So why am I here writing this entry? Because I want to talk about a different form of slavery: the trucking industry. I've been trucking for three years now and even though I've gotten used to it and don't hate it as much as I did when I first started, there are still plenty of things that infuriate me and highest thing on the list is: the lack of freedom to live a normal life. Trucking isn't just a job, it is an enclosed ecosystem. A separate world within the regular world. I will try not to bore you as I attempt to explain what I mean. I live inside of my truck. It has a bed, a microwave, a refrigerator, electrical outlets, climate control, storage shelves, etc. It's bascially a tiny apartment that makes money. I have an electronic device mounted to my dash (called an electronic logbook) that records every movement the truck makes which the government has complete control over. I am allowed to be on duty and working 14 hours a day, but can only drive for 11. There's the first shackle of slavery. I'll give you one quick example of how this government mandated logbook can backfire in the name of safety. A week ago I was up near Chicago driving east and trying to outrun a major snow storm coming from the west. I ended up in Ohio, unloaded, and my next load was three hours south of me which would have placed me out of the storms path. But I could not move my truck. My drive time expired and I had to take ten hours off before driving again. I woke up around 3am and found myself surrounded by a winter white wonderland. I cleaned the snow off my truck and drove through treacherous road conditions to reach my next destination, cursing the government for forcing it's will upon me.
Another form of trucking slavery comes by way of truck stops. We drive big, noisy vehicles and we cannot park just anywhere. Truckers are limited to truck stops mostly, but can also park at rest areas and sometimes WalMarts, however many WalMarts are banning us due to engine idling, oil leaks, property damage, and garbage. Many states have banned us from parking on the shoulders of exit ramps. Shopping malls, even though they are closed at night, will call the cops if we try and park there. So basically, truck stops are our safe haven. And truck stops know this. Take for example, the place I'm currently parked. It's a Flying J north of Houston. It has 233 parking spots for trucks, which is considered a fairly large truck stop, but of those half are paid parking, the rest are free. If you don't get here before 6-7pm you can bet your ass you'll be paying 18 dollars just to park your rig for the night. And this brings me to my reason for writing. Allow me to explain what went down.
I arrived here in Houston on purpose. This was a planned trip. I was hauling freight all the way from that Ohio snow storm, down south into the Carolinas, and then across the south to Texas just so I could spend the next five days here in Houston. Am I on vacation? Sort of. Truckers don't really get to take vacations. When we have downtime we have to cram regular life stuff into that time slot. You have to remember, we are always on the road driving all around America delivering Chinese manufactured products to your favorite store. That cheap purse you bought off Amazon? We delivered it to the nearest warehouse. That cell phone you hold so near and dear to your silly little heart? We got it to you. The carbs you eat, the lufa and soap you use, the table you sit at, the car you drive to work, heck, even the bricks, sticks and mortar used to build your home... we got it there. Literally every aspect of modern day society hinges on the fact that trucks move products of all types to and from businesses that need it.
I got sidetracked, apologies. Back to my point. somehwere along the way truck stops realized they have a captive consumer. We are forced to fuel up and park and spend every day of our lives at them. Back in the day, there was no such thing as "paid parking". Truck stops bent over backwards to please their customers with diners and home cooked meals, free coffee and parking, etc. But nowadays it's just a huge corporate money grab. The diners died and have been replaced with fast food. The coffee is not complimentary and the parking is no longer free. When I first got to this Flying J I fueled my truck up with 113 gallons of diesel for a total of $317 which earned me a free shower. Cool! I parked my truck in a free spot and then planned how I was to spend my time off. As I mentioned earlier, I'm in Houston for a reason. I will be visiting a chiropractic specialist here on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I am parked 6 miles away from their location. I arrived yesterday (Friday) which means I have this weekend to catch up on laundry and grocery shopping and anything else I might need to do. Laundry was high on my list of things I needed to do. I carry two weeks worth of clean clothes inside my truck and everything was dirty. Truck stops do have laundry rooms, but let me tell you about that. Typically they have three washing machines and six dryers. Why this many? I have no idea, but it is almost always 3 and six, which is fucking stupid when you think about it logically. I am one trucker and my laundry requires two washing machines. That leaves one. The next trucker will likely have two laods worth of dirty. And the trucker after him. You see the weirdness of their logic? Makes no sense to have an odd number of washing machines, but that's how almost all of them do it. Now, factor in the 233 parking spots and the fact that it's the weekend. Mnay truckers are on their mandatory 34 hour downtime, which means there's a parking lot full of truckers fighitng over 3 washing machines and 6 dryers. Do I even need to spell out how fucked up this is?
