Time Runs Out
You may recall the explanation of the Federal regulations on truck driving that I explained partially in The Unforgiving Clock. There is yet another onerous burden placed on the driver’s time called the 70 Hour or Eight Day Clock. That says that I cannot accumulate more than 70 hours of “on duty” time in any eight day period. That includes not only driving, but also the vehicle inspections, time at shipper or receiver and fueling times. All of those are watched over by a department back in Purgatory (NTSR) called “Compliance”. That organization is exactly as forgiving as its name implies.;-).
If drive times are moderate and on-duty-not-driving is limited, one can expect to spread 70 hours over days one through eight and then gain the hours of the ninth day back. That would let you continue to earn a pittance for all your time away from home. If, however, there are some long distance assignments that leave not much spare time, the day comes that your Eight Day Clock is down to five hours or so and you still have two hour’s worth of driving (and mucking about at the receiver) for the day and exactly zero hours to be regained tomorrow. Restoring the “fresh 70 hours” is a matter of abstaining from driving for 34 hours. The result of which is a forced “weekend” of poverty in a place you don’t want to be, when you would rather be earning a living,. Thanks a bundle, Federal Department of Transportation!
And that is why this post is originating in Albuquerque.
Above: The Flying J Truck Stop parking at Albuquerque – whose lights are seen in the distance.
I am once again “Marooned” as in Thirty Four Hours in Ripon or again in Mostly Wisconsin. I know from those experiences and others that it is advisable to find some meaningful activity, thus to avoid being dragged down into the swirling maelstrom of desperate depression. Thus, this narrative becomes Queequeg’s Coffin to my Ishmael. If that metaphor escapes you, I am afraid you will have to read “Moby Dick” by Hermann Melville. You will learn more about whales than you ever wanted to know. The novel will also explain to you the origin of the name of a well-known chain of over-priced coffee houses.
I was obligated to read this in college. It was a burden at the time, as are most college assignments, but I re-read that same book I had bought for the course years later and actually found it fascinating and interesting. That was the exact same paperback edition that can be seen (on a shelf as Chekov discovers the “Botany Bay” belt buckle) in Star Trek II – the Wrath of Khan, which was heavily laced with Moby Dick references. The plot involved more than one “Marooning” as well, making it doubly appropriate. Ricardo Montalban played what I consider to be his greatest role ever.
Above: Moby Dick Edition in a library of literary references in Star Trek II
If you don’t have time to read a bulky classic of literature, you can “cheat” and see the 1956 movie of the same name. It starred Gregory Peck, who thought himself too young for the “old man” role of Captain Ahab and Richard Basehart who (older than Peck) was too old for the role of “young man” Ishmael. There was also a well-played supporting role by Orson Wells as Father Maple. If you view the trailer, Queequeg is the shirtless gent with the elaborate body and facial tattoos. While I was researching how exactly to spell “Queequeg”, I discovered a restaurant by that name. While naming establishments after characters in Moby Dick has proven wildly successful in at least one case, I feel I must point out that Queequeg was a cannibal – albeit a fictional one.
Breaking the Seal
When delivering a cargo, it is typical that the Receiver tells the Driver to break the seal, open the trailer doors and back into a warehouse cargo door. Usually the seals are plastic bands that can be broken with bare hands. Coca-Cola, however, has seen fit to make their seals with stainless steel cables. Not with a crow bar and hacksaw could I manage to sever the cable and trucks with impatient drivers were accumulating behind me while I struggled with it. The yard tractor -atypically – at least twice passed me as I struggled, without stopping. One driver loaned me a pair of wire cutters that made short work of it all. Her motives were entirely selfless since I was not blocking her rig. I returned the cutters with thanks and resolved to buy a pair before the next load.
The truck stop sells a line of tools and I found a pair of tin snips – the only candidate that might do the job. I tried them out on the remains of the Coke seal. You see the results. Not to worry, I was able to gnaw away at the cable with the pretend-tool until it finally surrendered – in a minute or two. The second photo shows what I knew that I would find on the label.
Above: It is a shame that the Company has to pay for such substandard tools.
Watch Out for That Next Wave
I reckon all of you receive unsolicited ads and promotions. I got one from LinkedIn that makes me a bit paranoid. Please see screen cap below:
Someone at LinkedIn figures that a 61 year-old man who took up truck driving when he was forced out of a professional position to be replaced by thirty-somethings would be interested in this neophyte who wants to drive him out of that occupation as well?
Let me think…Nothankyouverymuch!
The Answer is 42
My life has become my job.
Like most sweeping, unqualified statements, that one is full of unexplained circumstances and unexamined definitions of the very words that make up the sentence.
I reckon I had better start with the thoughts in my head when I first typed the words.
I spend all of my physical presence in or around this vehicle. I sleep in it, eat meals in it and I am mostly never more than a few hours away from it.
When you think about it, that – in itself – is not much more than saying that it is my home. I don’t own it, but most people do not own their own homes – at least not outright. This particular home is unusual in that it moves around the country, which is why its owners let me live in it. The “rent” I pay is by guiding it around and hauling big trailers (also theirs) that carry stuff to different places for profit. There is enough value in that pastime that they also pay me a commission based on how far I make this home travel.
My family live in other homes which circumstances allow that I visit occasionally. Most recently I visited my younger son in Dallas at his home on the University Campus there. It is unfortunate that there are few opportunities to visit Houston where my wife and older son live in the place I previously could claim was my home. We own that one! I will make it home – that particular home – around Thanksgiving for five days.
So, you see that whatever interaction I have now with my family is just something I work into the small gaps in my job. I can speak to them most any time. Using Skype or other such facility, we could actually see each other. I have not done that yet and I am not sure why.
I have noticed that the trip from shipper to receiver is the most pleasant and satisfying part of my life as it has become. The beginning and end of the trip are fraught with confusion and misspent energy. The third part is these interludes wherein I am neither loading, unloading nor traveling and that segment is the hardest to endure. It is made less onerous when I write, so you may expect more of that activity.
Stephen King said (something like) “I keep writing for the same reason that chickens keep laying eggs”.
I have discovered that I keep writing because it hurts when I don’t.
Deep Thought (see The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
A destination is just an excuse for a journey. It is the journey that gives meaning to existence. If you doubt me, then:
Will you accept the metaphor that life is a journey?
If so, then what is the destination?
No matter what your answer to that last question, are you in a hurry to get there?
Over The Road,
Above: The Flying J Truck Stop in Late Afternoon