Flying J Truck Stop, Interstate 35, exit 13, Laredo, Texas
This place is a nightmare. I am expected to fuel here and I planned to take my ten hour break and stage for the final, which is ten miles away. As I enter, I see each fuel island has a three rig entourage. One pulled forward after fueling, one at the pumps (dual tanks, you know) and one waiting behind. At a previously unvisited stop, the strategy is to examine the parking first. If spaces are abundant, fuel first and park. If the place is filling up quickly, park first and fuel in the morning. If the place is in bulging overflow, fuel and exit to look for sanctuary (actually, they call it “a safe haven”).
As I entered this one, I am dodging other rigs as they are circling like vultures, also seeking a space. All the way to the bitter end, behind the Natural Gas tanks, I am finding spilled over, double-parked rigs. I consign myself to the third scenario and start maneuvering to get back to the fuel lines and from there to be cast out to search for shelter. As I am passing in front of the pumps and scale, an empty space appears out of nowhere. I light the 4-way flashers and swing over in front of the scale to line up and back into it. My truck now blocks the scale exit, exit for all the fuel queues and the circulating vulture traffic. Tough luck boys and girls, but you would no doubt do the same to me. It is all over relatively quickly and they can all go past.
Fuel can wait. I ain’t goin’ nowhere till morning. Two-for-three dollar hot dogs and a hot shower await me in Yonder Oasis!
Parked around the corner from the Final, Laredo, Texas
Above: The “Final” is around that corner to the left, about 100 yards down. That road is choked with trucks on both curbs. The inset is a view of the trucks backed up behind mine.
A military man might call this a Charlie Foxtrot. As you might expect, this is a euphemism for an obscenity. Actually, it is a mnemonic phrase for an abbreviation of an obscenity. I got to the final forty five minutes early to find the narrow streets lined with waiting rigs on both sides. Around the corner is as close as I can get. I am watching the intersection as rigs come through the alleyway left by the “backlog” and inch around the corner into my alleyway. I have the intelligence to leave space at the corners and not block driveways. Not every driver was so blessed. Some savant has parked at the corner making the turn near impossible.
I walked my papers to the address and it is a locked fence. No guard shack, no instructions for drivers, no office hours. One lonely driver is sitting on a rock. This is one of a plethora of import/forwarding establishments abutting each other. None are open, none have guards or instructions. The trucks are scattered around as they arrived and nobody knows who will be first for where. If an expert had been hired and requested to tangle up operations and cause confusion and inefficiency, they could hardly have done worse. I foresee a long wait.
I just checked at 8:00 to 8:15. Nobody in the yard and 12 drivers standing around outside the locked gate like refugees. Returning to the truck, I called my manager. He told me to wait and I laughed hysterically. Just for effect, you understand. I have come to expect this sort of lunacy in this particular industry.
Returning at 8:30, I find no progress, but the foremen shows up to unlock the gate. There was a surprisingly orderly march to the warehouse and they took our paperwork and phone numbers and said what? That’s right, class, “Wait in the truck”.
That’s OK because I have all the comforts of home…except? Very good! Indoor plumbing! That’s OK too because the warehouse has that and it’s only a block away. They do need to display a sign with pictures depicting how to put the seat up before urinating. I won’t be using that seat today, thanks.
Ten twenty three AM (1023) and no call yet. Lucky I have this blog to write or I’d be bored with just Netflix, Internet News, Broadcast radio and telephone calls to the family. I must remember to pack some paperbacks for when all that fails, which it does from time to time.
Another visit to the warehouse at 1110. The truck stop was a nice dream compared to this atrocity. The loading docks are accessed only through a double gate off a narrow street that is lined with parked rigs. The dock area itself is not big enough to turn around so I will have to back in through the parked rigs, through the gate and stab the trailer in a door between trailers. But I will have plenty of time to think about it since it is now three hours past appointment and I still sit waiting.
Methinks I will refuse any load to this place again. Or perhaps I will just demand a $500 bonus. This is just simply physical, mental and financial abuse of drivers and the Company will ignore it and continue to do business with this Crapweasle outfit.
