Friday, August 22, 2008

G is for Garbage

PORTLAND, OR - I've had so many crises of faith, so many emotional/mental/psychological blocks throughout the last few months. But what pushed me over the edge and made me turn my truck in and finally quit Werner was a physical issue.

Thursday morning I got an assignment to pick up a trailer full of scrap, mostly old pallets, and take it to a waste management facility 20 miles away. I groaned at the shortness of the run, but whatever. Go pick up the trailer, take it where it's supposed to go. Which turns out to be the city dump. The city dump does not usually get semi trucks, and they're not sure what to do with me, and they're not even sure they can take the specific kind of checks that trucking companies use to pay for services (in this case, the fees for dumping stuff into the landfill). So I sit at the dump for about four hours while they decide what to do with the checks, until they finally decide that yes, they'll take it. And they send me up.

Mind you, I'm at the city dump. There are no docks, no forklifts, no one to help me unload the stuff. I mean, I'm at THE DUMP, where garbage truck drivers back up to the edge and tip their trucks up so all the junk just falls out. I don't have that kind of mechanism on a dry van trailer. My dispatcher confirms that yes, I am supposed to unload it. Open up the trailer door and find that most of the pallets are oversized ones, huge and heavy. And there's a big steel platform in there, and I can't even lift one edge of it by myself. I drag one pallet out, and call my dispatcher to tell him that I am physically incapable of doing this work, and whoever heard of a long-haul driver being sent to the city dump to hand-unload a trailer full of trash, anyway?

His first question: "What, are you real small? You can't lift pallets?" It's not a question of my size, idiot, it's a question of this kind of work being completely beyond my job description, as well as a question of the trailer contents being too heavy to lift for any one person, no matter how big and buff. In a fit of rage, I shoved two more pallets off the trailer after getting off the phone, then went back into the cab and started making panicked phone calls to non-idiots, like my old trainer Dana, who suggested I call my dispatcher's supervisor, who in turn gave the same bullshit that my dispatcher did - sometimes these loads are necessary, I guess we'll have to send a guy on this load instead.

I didn't get to leave the dump until about 4pm, after spending about seven hours there. I wanted to drive straight to the terminal and turn in my truck, but thought I'd sleep on it first. I did. Then drove to the terminal first thing in the morning and turned it in. The response from the guys at the terminal: this is a ridiculous ordeal, why didn't Werner just contract a waste disposal company to do this? Because drivers, especially rookie drivers who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, are so much cheaper. I mean, I made about $40 that day, all in all. This shit is not worth it.

I'm spending the weekend with my Portland friends, who were thankfully willing to pick me up from the terminal and put me up for a few days. Then I will take the bus back to Cali and try to get my head together, figure out what I'm doing next. Maybe another trucking company, maybe not. Right now, there's a cup of sludge-thick Pacific NW coffee calling my name somewhere around here, and it holds more promise than anything that's happened over the past week.


Decorina said...

Man that blows. What a bunch of fuck ups at Werner. I was only given one driver unload job - and I extracted $75 from my dispatcher for unloading 5 pallets of Corn Flakes with a pallet jack.

Way to go Werner - you idiots. No wonder their turnover is 200%/year. Good luck in the future. I might have done the same.

Anonymous said...

What happened to all that, "I am woman hear me roar" stuff. Maybe you can write about babysitting or waitressing or something like that!

Altimist said...

As a woman looking into trucking and immensley enjoying your articulate blog, I'm sorry to read that you've turned in the truck and decided to head home. I know the feeling of not knowing what's next - that's where I'm at right now. Good luck and good clarity!

Nightshift said...

Wow what a bum deal. I hope you find a better company to work for, or at least a more suitable type job. Personally, I look for the no-touch ones... but of course they're never easy to find. Best wishes to you driver. Don't give up completely.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the Great World of Trucking. Where racial comments drip from CB's like leaking faucets. Where one can still drive through states and towns, that have nothing that represents your culture. Where you do an awesome job for your company, and recieve little pay in return. Gypsy if you think Werner was bad, there is thousands of other companies just like it.

And the next time your in a community like Oakland please remember, that those people your listening for had thier backs against the wall and quit just like you did.

Sara said...

To the anonymous "Hear me Roar" commentor--I'd love to see you back up your enlightened thoughts with a first and last name. Also, let's place bets on how long you would have lasted in a situation that was a non-stop insult to your character and value as a human being.

Women's strength typically has more to do with long-term resilience, patience and the ingenuity it takes to think their way around opposed to, say, biceps. (If you'll notice, she did finish the job by herself.)
And truthfully, as much as you use the idea of babysitting and waitressing as examples of womanly (aka "wimpy") endeavors, I wonder how well you could do either.

