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16 tons and a cup of coffee

The alarm clock goes off at 4AM now. Before this week I used my own internal alarm clock, which meant I usually woke up after 7-9 hours of sleep. Not now. Now I’m up with the alarm because my husband (affectionately known as Mr. Truck Driver/Mr. Rockstar) has a local job–no more OTR (Over The Road) for a week or more at a time driving  a 16+ ton 18 wheeler. He’s still driving a big truck, but now he’s driving what is known as a tri-axle or a roll-back. I’m a trucker’s wife, a writer, a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a daughter-in-law, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a domestic goddess, a photographer, a chauffeur, a counselor, a banker, a secretary, a gardener, a jack of all trades and a master of few since my list could go on and on… 

The perfume commercial from the 80s.and the song…. “I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan…” comes to mind right about now. 

I don’t work outside of the home. In this day and age, I suppose that’s a rarity.  I never thought I’d enjoy staying at home…being a domestic goddess, which is such a sweeter sounding term than “housewife.”  Before this week, when the alarm clock went off I was up making a pot of coffee, organizing Mr. Trucker Driver’s things to take on the road: his clean uniforms, food “stuffs,” personal items such as towels, shaving cream, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc….and sometimes putting them in the trunk of car while he showered and got ready. By the time he was out of the shower, (usually a long one because it might be a couple of days to a week before he could enjoy the luxury of a long, hot shower again–not all truck stops or yards (as his previous company has) allow for such, and at $11 a shower or free if you purchase a certain amount of fuel (at least $300+ in fuel) he often chose to wait until he got to one of his company’s yards (where the minimum amount of time the water stayed warm was about 5 minutes)  he often went without a shower for a couple of days–Thank Goodness for baby wipes.) 

With a cup of coffee in one hand for myself, and a cup of coffee in the other for Mr. Truck Driver…I’d spend a few minutes with him enjoying the first cup of coffee of the morning (sometimes it was 3 AM, other times it was 5 or sometimes it was Sunday evening and he had the night shift so to speak). An 18 wheeler empty weighs approximately 16+ tons, once you put a “load” in the trailer it goes up from there. I went out on the road with him for 5 weeks total. During that time I enjoyed many cups of coffee over the road. The last week I was with him, we saw a big rig (from his company, one of his fellow drivers) turned over on its side at the foot of the Saluda Mountains in the Gorge. The wind toppled it right over. It looked like a giant had flicked it with the his fingers and it had toppled over just like a domino. I saw various trailers swaying back and forth from the force of the wind while we were out that week, but seeing that truck from his company lying on its side like that in the Gorge made my stomach queasy, my heart wrench, and left me with nightmares. When he got the phone call about the local position and wanted to  jump on it even though it doesn’t have benefits, I supported him in that decision. 

My job(s) wouldn’t allow me to do anything else. His safety and well-being are my primary concern. For some people, going OTR is fun, enjoyable, etc… Gives them a sense of freedom out on the open road…and you don’t have someone hovering over you at work either. But for others, being away from home for a week or weeks at a time is depressing–truckers spend an enormous amount of time alone and that life is a lonely one–it’s not for everyone. It’s definitely not for my husband, who values family above all else. I got that sense of freedom, the beautiful back drops that you just don’t get from an office window, the sense of accomplishment that what you’re doing is important even though others take it for granted. Much like a domestic goddess position. Truckers are often looked down on by others, unappreciated, and taken for granted. Without a trucker our groceries wouldn’t be in the grocery store, our gas wouldn’t be at the gas station…how do you think vehicles get to the car lots, or the items on the shelf in Wally World or the hardware store or the drug store or the parts that your plumber, mechanic, heating and air guy, electrician, contractor, etc use… 

Housewives are also another position that is often looked down on, unappreciated, and taken for granted. Luckily, my husband appreciates every thing I do–from the simple things like making coffee and making sure he has one cup to drink on the way and another for later that he can put in his coffee warmer cup, to the larger things like making sure he has clean clothes to wear and clean towels to use, as well as clean sheets to sleep on or making sure he has plenty of food to eat, including veggies and fruits in that. He also supports my writing, as well as my photography, though I don’t get paid to do either. One day I might get paid for one or the other, maybe even both, but for now it’s something I do simply because I love it, because it’s who and how and what I am–a part of me. 

It’s not often that I spring out bed, I’d need an automatic coffee maker next to my bed that actually handed me my cup of coffee right after the alarm clock went off for that to remotely happen–I’m not a morning person, and neither is my husband, but I do look forward to every day. Do I enjoy doing laundry (yes, but I hate folding clothes), do I enjoy doing the dishes (not at all unless we’re doing them together), but my job(s) keep me sane. If I couldn’t write, or take pictures, or some other creative pursuit I would go mad. Just as staying out on the road any longer than he did would have driven him mad. I’ve had that job that sucks the very life out of you and drains you of any and all joy, creativity, and life. When the moment the alarm clock goes off you’re pissed off because it’s a new day but to you it’s just yet another day of drudgery. That “soul-destroying” job that turns you into a drone.  I ended up with ulcers, stress induced panic attacks, headaches, and an overall piss-poor, grumpy attitude. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

My husband was singing “Take this job and shove it…” yesterday afternoon after he was offered the local position and found out he started this morning. Should he have given at least a one week’s notice? Yes. Do I blame him for not doing so? No, not at all. The company he worked for wanted drone’s. They took the human factor out of trucking, and wanted worker bees instead. No don’t think, or need to eat, or rest, or anything else. They didn’t factor in 10 hour breaks that are mandatory by law, or meal breaks, or weather, or traffic, or the weight of the load, or anything else. They didn’t pay for real miles, or even actual practical miles, but some crazy mileage that only a plane or bird could have actually accomplished…My husband called it “as the crow flies” mileage. A straight line from point A to point B, which is impossible in a vehicle, much less a big rig. The new company he’s going to work for is a small company, thus no benefits yet, but they already know his name. He’s more than just a number to them. He won’t be a drone, he’ll actually be part of a team not just a slogan, and he’ll be appreciated. 