So I decided to locate a nearby laundromat. My plan was to unhook from my trailer and drive my truck to the laundromat, then go grocery shopping and hit up WalMart for supplies. When driving just a truck without the trailer, I can go anywhere a car can go. It's no big deal at all. Businesses and cops do not care when a big rig is parked in a parking lot without a trailer. So that was the plan. The laundromat opened at 7am and I had my alarm set for 6:30. I woke up, it was still dark and cold. I dressed and went outside, unhooked everything and separated truck from trailer and was fixing to leave and run my errands when suddenly.... security showed up. He literally screeched to a hault in front of my rig in his white pickup with a flashing yellow strobe light. He got out, angrily, and immediately confronted me in a manner that felt like a UFC fighter nosing down his opponent during the televised weigh in. I climbed down from my cab and asked what the heck his deal was, to which he replied, "You ain't leaving your trailer!" I calmly told him my plans, just as I explained them here to you in this blog, to which he aggressively replied by mouthing off the rules of his overlords. "Flying J does not allow dropped trailers under any circumstance! Hook back up NOW or get towed! Your choice."
I could feel my blood begin to boil. I could feel the past three years of hell I endured in the name of trucking come rushing into my fists. I remembered all the DOT dickheads, the overweight tickets, the unwarrented roadside inspections, the government harrassment, the thieving brokers making my life hell, the idiots who cannot drive properly, the hours spent sitting in bumper to bumper rush hour traffic, the impossible places I've had to maneuver my tractor trailer into and out of, the snow storms I drove through, the fat increase of my belly due to lack of exercise, the pains in my shoulders and backs and legs, the time spent alone in isolation without a life and friends, the expensive break downs, the constant stress of getting somewhere on time, the lack of sleep and constant fatigue, the malnutrition, the far awayness of everything. I knew in this very moment that the man standing in front of me was not my enemy, but instead a slave just like me and you and everyone else. He was just doing his job.
And so I snapped. If "just doing your job" means you don't care about civility or a cordial encounter with your fellow man, then you have sorely lost your way. For all the daily bullshit I endure being a trucker, I still hold doors open, I still hurry when fueling up and get out of the way for the driver behind me, I still clean the truck stop sink when I shave, I still carry my piss jug all the way to the dumpster, I still smile and greet and am friendly with people I probably hate. I am constantly being nice and leave no trace of hate behind. But this guy. THIS FUCKING GUY. He was hell bent on posturing himself and proving his authority over me. Imposing his will. In that very moment, while I stood there struggling between the urge to strangle or restrain, I recalled the Milgram experiment of obedience to authority that took place in the 60's and all those fucking idiots who shocked their subjects to the point of cardiac unknowingness. I felt my rage swell. I stared deeply into this guy's eyes as his chest puffed inward and outward and his strobe light danced brightly in my eyes. I took two steps forward, erasing the small amount of space that existed between us, and exploded.
"You can take that false sense of entitlement and shove it right up your fat fucking ass, you parking lot princess piece of shit!"
That's what I said. Those were the stupid words that flowed from brain to mouth.. and he didn't like them. Didn't like them AT ALL. Honestly though, after the fact, I was extremely amused by it. But in the heat of the moment, it kind of sucked. And so there we were, two assholes squaring off with one another. More words were exchanged, more anger and ill will and slave induced emotion. I don't know how long the whole thing went on, but we eventually got to the point of communication like two grown men. He eventually informed me that if I went inside and paid for a parking spot, that I could then unhook from my trailer and go run my errands. OHHH, so THAT'S how this shit works?! Color me suprised! Needless to say this new fact did not shed a glorious light on the situation. One could say it was merely gas tossed on an already well lit flame. I did not, however, take my continued frustrations out on him. I thanked him for telling me what was what and gave him a solid middle finger as he drove away. Then I rolled a smoke and leaned back against the hood of my truck while hating everything that resembles trucking and pondered a new plan for my life.