Sunday, May 25, 2008

Everybody needs some time on their own

DALLAS, TX - Arrived in Dallas and had a trainer assigned to me the following day. Unfortunately, her truck is in the shop until Tuesday. Damn. Stuck again.

The new trainer is the best one yet. She is a collector of second hand make-up bags, which she uses for every purpose imaginable. The brown bag holds pliers and screwdrivers, the leopard print one is for phone chargers and accessories, the black one is for fuses and other mechanical items. Her truck is craftily rigged with shelves and storage spaces attached by bungee cords and clips, equipped with everything you could ever need on the road. We get along incredibly well so far. She says that after we hit the road on Tuesday, I'll be done with my training before I know it. But I've heard that before, so I'm not holding my breath.

In the meantime, I am stuck in Texas, which I am convinced is its own special level of hell. I mean, really. Half the state smells like sulphur. The Dallas terminal is the biggest that Werner has, and the only one that has a hotel onsite. It is one of the crappiest lodging places I've ever stayed in, run down and dirty. All the buildings here form a gated, fenced-in compound - the fences to protect us from what is genuinely a shady area. Food delivery guys hand us pizzas and bags of Chinese over the barbed wire and take money through the fence as we make jokes about being in jail. Outside the wires, toothless prostitutes and their pimps circle the truck stop and hide in the tall grass of abandoned lots. The wind blowing across these plains is strong, hot, damp, relentless. It puts out cigarettes and steals words from lips, takes my resolve away, leaves a layer of sticky dust on my skin.

A reader recently left a comment asking me whether I miss the cerebral side of my past life, which is an interesting enough question to earn a public response.

In a way, I feel like what I'm doing now is more "cerebral" than what I was doing before. My most recent job had me writing mindless, middling news stories centered around mindless, middling towns. The job title of news reporter connotes thought and analysis, but the job I had was so dumbed down that a trained monkey could do it: go to boring city council meeting, write crap story. Lather, rinse, repeat.

These days, I write feverishly into the night. I see and hear more things than I have a chance to write down in the course of a day. My mind is on fire with ideas and observations. Some days (when on the road, of course, not sitting around hellish hotel rooms), the need to write overpowers the need to sleep. The paper journal I brought with me is almost out of clean pages. Most of this writing does not make it to the blog because it's part of something larger, and I won't share it until the larger project takes on a more cohesive shape.

The biggest challenge is to keep this big picture in mind. The main reason I am out here is to write about it, but it's easy - too easy - to lose myself in the small things, the highs and lows of each passing day. But as long as the pen is moving across the page, I remember why I'm here.


Scott said...

Do I smell a book coming?? "On the Road with Gypsy"? You write very well. Maybe you should get the camera out and take some artistic black and white photos. I can see the lot lizards through the wire fence now.

Things will be better once you get out of training; you'll start to work, make some decent money, and have more adventures.

But make no mistake, driving OTR is a very, very, hard life. You'll find yourself broke down, waiting hours loading and unloading, bad trailers, bad directions and only getting paid for the miles they say it is from point A to B (which isn't right). Then you run out of hours to work and your time off is sitting in a truckstop hundreds of miles from home.

You'll find these same problems with every trucking company. At least with a big company like Werner, Schnieder, etc. , you'll always have loads to keep you moving, benefits, and know you'll get paid (even if they mess occasionally).

1L said...

sorry to read that you're stuck in dallas. this post seems more hopeful than your most recent twitters. and it seems like your blog is gaining quite the readership! i love all of the recent comments.

Aaron the Truck Driver said...

But. The gritty parts can be quite interesting!
I would rather deliver to the pits of the great'ol U. S. of A. than deliver to the costco stores.

I understand what your saying though. When your "home" (on the road) its nice to not have to watch your back.

gabsatrucker said...

I agree with Scott, I love reading your posts. It doesn't help that the Werner yard is in an exceptionally bad part of Dallas. Be very careful around there. The Pilot there is listed as one of my fuel stops but I always try to avoid it.

