Friday, April 21, 2006

Read the Fine Print

Truck driving. It’s not a job – it’s an adventure. More than that, it’s a way of

I realized, before I started driving a big truck, that I would be away from home for periods of time. What I didn’t know was that most big trucking companies base your home time on how many consecutive days you spend on the road. It boils down to one day at home for every six you spend out.

That’s the formula that was used by my first employer. I normally spent four weeks on the road then got four days at home. That was longer than I wanted to stay out, but I needed four days to regroup, get laundry done, balance the checkbook, shop for road food and all the other bullshit that needed to be done around the house.

I thought my home time would improve when I changed companies. Wrong again.

My second employer based home time on hours, not days. If I spent four weeks on the road, I got 144 hours at home. I realize that doesn’t sound any different, but in practice it’s an enormous change.

As an example: if I got home at 2 p.m. on Thursday, half that day was already shot. I would have Friday, Saturday and Sunday off, then need to be back on the road at 2 p.m. on Monday. So I would get three full days and two half days at home.

The half days were useless. I was so tired on that first day, that I’d hit the sack at about 8 p.m. since I had driven 10 to 12 hours to get home. The day I left again would be another 10 to 12 hour day picking up a load and starting on my trip.

And there’s not a whole lot of time to rest while you’re on the road. Most loads are timed very tightly so that both you and the company make as much money as possible. So it’s drive 10 hours, sleep 8 hours and drive 10 more.

Most aspects of truck driving look good on paper. It’s the fine print that fucks you every time.



Saturday, April 15, 2006

Brain Dead

I need to write. I mean, I really need to write. Every time I open up the word program on the computer, my mind leaves my body and evaporates into the spring air.

I’m definitely old enough to have a wealth of experiences to relate. My life has certainly not been dull. I’ve worked enough interesting jobs that anecdotes should be running out of my ears. My God – what the fuck is wrong with me?

Who couldn’t come up with some sort of interesting shit after working as a “top 40” disc jockey during the mid to late 1960’s – the most classic era of rock music ever? How about my tenure as a public relations manager for three upstate New York Chambers of Commerce; or 20 years in restaurant management; or 10 more years in route sales?

Sure, I did write a memoir recounting my 2 years as an over-the-road truck driver. That was a no-brainer. Someday it may even be published. I contacted my agent a few weeks ago, and he promised to check on its progress. I’m still waiting on a reply.

Maybe I should try a novel – one that thinly disguises actual events. “All names have been changed to protect the author from litigation and/or personal injury.” My protagonist could be a body-building general manager whose first love, other than trying to screw every waitress on the payroll, was beating customers to a pulp.

Or another management type who goes into business with the author then snorts them out of business by paying for his nose candy from the restaurant’s cash register.
How about the building contractor who agrees to add onto the author’s house, then leaves the job 2/3 completed and declares bankruptcy?

All are decent ideas which deserve some serious thought.

For now, though, I just need to come up with another post for this fucking journal.



Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Fear of Flying

Yeah…it’s been a while. I’m still alive, but I don’t know how or why.

I've had a fear of flying for most of my life. This has always involved airplanes and helicopters, but lately there's been a new twist. Several years ago, I had an unwanted flight involving a sheet of plywood and a wind gust (see "Freaky" October 5, 2005 post). Last week a ladder was the vehicle.

Our house is 28 years old, built the same year that my daughter was born. Like everything else that age, it needs a little work. With my prosthetic hip, very damaged left elbow and rheumatoid arthritis, my home repair skills are limited. Luckily the house is only a single story.

The wood trim that one of our short gutters is nailed to was rotting. Both gutter and trim are only 10 feet long and about 10 feet off the ground, so I figured I could handle their replacement. After removing the gutter and old trim, I went to the home center, bought a 10 foot section of pressure treated 1 X 6 and some paint. The job was half done, right?

I painted the trim, let it dry and marked on its face where the studs were. Then I started some nails on the marks I had made and prepared to mount the trim board. With the wood positioned, I reached for my hammer, lost my grip on the board and my balance and became earthbound.

My face and right arm landed on a landscape timber that I had installed only the week before. I never lost consciousness, but it did ring my chimes quite loudly. When my senses were restored, I FUCKIN’ HURT!

It took about 10 minutes for me to get on my feet, then I hobbled into the house. “What happened to you?” asked my wife. After telling her the short version of my adventure, she helped me into the bathroom and began assessing my injuries.

My right wrist had begun to swell, I had abrasions from my wrist to my elbow, my forehead and cheek were both badly scraped and my right eye was beginning to blacken. She cleaned out all the cuts and scrapes with peroxide and applied anti-bacterial ointment to them. “I really need to blow my nose,” I said. Bad move.

As soon as I tried to clear my right nostril, my right cheek swelled to about 4 times its natural size. Needless to say, I looked like I had been on the short end of a severe ass whoopin’.

I held off going to the local Urgent Care facility until the following morning. I have no health insurance and my Medicare doesn’t kick in until May 1. But after a sleepless night and awakening to more swelling and a nearly closed right eye, I decided it was time for professional help.

Five X-rays later, it was decided that both my wrist and my cheekbone were broken. Neither bone had been displaced much, so a splint was put on my arm from fingers to elbow. Apparently my cheekbone will mend on its own.

I really don't like to fly.

If my prose does not seem its normal free flowing self, blame it on my having to type left-handed, one key at a time. The vicodin probably doesn't help either.

Later (if there is a later)