Decorina said...

What Sara said. You self righteous jerk, Anon 1:08.

Steven said...

Sad to read that you're leaving so soon! I've also been thinking about trucking as a potential means of experience and have been benefitting from your stories, especially since you've taken charge of your own rig. I can understand why you quit, though, given the string of events.

Good luck with all of your future endeavors, trucking or not. And keep writing!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Some women are sensitive! I wasn't applying my comments to all women. My wife has been running team with me the past 6 years. I've been out here 11. Gypsy in several blogs talked of being treated like the guys. I was only sarcasticlly pointing out being one of the guys isn't always fun. Unwind your panty's and relax!

Aaron the Truck Driver said...

Sometimes i can say quick witted and wise things. Though you are probably being barraged with encouragement, i could give you my 2 cents.

On the phone too! For freeee!
email me if ya want. I can type too but it takes me a while to respond because i sit and think about things for days.


Sara said...

Yeah, you're right, anonymous. I am sensitive to someone's desire to partake in life regardless of gender, race and things beyond their control.

My point was that women commit many acts of strength everyday, most of which are invisible, intangible and completely ridiculed as "sensitive," as if that's a weakness.

Let's make sure we can take what we dish out--you joke about waitresses and panties getting twisted, we call you emotionally challenged apes. What's the difference?

The truth is, Gypsy Trucker's experience is about more than being a woman in a subculture typically viewed as male. It's about reconnecting with a culture, learning about the way this country runs, giving a voice to people like you, who make shopping, eating and living possible.

So let's just pay homage to that spirit of connection, instead of laughing at a girl who wants to be able to do something noble but can't lift something heavy.

Thanks for the discussion.

Inner Jib said...

I have some longish thoughts on all this, so I'll email them to you directly.

But, if you never go back to trucking, you've got nothing to feel bad about.

fatcaster said...

Sara nolastname --

Don't worry. Anonymous nolastname, who has years of experience out there--unlike you and Ms. K, is no more anonymous than you.

Gender has nothing to do with this discussion, in my view. Everyone commits "acts of strength" every day. Most people don't whine about it.

A "non-stop insult to your character and value as a human being." WTF? What insult? How has Ms. K been demeaned? She wanted to get her hands dirty. And then she didn't want to get her hands dirty. Stop making a big deal out of a driver unload--the Werner job description includes loading and unloading of heavy freight; your friend can't say she didn't know that.

"Giving a voice to truck drivers." (You have no idea how patronizing that is. Please stuff the noblesse oblige back under your hat.) Ms. K would have to be an accomplished and experienced driver to give a "voice." She still doesn't know squat about the work or the men and women who do it. So far, she's not a voice for anything but her own self-indulgent emotions; I don't mean to be unkind, but that's really all we have here. She brought no respect to the road. She complained about everyone and everything. She thought driving would be a journalist's stunt, a light-weight adventure, a twelve-month goof. Talk about unresearched expectations. In the end, she'd have been no more a trucker than George Plimpton was a quarterback. "Reconnecting"? Ms. K never connected in the first place.

Fatcaster / nolastname / million miler

fatcaster said...

Ms. Kaplan --

You like songs and titles. Put on Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody."

If you plan to try trucking again, I suggest you get a copy of your DAC/USIS file first.

And take heart: effort, sweat, and discomfort aren't poison, but you can damn sure poison yourself and blame others in the process. Or not.

Fatcaster / million miler

Zodar said...

It almost sounds as though you should have done some driver interviews to compare to the story you did on the school. I wanted to drive when i got out of high school but alas i was too young. Then when i was old enough and out of the Army the wife said "NO F'N WAY" she was kind of funny like that (didn't want to be maried to a ghost). Then many years later after the divorce, child support and debt prevented me from doing it. And now 26 years later i still think about kicking chocks and going for it but reality tells me the industry is too messed up with low pay, bad hours, and even worse company slavery out there. Let me see boss your equipment is broke and you want me to run it around to the shop and sit and wait for until it is done for free? Then the ol sitting and waiting for loads for free? How about sitting waiting to be unloaded for free? No not this guy, no way! As a mechanic if our customers equipment is broke i still get paid, if we have to wait for parts i still get paid, if i come to work only to find that we are at a work stoppage i get mnimum 4 hours pay just to drive 20 minutes back home. It is a shame that the industry abuses it's workforce the way it does and expects free labor from it's employee's but, ask your CEO's, CFO's, and board of directors to work for free and see what thier response is? Ha Ha We all live and learn i suppose but if you stick with it long enough to write that book i'll buy one to read. Take care and all the best no matter what direction life takes you.