On the other side, please don't judge Dallas based on that area, it's a large city and as such has its fair share of beautiful and interesting areas--you just don't get to see it while in a truck (that's going to be true of anywhere). When I was OTR I would try to rent a car if I was under a load that had some time in order to go sightseeing.

Decorina said...

What a great blog! Found you at Gigi's site. I used to drive for Werner (after 30 years as a commercial interior designer) and now deliver trucks for a dealership in Denver, CO. Things will be much improved when you get your own truck, though this trainer sounds OK. I trained with a guy that was a pretty good trainer - I mean, he didn't drop me off and leave me anywhere, but hey, he was still a truck driver!

I am somewhat of a foodie myself and agree that the food at truckstops is one of the worst aspects of the job. I became fairly adept at finding grocery stores, though and could also get better food at Costco when I delivered there (only after running the gauntlet of pissed off lesbians that seem to run most of the docks at Costco).

My blog is at if you'd like to have a look.

Decorina said...

BTW, if you ever get to the Werner terminal near Denver, CO (Henderson, CO, actually) give me a call. If I'm in town I'll come and meet you. Email me or leave a message on my blog for the number.

Are you on the road yet with your new trainer? I went back and read your blog from the beginning. We have some things in common, and yes, I couldn't shift for shit when I started with my trainer. I couldn't get the hang of double clutching after driving a stick in cars for years and years. I've got it down now - though I chug a bit figuring out each transmission in each different truck I drive.

TentmakerTrucker said...

Gypsy - Hi! I gather you're driving for Werner, as I just found your Blog. I was a "trainee" Jan. 2007 and May 2007 - and couldn't take the musical chairs with the trainers and just flew home, TWICE; i.e., gave up, TWICE. I loved driving the trucks, and I didn't mind the regimen, but the 'cabin fever' that afflicts the trainers, and the sense that you are just disposable as a person - it's really hard. I am a woman older than you (mid-50's), and I have been writing for years but not 'professionally' - essays, plays, screenplays. I've been to the Springfield, Ohio, terminal, but never down to Florida. People can't believe the horror stories, and they get tired of listening. But these are experiences that will stay with you for years. Don't worry about writing it all down right away. No way you can forget!
I am with your in spirit. Best advice: get a tape recorder you can hide somewhere to record what REALLY happens on the truck.

Aaron the Truck Driver said...

twitter: going home???
Its over Johnny?

Gi-Gi Roxx said...

Shew... you've been on quite an adventure just to get through training! I pity you... but at least you're able to write amazing blogs about it.

Anonymous said...

As someone, uh, fortunate enough to have worked with you in your last "mindless, middling" job, "cerebral" is about the last word in the universe I'd think to associate with you. Did you ever think that the fault for your "crap stories" was, well, that person you see in the mirror every morning? (Hint: It's not a trained monkey. Though one could, in fact, fill your shoes quite nicely). It took a bulldozer to get you off your ass.

Elephantine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elephantine said...

You won't phase her with comments like that, especially as an anonymous douchebag on the internet.

Anonymous said...

It's faze. "F-A-Z-E."

1L said...

hey Elephantine, thanks for commenting. i wanted to say something, but decided that it wasn't worth my energy to engage with an Anonymous A that is too cowardly to identify themselves.

Elephantine said...

heh, that was a very quick reply there Anonymous, you must have a lot of built up hostility to be visiting a blog about a person you hate and/or you have no life.

But hang in there sparky, maybe one day things will be better for you and you'll get a better job that isn't "mindless" and "middling"...; )

P.S. No problem 1l, she definitely deserves being defended, even if she doesn't need it.

Gypsy Trucker said...

Ok, wow, let's all simmer down here.

Thank you for defending me, Elephantine and 1L, but it's really not necessary. I've said my peace about the former job in question when I left it, and I don't feel the need to defend myself and my statements, except perhaps to say this: I should have left the company almost a year before I actually did. I have now learned my lesson - staying in a job that makes you miserable is not good for anyone involved.