Now I have been here for six hours. Once again, I have been crapped on by the Company and once again, there is nothing I can do to remedy the situation. I have called my manager and I await some response. But, what can he do? Neither he nor I had any idea they were going to abuse me like this. So – as usual – I have nobody to blame. If someone had warned me I could have requested a repower (trailer swap), but no one thought to warn me because other drivers must take this abuse as normal and not complain.
I am six hours from Houston and there has to be a ten hour and a half hour break somewhere in there. Call it seventeen hours. That would be if I left now. I have yet to be called to unload and that might take hours, as well. The last time I was abused like this, I went up the powerstructure one step to complain and they bought me roundtrip airfare from Baltimore to Houston. Are they going to fly me home on Thanksgiving Eve? FAT CHANCE, BABY!
This is a freight forwarder who takes stuff off US trailers and loads it onto Mexican trailers. The manager tells me that all this backlog is all because they don’t have the Mexican trailers to load this stuff onto because there was a holiday in Mexico. And yet, they scheduled all the freight of twenty five drivers knowing that. They told me to check in again and gave me a name of a person to contact. In the office there are two women. The first we will call Flaca (Skinny Woman) and she is bilingual. The second is Gorda (Fat Woman) and Flaca tells me she Gorda only speaks Spanish. I assure Flaca that this will not be a problem. I tell Gorda my Company and ask what she can tell me. She does a stage whisper in Spanish to Flaca and says “tell him you are the person he has named. Gorda doesn’t want to speak to me. Flaca tells me “Wait in the truck. There are many ahead of you.”
Home At Last in Houston
So, Flaca was so very helpful – wait in the truck. Now, why didn’t I think of that? I figure Gorda does not want to speak to me for one or more of three reasons.
First, I am two months overdue for a haircut and days overdue for a shower. Clients like these are one reason for that, in that they make me spend time waiting in the truck instead of showering at the truck stop or getting a haircut. Second, I am extremely angry. I try to hide that, but I’m sure it comes through. Third, truck drivers are held in low esteem in Latin America. In fact, there is a saying that parents have for children with bad table manners. “Don’t eat like a truck driver (camionero)!”. This is often accompanied with a pantomime of one elbow on the table, with that fist to a cheek, holding the head up – while shoveling imaginary food into a gaping mouth with the other hand. My wife has quit using that one out of respect for her now Camionero Husband. Well, I’m sure she will stop if I mention it enough ;-).
In any case, no progress was made, and in fact I probably went to the end of the line on that contact.
The story ends with my complete loss of patience, composure and reason. If we can believe my involuntary screaming at my cell phone (connected to my manager), I lost my mind as well. But, late in the day and after 12 hours, I was told to drop the trailer at the Laredo Yard and take another to Houston.
I have learned three lessons:
One: You have to stand up to “the Company” since they will abuse you until you break. What is the worst they can do? I am a responsible, capable and valuable employee that works for insurance and sub-minimum wages. They won’t fire me for demanding decent treatment. I will, nonetheless start now to find some other employment when my commitment is up in May.
Two: Never consent to deliver to these forwarders. Let someone else submit to their abuse. I have offered to deliver to the freight yard any time. From there, finding local talent to go stand in line should be possible and none of my concern. I see that I will have to set the standards for “the Company” since my interests seem to be secondary or tertiary to them. Well, my interests now come first.
Three: Don’t try to take a home leave by driving the truck to Houston. Apparently it is just too hard to be arranged. I know they can get me to Dallas (the location of Purgatory (not the ski resort)) for a break because they keep sending me there when I don’t want to go. There is a “Megabus” that leaves Dallas and goes directly to Katy Texas (near my house) with only one stop, and that only for driver’s relief. It is no worse than a commuter flight. Especially when you consider that you don’t spend hours being scrutinized by the TSA and the seats are more roomy. My break time will commence once I arrive in Houston and end when I leave same. I will expense the bus tickets to the Company and raise Pluperfect Hell if they deny it (please see One and Two, above). They are, after all saving five days of yard fees in Houston.
As I was arrived at the Company freight yard, a call comes in. I see the number if from Laredo. Answering, I hear a tiny little voice say, “Can you come back to the street?”. It is Flaca! (Notice, she is not saying “it’s your turn to unload’).
“No”, say I calmly, “I cannot come back. I am dropping your load at a freight yard and leaving town”.
Revenge is best served cold.