard in my later years?  Needless to say, most places where you "wait" for your next load are not in the most scenic parts of town.  Mostly in the ghettos.  No photo opps there.

I'm in awe of the women who have entered this man's industry.  Watching what my husband went through, even with my help, left me shocked anyone could truck solo.  Many do!  And more and more of them are women.  Imagine moving those big tandem wheels back and forth, hooking and unhooking to those 53 feet trailers that a parked in rows so tight you can't get dental floss between them, and doing all the required daily vehicle inspections.  Of course, I was assured many times I could do all that stuff, too, and I should double our salary by being part of a team, but my idea upon retirement was touring the country, towing a fifth wheel.  I never imagined adding thirteen more to the equation  I glimpsed more of the US than I ever expected, but at sixty-five miles an hour, it all becomes a blur.  The clocks were ticking.

I learned a new vocabulary.  The CB (citizens-band) radio used by almost all truckers has a jargon all its own.  Someone warned east-bound truckers of a "gator on the zipper."  We were in Illinois at the time and there weren't any swamp areas listed in the Atlas that had become a permanent fixture on my lap.  When my husband pointed out the big piece of rubber on the center line, I became aware that gators aren't only in Florida and Louisiana.

Truckers give themselves "handles" or pet names on the CB and often tease competitor companies with such.  At the time, my hubby drove for Werner and that company was dubbed, Weiner. We rode in a Weinermobile and NOBODY wants to be passed by one.  They have governors that allow sixty-fix as the highest speed and you're lucky if you can come close to that if you're on even the slightest incline.  Add in that you never know what you're hauling or how it's been packed.  Life becomes a gamble.

Schneider,the big orange truck earned an affiliation with traffic cones or construction barriers--Schneider Larvae.  I didn't get all the nicknames down, but I learned early on to keep an ear trained for mention of bears, smokies, or plain brown wrappers.  You don't want to have an encounter with the--it's usually more costly than running into a gator.

Alas, hubs got his first ticket and I would like to especially thank La Grange, Illinois for their warm reception and assistance.  I won't mention the name of the officer, but he was your run-of-the-mill short guy with a big ego.  Okay, so my navigation wasn't the best and we ended up on a "non-designated" truck route, but wouldn't you expect that when you tell an officer you are hopelessly lost and traffic wouldn't allow us to change lanes, and that you've been driving big rig for only a week that he would show some compassion? 

Traffic was awful because of a holiday weekend, everyone ignored hubby's turn signal because no one wants to be behind a truck, so we had no alternative but to continue.  It was just our luck a sign designated trucks not allowed.  My guess is that La Grange makes a tidy sum on issuing citations for poor soles who don't run cars off the road in order to get in a lane that isn't clearly marked.

Thankfully, the citation was only for "non-compliance" and cost only twenty-five dollars, Iwas still disappointed that the man in uniform had no interest in being helpful.  I've always told my children when they were in trouble to look for a policeman, but now I'd like to rescind that...especially when passing through Illinois.

Riding as a passenger gave me a whole new perspective about what truckers go through.  Next time you are tempted to wave a middle finger or turn the air blue with expletives, think about it  Besides bringing you everything from apples to zebra-print material, the truck and full load can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds.  When you try to beat them out of a lane change, won't let them over when they signal, or cut in front of them, remember, courtesy might safe a life of someone like me who is an unwilling passenger.  The next time you use the toilet, you can thank a trucker for the paper on the roll next to you.

One last tip.  Ladies, if you plan on taking a ride in a big rig..tighten up those bra straps or you just might blacken your own eye.


A trucking older couple traveled to their next stop. The husband was driving when they got pulled over by the highway patrol.

The office pulled himself up on the running board and peered into the cab.  "Sir did you know you were speeding?"

The wife, unable to hear over the still-running engine, looked at her husband with a raised brow. "What did he say?"

"He says I was speeding," the husband yelled.

"May I see your license?"  The patrolman held out his hand.

"What did he say?"  The wife hollered again.

"He wants to see my license," the husband flashed her a look of annoyance, but presented his license to the officer.

"I see you're from Tennessee.  I spent some time there once," The officer remarked.  "Went on a blind date with the ugliest woman I've ever seen."

"What did he say?"  The woman yelled again.

The husband smiled.  "He said he thinks he knows you," he hollered back.


Caroline Clemmons said...

Very funny, Ginger. I have a tiny friend who is OCD yet drove a big rig for six years and loved it. I think she liked the alone time. She said it was the most enjoyable job she'd ever had, but her kids talked her into retiring and settling near them.

Ginger Jones Simpson said...

I probably would have done better if I had been younger, but all that bouncing and climbing in and out of the cab was too much for an old broad. I saw lots of women truckers that were petite, and I wondered how they handled moving those big tandem wheels back and forth when my husband had problems with them from time-to-time.

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