Every time I wash a load of clothes, wash dishes, sweep and mop, etc… I am partaking in an activity that 1. doesn’t get done by itself, 2. is appreciated, 3. gives me physical exercise, 4. gives me a break from my desk and writing while allowing me to be part of the team–our home team. For example, yesterday we both were out in the yard with a push lawn mower cutting our lawn. It was a team effort (once we fix the riding lawn mower things will be easier–we have a large backyard and a decent sized front yard, we could fit a pool, a small barn, a shed or three, and a deck in our backyard and still have areas of grass that would need to be cut). When we were finished mowing the lawn Mr. Truck Driver says to me, “Thank you,” and I ask “for what?” and he replies, “for helping me…for being you,” and that’s all the pay I need.  There’s no place I’d rather be than where I am right now. 

DPChallenge: SIxteen Tons: How do you feel about your job? Do you spring out of bed, looking forward to work? Or, is your job a soul-destroying monotony of pure drudgery, or somewhere in between? 

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Posted by on March 25, 2014 in Coffee, Daily Prompt, Family, Home, Life, Writing

 

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What it’s like going over the road with a trucker

When I went out on the road with my husband this past week I knew I was in for a week of confined space, food on the go, lots of time between bathroom breaks, not being able to shower with lots of hot water (much less privacy and the comforts of home), and having to tie up my hair or just putting it in a hat, which meant a hot mess because my hair is really curly and gets nappy when I sleep, especially after having it in a hat for a long while, BUT what I didn’t realize was how stressful, exciting, tiring, beautiful, and fun it was going to be.

I had a blast. I took a ton of pictures. (By the way, it is really hard to take pictures when you’re going down the road at 55+ mph.) We thoroughly enjoyed our time together. My husband works hard as hell at a job that is underpaid and unappreciated. (I saw cars yank out in front of the truck, and by the way, when an 18 wheeler is hauling a load it takes him at least the length of a football field to stop, especially when you’re going at speeds of 55mph or more. The faster you’re going the longer it takes you to stop. And if they put their turn signal on to get over, don’t ignore them…Let them over–They are required to drive in certain lanes, get over if there is a vehicle stopped by the side of the road, etc…I’ll stop preaching for a minute and go back to how my trip was…Sorry for rambling.)

The laws have changed for truck drivers. Many of them now have electronic logs. They get 14 hours to work each day. During that 14 hours, only 11 of it can be spent driving, and during that 11 hours they have to take a 30 minute meal break. If they are picking up a load and it takes 3-6 hours to load it, that time is considered part of their 14 hour work day. And since they only have 11 hours they can actually drive part of that load time eats up their driving hours, which means they have even less time to get to their destination. It can get complicated, stressful, and rough if you’ve only got 1 hour left to drive and there are no rest areas designated for truckers to use or truck stops. And sometimes even if you find one, it doesn’t mean there will be enough room. And parking in a truck stop is such a joy when the parking lot is filled with snow,slush, ice, etc and crowded…The things you hear on a CB are both fun and entertaining, as well as frustrating. Back in the day, my dad was a truck driver in the late 60’s and early 70’s and things were different. Truckers were friendlier with each other, the CB was used a lot more to relay dangers that lay ahead whether it was weather, road hazards, the police, etc…When my dad taught me how to drive he told me to respect big trucks/big rigs. A lot of drivers dismiss big trucks as just another vehicle on the road, but they’re so much more than that. And I was appalled at the way other drivers treat truckers and big trucks.

Riding down the road in a big truck/18 wheeler really gave me a bird’s eye view of things. An appreciation for the beauty of other cities, towns, states, as well as my husband’s job and what he goes through. He couldn’t take in all of the beauty of the scenery the way I could because he was busy driving, watching out for other motorists, making sure to read road signs (trucks can’t be in certain lanes, certain roads don’t have enough overhead clearance in regard to bridges or overpasses, sometimes there are detours big trucks have to take, etc…), and when I showed him the pictures he got to see what I saw…And I’m hoping that some of the pics will show at least a little of what going over the road is like. We went 2600 miles in one week…Through a number of states…and ended up where we started from, and during that time I realized how grateful I am for a hot shower, a hot meal, my husband’s dedication, as well as how great a driver he is. He shows other drivers courtesy, even if it isn’t reciprocated. He’s a safe driver who looks out for motorists. He works hard and yet his job is undervalued, unappreciated, and underpaid. Several people asked me if I wanted to get my CDL and go out on the road with him. As a team, we’d make a lot more money. My reply: “I’m happy riding.” I will definitely go back out on the road with him, but I don’t want to drive. I’m happy as a passenger but I have the utmost respect for truck drivers now.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2014 in Life, Traveling

 

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