Monday, November 02, 2009

A Test Of Resolve

I got home Sunday morning at about 00:00 hrs., the end of my second week over the road with a trainer. I gotta say, I don't know how long I can handle being away from home. The job itself doesn't seem such a bear, though there are numerous details I'm sure I will fail to remember in the beginning. This is true of most jobs, so I'm not too concerned about that. It's just the week to two weeks away. That's tough. If I was young and single it might not matter as much. But I'm not either.

My last day out was particularly crappy and a bit of a portent of things possible on the job. It began with my trainer being late. (I hope this doesn't get back to his boss.) I'm not really raggin' on the guy here. Our last stop of the night was near his home and he took advantage of the situation to be with his family. Good for him. I'm glad for him sincerely. We agreed that he'd not only be back a 09:00, but that I would complete most, if not all, of the "homework" he had assigned me.

This homework included completing all paperwork that was my responsibility to have finished. No problem, as there wasn't much left to finish. Also, there was trip planning the rest of the day until the point where I'd be dropped off at my car. Until this point, I had not had any trouble sleeping in that upper berth in the tractor. But this night it was quite windy. It seemed that every time I dropped off, the wind would pick up and shake the truck, as if some one was jostling your bed to awaken you. So of course, when that annoying alarm went off, it was way too early. And of course, forgetting that it was to be a Saturday morning, I had called my wife to give me a wake up call, just in case. So she really didn't need to get up for that as I was quite awake climbing down from that berth to figure out how to turn off that alarm on the truck radio. And it was a chilly morning.

So I'm up, and being parked in a Wal-mart parking lot, a not uncommon rest stop from what I've gathered, I was able to dress and then go into Wal-mart to handle a few morning rituals, if you know what I mean. Unfortunately, their Subway shop wasn't yet open. Unfortunately, when it was, I found out their breakfast sandwich isn't as delightful as their sub-sandwiches are. But I digress.

Back in the cab I get to work and with only a few alterations my trainer would later make, I completed my task and then went on to wait for the guy for an hour later than planned. During that time I went ahead and performed the standard pre-trip inspection and brake tests and felt that at least when he arrives we could then depart quickly. But no. It took another hour and a half before we could split. Keep in mind that I'm thinking of this as my last day of the trip and hoping to be heading home ASAP, a departure that very well could have occurred the previous night but not for the over-kill training style of this particular trainer.

Finally we leave, and our first stop is Gary, IN. We were departing from Manesha, WI. We have to drop a trailer and pick up an empty. We get to Gary, which is the operating center from which I'll be based, and he gives me the quick tour, which I needed I guess but could have done without. So we go drop the trailer and pick out an empty. As we try to exit the gate, the voice from the speaker says that the trailer is tagged for repair, even though the computer assigned it to us, which means it should be fine. We have to back up and take it to the shop for a looking over. We have to wait for two other trucks waiting ahead of us and of course, by the time we get in, the mechanic finds no problem worthy of the trailer being put out of service. Wasted time because some jerk saw something minor he didn't want to handle himself possibly, and some guy back at HQ didn't read the computer properly and released a trailer he shouldn't have.

Now we're off to Woodstock, IL. which is within an hour of my own home, but of course, my car is elswhere. We get to Woodstock and drop the empty trailer and find the one we're to transport to Wisconsin (dropping me off before it gets there), and this trailer has an issue with one of it's brakes. So there's time screwing around with that. These two holdups would have been bad enough on their own, but my trainer had insisted on me, not only doing most of the work, which was fine, but also having me practice backing up when such extra practice was really superfluous at this point.

Finally, we're at the Wisconsin yard where my car is parked, and this dude has about another half hour of crap to write out and point out and in short, making me want to bang my head on the side of the truck. I just wanted to go home. But he's only doing his job as he sees it and it's just the situation that's pissing me off. He finishes and I make with the small talk as we part company and finally I'm off. Again, he was really a nice guy, very informative about the job and driving and all that good stuff.

