Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Incredible Talking Dick

I can pinpoint where my life began its downward spiral. It was my third year of college at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. That’s when I discovered that beer tasted great and that my dick could talk.

It started innocently enough; going to the local watering hole during a two-hour break in classes. We’d hit Frank and Wally’s at noon then head back up for a 2 o’clock class. The following semester it graduated to hitting F & W’s at noon and saying, “Fuck the 2 o’clock, let’s spend the afternoon here.”

And the more I drank, the better the coeds looked.

From there it progressed to hitting the bar at 9 a.m. and spending the day at least twice a week. Where were we getting the money for all this alcohol you ask? I’m really dating myself, but at that time we could get a shot and a beer for 50 cents. Try that now.

The first time we walked in that early in the morning Henry, the seven-fingered bartender, said, “You guys ain’t gonna start drinkin’ now, are ya?”

“Shit no, Henry,” we answered. “We just need some coffee.” But after one cup of Joe, it was straight to the Iron City and Windsor Canadian.

Yep. More booze equaled better looking chicks. And my dick just kept saying, “Look at ‘em, man. You can do it – you can do it – you can do it!

So, I flunked out of college, but not after getting my girlfriend, a devout Catholic, pregnant. That slowed my drinking down drastically and stopped that infernal talking for a while.

We got married, and settled down in her hometown of Rome, NY. Since I had been a broadcast journalism major, I got a job at a nearby radio station in Utica as a full-time salesman and weekend disc jockey. When a full-time DJ position opened up at their sister station in Geneva, NY, I jumped at the opportunity and we made the move west.

After a second kid, a couple of affairs and moves to Niagara Falls and Binghamton, NY, the drinking and the incessant talking dick started again. The marriage fell apart. Actually, I pried it apart.

Now, married a second time for 30+ years, all is quiet.

Time for a beer.



Thursday, May 18, 2006

Let's Hit the Road

Have you ever thought about driving a truck professionally? Let me give you a little taste of what it may entail. Having a valid driver’s license is a good start.

First, you need to pick a driving school. There are two very different flavors.

The first is an independent school where you pay for your training. They are expensive, but will finance your tuition. At the end of your instruction they offer a placement service; not guaranteeing you a job, but helping you to locate one.

A subcategory of the pay-to-learn school would be a community college program. These are less expensive, but generally require more time; either a semester, a trimester or a quarter to complete your course. In each of these choices, the end result is simply getting your Class-A license (CDL).

The other alternative is going to work for an established trucking company that offers a driving school. That was the option I selected. You still pay for your training, but will be able to work off your tuition. At the end of the session, generally 2 to 4 weeks, you will have your CDL and then begin the real training program.

Any company that hires someone straight out of driver’s school will require them to complete “over-the-road training.” The student will be placed in a working truck with an experienced driver and drive a certain number of miles with him. My secondary training was set at 25,000 miles. It sounds like a lot and it is; it took about 2 ½ months to complete.

During this phase, the student learns the real inner workings of the job. They will experience, first-hand, the joys of traffic jams, detours, shitty directions, bitchy loading dock workers and waiting for a load. Oh, yeah – if you have an accident or get a ticket during training, you’re fired.

At the end of training, the new driver is tested in the classroom and on the road. If that part of the training is not passed successfully, it’s back out on the road with a different trainer. Either that or they get fired.

Trucking companies are not shy about terminating a driver. They can’t afford to be. It’s a dangerous job to start with, and a driver who can’t learn the proper procedures is definitely a liability.

If a driver is fired it happens either at the company’s headquarters or on the spot of the infraction that caused it. That could be 2000 miles from home, and the unfortunate soul who has been let go better have money in their jeans for bus fare.

The school that I attended started out with about 35 students. After drug testing and background checks we were down to about 20. By the time we went for our over-the-road training, there were 10 of us left. Within three months I could count the number of my surviving classmates on one hand.

That’s why there are always ads for truck drivers in the newspaper classifieds.

But, if you don’t mind solitude and being away from home for extended periods of time, it ain’t a bad job. Some drivers even describe it as being paid to tour the country.



Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Fargo - You Betcha

In May, 2003, I got a load assignment I thought I’d never see. It was a load of air conditioners going to Moorehead City, Minnesota and Fargo, ND. Air conditioners in Fargo? What’s next? Heat pumps to Miami?

I dropped all the AC units off and got another load assignment almost immediately. Pick up mustard spice in Grand Forks, ND, about 90 miles north of Fargo, and deliver it to Buffalo, NY. The pickup was scheduled for the following morning.

My pickup was at 0800, and I arrived at 0715. I pulled into the spice company’s lot, set my brakes and went inside. A production worker informed me that no one from shipping arrived until 0800. I went back out to my truck, finished my log entries and decided to turn my truck around so that I could line up with their docks.

I started to pull forward through their asphalt lot and noticed a puddle in front of me. “No problem,” I thought. “There are tire tracks through it.” BIG FUCKING MISTAKE! I don’t know how whatever made those tracks got through that “puddle”, but as soon as I hit it, the front of my tractor sank in up to its front axel. I couldn’t go forward because my fuel tanks were within an inch of the pavement, and I couldn’t go backward because the wall of the hole was straight up and down.

I sat there for about 15 minutes until employees started arriving. I felt like an idiot sitting in my swallowed tractor while these dick-heads were walking by, pointing and laughing. I finally went inside to the shipping office where there was a phone I could use. I called our road service department and got put on the normal 30-minute hold. While I was waiting for a human to pick up the phone, the shipping manager came in.

“How long you gonna be on the phone? I need to use it,” were the first words out of his mouth.

“As soon as someone from road service picks up, I’ll be off,” I replied. “Y’know,” he bellowed, “you’re blockin’ my parkin’ spaces out there, doncha?”

“Bud,” I replied in as civil a tone as I could muster, “if I could move that son-of-a-bitch I would – but I can’t. So, I guess we’ll both need to deal with it for now.”

He stormed out of his office and, I guess, found another phone. Well, he stormed as much as any fat man who walks as if he has a pencil stuck up his ass can. For the next 30 minutes that I was on hold, he never again mentioned that he needed to make a call.

As it turned out, I was on hold longer that it took to get a wrecker to me. After I hung up, I walked outside, smoked a cigarette and the tow truck was there. He hooked up under my bumper, lifted my tractor while I pulled forward slowly with my wheels cranked hard to the right, and he set me down – right beside the hole.

As he was unhooking all his cables he said, “Y’know I pulled a car out of this same damned hole last week. You’d think they’d rope it off or something instead of just fillin’ it in with dirt.” Within an hour, I was loaded and sealed – headed for Buffalo. I hope my company charged those dick-heads for the tow truck.