Wednesday, July 20, 2011

State of transition

Here I am, at another public library in a strange town, Tinley Park, IL, where folks don't seem to believe in sidewalks. The library is about a mile walk from the hotel I've been staying at the past three days. I sought out the library because I seek something familiar and rooted to the routine of the life I left behind.

I often seek out libraries when I travel, maybe for the familiar connection to a public institution I hold dear. This time of transition is tough enough. I'm tired of waiting and want to be doing, to be driving, putting miles under my wheels and getting to work.

I was officially hired yesterday and got my fuel card, employee handbook, training manual, and a slew of paperwork. Today I called a training coordinator, who is trying to find a driver to train me for the next 3-4 weeks. I called at 8 a.m., and again at 10:30 a.m., at my orientation coordinator's insistence. The training coordinator called me at 1:15 p.m. and asked whether I wanted to be with a smoker or non-smoker. She said smoking drivers tend to smoke two packs a day, but, yes, it would be more of a challenge to find a non-smoking trainer. Call me a wussy, but I don't want to train with a chain smoker. She told me to call back at 4 p.m. I did, but once again got an answering machine. At 5, I got another hotel voucher and took the shuttle back. The wheels of bureaucracy turn slow, especially when the extra challenge of finding a non-smoking trainer presents itself.

Hanging out at the terminal has given me the chance to observe truckers. I'm already sick of trucker talk: loads, routes, the weather, food, trucks, other drivers, dispatchers, field managers, etc. A simple pattern develops, which is not surprising amongst strangers. Safe topics are referred to often. Also, most of the drivers are smokers and overweight. The profession is unhealthy enough, with its inherent dangers and exposure to diesel fumes. I guess truck drivers get bored and need to do something to occupy themselves. So they eat and smoke. In the lack of other vices, this other gluttony holds sway. Sure, there are fit, non-smoking drivers, but they are the exception.

I'm sick of this state of transition, this limbo. I was elated at the surety of my hiring. It is the first well-paying job I've had in two years, and promises to be the highest paying job I've ever had. I've been able to occupy my time reading, watching TV, surfing the Internet on my phone (and getting eyestrain headaches as a result), and taking evening walks, but... LET'S GET THE SHOW ON THE ROAD. I know this job requires patience and an unhurried attitude will save my life, but, come on, I've been at this over a week now, not counting the weekend I went home.

I hope tomorrow is the day I get with a trainer and get on the road, but I must go into it with no expectation or else I will be sorely disappointed if it doesn't happen. This state of transition is fleeting, but I upended a good life, a life full and complete, with its own rhythms and habits, and shoot, I guess I'm showing my age in missing the regularity and patterns of that life and wishing to establish a pattern and regularity in this new life.

I remember once, younger, when I thought a life of habit was a rote existence, the life of a robot, and I shunned pattern and regularity. In some ways this viewpoint has guided my choices of professions. No two work days are the same for a journalist, teacher, or truck driver. I don't know how people do jobs that follow a regular pattern. The cubicle rat paper pushers of the world, the same bureaucrats slowing my progress, I just don't know how they do it. But I can now relate to the comfort and security they must feel going to their jobs knowing full well the duties before them. It's not too different, I guess, from the same sense of comfort I got in the daily routines of my old life.

The things I love and miss from the old life will be replaced by new familiarities, as the routes I travel leave signposts in my brain that conjur memories of other passings. So many places in this great country already do that. I will no doubt shed a tear of recognition when I see the Appalachians again or enjoy a sunset over pointy northwoods pines. These evoke other patterns, other lives, that I left behind at some point to embrace a new existence. Transitions don't erase the old life. It's kind of like an etch a sketch. You scratch a pattern and even though you shake it blank again, a ghost pattern remains of the past etching and all other etchings before that.

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