Sunday, April 7, 2013

One foot out the door.

Hey chillens.

This is another trucking update, because all I ever do these days is work and I HAVE NO LIFE! I work from the time I get up in the morning right up until I go to bed. I have practically zero time to myself, so I have no other hobbies or interests or stories to discuss with you. My whole life right now is trucking. Day and night, night and day, early to bed and early to rise, it's all goddamned trucking.

And if another person says to me, "Keep on truckin'!" and then laughs hysterically? Seriously. Maybe I'll laugh really obnoxiously right back at them until they feel bad and then there'll be an awkward silence as they come to terms with what they've done.

So about this no-life of mine. Of course I knew when I signed up to drive that I'd be on the road all the time and would never be home for birthdays or holidays or family barbeques, and that I'd be constantly missing out on community events and lectures and concerts and limited-edition museum exhibits. But I didn't think it'd bother me that much, because at the time I was thinking of the few people back home who drove me nuts and how nice it would be to get away from them and have an ongoing excuse not to see them. Plus I was excited about the prospect of living in my truck and therefore not having to pay rent or utilities and saving a ton of money that way. But now that I've been living like that for 5 weeks, I really just feel like an animal. Like a wild thing. Like a Heathcliff. I no longer have access to activities that are unique to humans and are markers of civilization. I don't get to socialize or date, I don't get to cook or maintain a home, I don't get to do anything artistic or educational, I don't have time to read books, I don't get to read the news every day, and so on. I just work. Work, eat, sleep, poop, and work. That's it. That's my no-life. My non-life. My un-life. My anti-life. Just call me Sleep-n-Eat. That's my new blog name. Well, Truck-n-Eat would be more accurate. And no, Jennifer, I'm not getting fat, thank you very much.

And or some reason people seem to think I'm rollin' in the dough over here. Like I have dollar signs in my pupils. Like I swim around in my vault of gold coins. Like I don a monocle while I sit by the fire and count my gold bars and arrange them into towering stacks.

Well, their bubbles are about to burst like dynamite-packed beaver dams, friends. Truckers—experienced truckers with good driving records—are solidly middle class in terms of income. Beginning truckers are down there with the fast food peeps. Like most truckers, I only get paid per mile, so whenever I'm hooking or unhooking a trailer, inspecting my truck, fueling, scaling, trip planning, loading, unloading, or submitting required paperwork and receipts, I'm not getting paid. And most of those tasks are done daily, so they really add up to a lot of time that I'm working for free, which is irritating. Since I've been doing this job for over a month now, the other day I calculated how much money I made versus how many hours I actually worked during the month of March.

It wasn't pretty. I worked well over 300 hours last month, so when averaged out into hourly pay, I made $6.73 per hour before taxes and $5.90 per hour after.


And it's still not pretty, because I don't see the situation improving for April. Or May. Or June. Or July. If I maintain a good driving record, I wouldn't get a raise until the end of August, and even then it would only be 4 cents. Now, I understand that in most jobs, newbies typically start out with pitiful wages, and that we have to stay awhile and pay our dues and work our way up the food chain. But in most jobs, people also get to go home every night and they get to go places on the weekends and see their friends and have some semblance of a life. I guess I'd be more okay with the ultra-low wage if the job was either less stressful and tiring, or more meaningful or mentally stimulating, if it was career material, or I was able to have some downtime during nights and weekends, or if I didn't face constant sexual harassment out here (which is a whole other post). I guess I'd be okay with a 4-cent raise if that were anywhere near enough to compensate for the no-civilization thing, or for the chronic anxiety that has gripped my chest like a Wonder Bra over the past month. I've never been a worrier, but this job has quickly made me into one. Now I worry all the time about getting into a bad accident and being charged with vehicular manslaughter and causing millions of dollars of property damage. I worry about that a lot. I lose sleep over it. I have frequent nightmares about it. And it doesn't help that Safety Cone uses scare tactics to try to frighten us into being better drivers and every time I walk into an operating center I see laminated posters of fatal crashes.

I almost did crash my truck the other day, which nearly gave me a myocardial infarction. I was coming around a blind curve on a hilly Interstate in Wheeling, WV, and just around the curve, traffic had come to a total standstill due to construction. I slammed on the brakes and was able to stop in time, but just barely. If I had braked a second or two later than I did, the little tow truck ahead of me would've been toast. And that is scary stuff, Maynard.

On a lighter note, last week I pulled into a Texas Roadhouse parking lot near D.C. to turn around, but once I pulled into the parking lot I saw that I couldn't get out without rolling over a few cars or taking out a couple stop signs, so I had to call the local non-emergency police to help me get backed out of there. Embarrassing, much? Man, I had traffic in that little strip mall all kinds of messed up. The good news is that this time the cops were very nice and very patient, but when I finally got straightened out one of them said, "And don't ever pull in here again!" Heeeee...I totally should, just to mess with him. Make him really work for his money.

So I realize I said in my last post that I can see myself trucking for a while, but I've changed my mind. Mind = changed. At this point I'm planning on just fulfilling my contractual obligation to Safety Cone and then looking for something else. Something where if I make a mistake, people's skin won't be peeled away from their muscles in a gruesome accident. Trucking is going to be a temp thing for me, a gig that will allow me to get some bills paid off so that I can move forward with other plans and adventures. I don't want to sound ungrateful for this opportunity, but I have bigger (and less physically dangerous) goals and dreams in mind. I still want to move to Chicago and attend comedy school, and I want a family of my own, and if I want the latter, then I need to be dating and setting up a home and working at a job that will allow me to maintain a household and take care of children. I can't do any of those things if I stick with trucking.

That's all I've got the energy to say for today, guys. (See: working all the time, tired all the time.) I'm working on another page for my sidebar entitled, "What's a Shimmering Chimp?" which should've been posted three years ago, so stay tuned for that, and I'm still working on that post about my dad kicking the can, which happened freaking two seasons ago already. At this rate I should have it done in time for Father's Day.