Friday, August 19, 2011

Lonely at the library

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I have been away from home since July 18 except for 8 hours with Esther and Jonny when I had a delivery in Hampshire, IL my first week of training. And today, waiting in Shippensburg, PA, for my truck to get fixed, I am feeling the pangs of homesickness. I saw a grandmother walking a little boy Jonny's age around, and he said, like Jonny says, that some cartoon character was "the best. Ever!" I don't know, it just hit me. I got a little misty missing my boy.

I have been a solo driver for a week, and it seems as if nothing is going my way. I've been sent to the wrong delivery location, waited for hours outside a pet food factory, enduring the stench of Yahweh-knows-what, only to be told the delivery wasn't until the next night. I've waited for hours at another delivery yard waiting for a new order, and when I finally got it, the trailer I needed to pick up was right there in the yard. My computer navigation went down (corrected, I later found out, by turning the computer off and back on again), but I had to back up and turn around on a single lane road at the top of a hill, not an easy feat with a 53-foot trailer, when I got lost.

And yesterday, as I was turning around to back an empty trailer into an open stall at a shipper, the trailer knocked off a metal rack attached to the back of my tractor. Luckily, I was only 20 miles away from a terminal and the shop is just going to remove the rack. I have not seen this rack on any other company truck, but when I talked to a mechanic, he told me the rack is used to hold a dolly for those who have routes where they unload the freight. They are just going to remove it permanently. And I, finally, after two months of truck driving, learned how to adjust the fifth wheel. I may be here a couple days waiting for the repair, and time is money in this business. But at least I'm not in any trouble for my rookie error. Damage was minimal to both tractor and trailer.

I can see why there is such a high turnover rate in the trucking industry. Shippers and receivers are surly and unkind to truckers, and even other drivers don't look out for each other. And it can be a very lonely life, never seeing familiar faces. Don't worry. I'm going to tough it out. I still like driving the big rig, enjoy seeing the country roll by, giddy at seeing the Rockies and Appalachia within a week, sunset thunderstorms rage over Kansas wheat fields, listening to Blind Melon's "No Rain" while driving by endless fields of sunflowers, the St. Louis Arch reflecting the sunset along I-70, taking a morning jog through the Ohio countryside, and writing a blog in a small Pennsylvania town at a library in a historic 1830mansion, the Stewart House (see photo above).

Yes, it's almost worth the ugliness of industrial parks, the constant motor whine and stench of diesel fumes, and being away from home for weeks at a time. It will get better. I'll stop making rookie mistakes, figure out all the computer glitches, get better at backing up, and not get so nervous about driving in towns. I'll rarely be away from home this long.

Yes, it will get better. It can only get better. A job is a job. I'm off unemployment. I've got my dignity and self-worth back. Every job has its issues. I'll take the good with the bad, count my blessings and take the bad moments in stride.

Oh, I forgot to mention. I'm only about 10 miles from the Appalachian Trail. Wish I had my bike with me. When I go home, I am taking my bike and guitar back out on the road with me. It will make this life all the easier.

The four pillars of my non-trucking existence -- EXERCISE, READING, WRITING, and MUSIC. Okay. Enough rambling. My time is up here. It's a sunny summer day. No driving for me. I'm off to explore on foot.

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