But the day really crystallized what I'm up against here. As I said, I don't want to be an over the road driver for anyone. Any delivery job, semi or straight truck, any dump truck job or the like, anything that gets me home every night like a normal job is what I'm after. Frankly, it really doesn't need to be a trucking job at all. I'd even consider going back to my previous line of work, even to the guy that laid me off (after an agreement is decided upon) because it's really just a regular paycheck I'm after. I don't need a career at my age, just a job to get me from here to retirement at a wage that's decent. OTR, however, is giving so much of my life to the job for frankly poor return on that very major investment. One is basically working 24/7 for the duration of one's time out. Then, only two days home to enjoy time with the family and really, nothing, and I mean NOTHING else. Yeah, maybe we could squeeze in a movie, and today we had the family over to celebrate a birthday (not mine), but tomorrow is Monday. The wife is at work, the kid at school and I'm trying to handle whatever chores I can. On top of that, problems as described above can alter whatever plan one foolishly believes one has the right to make. Even if I get approval for a day off for, say, a wedding, there's no guarantee I'll actually get home on time for it. That's living?

Tuesday I report to Gary around 14:30 for a final test which will determine if I get my own truck, additional training, or sent packing. So I'm wondering if I should spend some time tomorrow studying (some of the test is written and some driving). I feel like the last three weeks has been non-stop testing. I wouldn't care if I fail this last one. Yet, I have to pass. My thought at present is to pass and then tell them "no thanks". Either way, I'm still looking for a job. This bites.


Anonymous said...

Ugh. Sorry to hear about all the hassles. Prayed that it works out quickly and that you can do something local, whether trucking, your old job or anything else. That gives me an appreciation for what those guys do every day.

Marshall Art said...

Thanks for the thought, Neil. I'm really freaked about the whole thing. I thought I was onto something with this driver training and all, but thanks to buttheads in power, the job market is crap and I'm left to consider something like this or no job for now, which doesn't please the missus either. I can't stop wondering how I got here.

Perri Nelson said...

I know how you feel.

"thanks to buttheads in power, the job market is crap and I'm left to consider something like this or no job for now"

I'm in a similar boat. The "something like this" for me though involves a year away from home working in another state.

I'm looking forward to it for the improved income, but I'm not looking forward to being away from home for that long.

Dan Trabue said...

sorry. Sounds horrible.

Marshall Art said...


A YEAR??!! Thanks. Now I feel like a whiner.

Seriously, I know many are making similar decisions due to the current state of affairs. My wife speaks of people in the trades going out of state for work. Of course here in the People's Republic of Illinois, where I believe the unemployment rate is a bit higher than the national, the scrambling for work is heavy indeed. I think our "leaders" are trying to compete with Michigan for scaring off corporations from doing business here. Right now, we have what appears to be a fine candidate for governor who seems as hacked off as I am, Adam Andrzejewski, who is chomping at the bit to enact some serious CHANGE (the left loves that word during campaigns) for better.

But I can't wait that long, nor can I help the feeling that his efforts could be stymied by the incompetency of the current administration and Dem led Congress. With each passing day I hold more in contempt those I know who voted Democrat in the last election, especially after all that bitching about Bush.

Marshall Art said...


Thanks for caring, truly. Once again, the horrible part isn't so much the work, but what it will demand of me. The time away is bad enough, but the uncertainty of it all as regards planning personal time once home compounds it. At least if a defined home arrival could be guaranteed, one could create some kind of routine.

My trainer said he never has had any problems getting specific times off, that is, major events in his life. And I appreciate that the company would be considerate of such. But that still leaves the rest of the year. Once home on a Friday, the next mid Saturday, the next perhaps in the middle of the week. It'd be like getting home late from the office after working a 336hr day.

Mark said...

Could be worse. You could have to settle for working at Wal*Mart, because there just isn't anything else available. Sure, you're home more often, but you can't afford to do anything but stay home on Wal*Mart wages.

Marshall Art said...

There's a "could be worse" scenario for everyone, Walmart employees included. Unfortunately, "could be worse" doesn't do a whole lot to assuage my anxiety. Thus, my newest post...