Anonymous said...

Sara, I whole heartedly agree that, "women committ many acts of strength everyday". In fact I've watched the woman across the cab from me for 28 years raise her children, complete her college education and change careers all the while taking wonderful care of her family and now spends her time off taking care of her elderly parents. I have great respect for women! My comments to Gypsy were directed at one whiney young lady who couldn't handle the job many STRONG woman do well everyday. I hope this has been a charcter building experiance for her and maybe she won't look so lightly on others careers next time!

Decorina said...

Through all of her postings I never felt that she thought that driving was an easy job. And while going through 5 (was it 5? I don't remember how many exactly) trainers she certainly had a chance to experience many of the downsides to truck driving.

I have trouble wrapping my head around Werner sending her to the city dump with a trailer full of trash. Unbelieveable. Those college kids that they hire as FM's are sometimes a piece of work. I had to fire one dispatcher/FM myself because of his ridiculous behavior. He made it abundantly clear that he respected neither women nor new drivers. Once I got a new FM everything was fine, really. She had her moments (don't we all), but never did anything like that to me.

Gi-Gi Roxx said...

I hate to hear that you've turned in the keys and are heading home. But sometimes that's just the way it goes. If you do decide to give it another shot with a different company I wish you better luck.

If you decide to call it quits on the road for good, I can't say I blame you.

I love my job and all of the challenges I expereince every day. But there are times when I sit back in my bunk wondering WTF I got myself into. Some new challenge arises just about every day and when the going gets tough, I just push on thru and deal with it. But I can only do that because I genuinely love what I'm doing.

When you find what it is that you are meant to ... and you will... you will do it rain or shine. And I hope that when you do find it... you kick it's ass and make it yours!

Good luck Gypsy.... good luck.

Sara said...

Hi, Fatcaster.

I'm sure no one knows more about a subject/industry than someone who's dedicated a life to it. But it's wise, I think, to be open to other people who want to know more about it, even and especially when they fail.
It's easy to scoff at people trying their hand at something you've spent a lifetime perfecting. It's not so easy to find something worth admiring in their effort.
I'm a reporter by trade- I've watched as thousands of people call us mouthpieces, one-sided hacks who don't care about the community they write for. Many of these people are "citizen journalists" or bloggers, who go out and become armchair journalists, watchdogging newspaper sites and leaving snarky feedback on our lack of enlightenment.
But they don't actually become journalists. They don't go to school, work at a paper, under an editor and subject themselves to the pressures of the industry.
If they did, they would likely fail. But even so, I'd have respect for those few who tried to actually put themselves in our shoes.
Most have opinions that are completely unfounded, untested and untrue. Anyone who attempts to suffer the rigors of a professional reality, from the inside, are a welcome change, in my book.
Even in failing, they will learn.

Sal Paradise said...

Just found this today and read everything from the begining and now its over.

Wayne said...

Gypsy, even though I don't follow your blog all the time, I've heard your story from hundreds of others.

Everyone wants to drive a truck and see the country. It's a great gig if you can just drive around.

This is what happens to 90% of the rookies that try trucking. The problem is, now that you've stood up to one company, other company's will have second thoughts about hiring you.

If you decide to keep trucking, talk to a small company where you can sit face to face with whoever is hiring you, not just a clerk watching you fill out forms.

This is trucking's big dark secret that the recruiters and schools don't want people to find out. This is why the industry has such a huge turnover. This is why big companies don't give a rat's butt if you quit or stay.

They knew what that job was from the start. They did that to you on purpose.

When trucking is good, it's great. But driving has become such a small part of trucking, it takes the fun out of it.

Whatever you decide, good luck. After 10 years of driving and having my wife drive with me for awhile, I'm ready to join you.

Doco said...

Good luck girl, you were an entertaining read. Now go use your talent and not your brawn.

Wayne said...

I really enjoyed reading your Blogs. My wife and I looked forward to each new update. I already miss your honest and heartfelt trucking stories. I am currently finishing training with Systems Transportation. This is a second career for me and I do not intend to do it for very long. So far it has been interesting but not always fun. I do have a new respect for the professional men and women who keep this county supplied with almost everything. I hope you continue to write.

1L said...

I loved reading this blog, and am sad too that this adventure is over. Good luck with what comes next, and I just want you to know that I will continue to read what you write, where ever you write it.

To quote a favorite movie of mine, "She was a junkie for the printed word. Lucky for me, I manufactured her drug of choice."

Prince Roy said...

I think the words 'Fatcaster' pretty much sums it up. Very well said.

Paul Dmitriev said...

Whew, I glade you finally quite Werner.

By the way, Very neat blog.