Monday, October 17, 2011

The Finger

I got the finger today from a 20-year-old Barbie in her mom's Cadillac Escalade. Too late, I thought of our outlet supervisor, the fab Ms T, who always crows, "That's right, I AM number one!"  when she receives the bird.

God, I love driving and drivers. And our warehouse folks. 

I was coming out of a store's parking lot, today, making a right on a busy street. I didn't have a mambo-trailer behind me, but still, I would have been prudent to use the two lanes and meridian-turn lane in front of me in order to make my turn. I'm always prudent.

I was taking up the driveway, waiting for traffic, worrying about lunatics behind me who might tuck themselves into various blind-spots and inconvenient 'holes'  ... when young Barbie with her well-manicured middle finger and her mama's pearl-white SUV pulled into the meridian. She wanted to make a left into the drive after I had already pulled into the driveway, effectively blocking it.

I waited for oncoming traffic and began gesturing for 'young-platinum-girl' to move her vehicle forward. "Move on down. Move on down," I chanted as I gestured on down the meridian. Using the index finger, not its neighbor. 

Imagine my surprise when she threw up her cheer digit! In 20-20, I wish I'd given her a double-number-one gesture, right and left in unison. Or jumped from my rig and explained to her in detail, with pictures and crayon-maps she might understand, the prudence behind asking her to move on down the road so that my 35 ton rig might make a safe right turn onto the boulevard. 

Instead, I gestured again and repeated, "Move on down. Move on down." So much for thinking on my toes. I did, at least, smile at her in a smirking, amused, elder-woman way.

And she Did move on down. 

Trucker, one. Number one, that is. ... Barbie, zip.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Trucker Tans and Prufrock

"I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled." So lamented one J Alfred Prufrock in TS Eliot's poem. The shrinking, the diminishing, the awkwardness of aging. The props.

I have new reading glasses. Gawd, what a difference. No more holding the page arm's length away. No more squinting at my paperwork.

And I have a trucker tan. Tan, you say? 'Good, you.' Ah but this is no ordinary tan.

Left arm considerably more toasty than the right, until mid-bicep where each are equalized by my tee-shirt's protection. You can imagine what happens at the point where neck meets collar, as well.

And I'm wearing shorts! for the first time in my professional life. One one hand, I hear your approving, 'Yay, you.' So cool. So comfy. On the other hand, extra brown knees and milky-white below the boot line.

As Prufrock lamented, 'I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me.' ... but I'm okay with that.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Say Hey

M'goodness, it's been over a month since my last post! I've been uninspired, maybe, or nose-grindstone-en.

Here's a fun one you may not know. While the etiquette is being lost (as is etiquette in all facets of society), many a big rig driver will greet a peer on the road in a relaxed nod and an easy wave sort of way. We head bob and do a 'say hey' sort of deal.

My favorite is a reverse-three-finger wag. I swing up my left arm, nonchalant-like, my palm facing inward, and raise my thumb, index and middle fingers. The other two remain loosely curled. Accompanied with an easy 'wha'sup' nod.

I'm also fond of the guys who do the 'wagons-ho!' wave. They begin their swing at the shoulder, fingers starting in the curled position, then straighten as the wave arm thrusts forward towards the windshield. Or horizon. Ho-ohhhhh! John Wayne, you flutter things in me that oughtn't-a flutter.

No finger wagglers to-date. Drivers are too cool for finger waggling. No frenetically-friendly wavers either. That would just be pushy. No, it's always a relaxed, coooool sort of greeting, an acknowledgment that we're peers. We're a club. We're different from the road-remoras who flit and flow around us.

Can you imagine sending even a nod-eyebrow-lift greeting to the soccer moms and tie-wearers on the road with you? Sending even the most brief of messages that says, "I know you. You're one of my kind," to them? Hah! Get ready for soccer mom to send you a single-finger message of her own. (That's right, I am number one! ... or so I tell my bird-flipping friends.)

The art of the brief-greet across highway lanes is dying I'm told. Still, retro-grrrrl that I am, I'm working on my  say-hey and head bob, in hopes of a trucker-etiquette renaissance.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Don't Tread on Me

Okay, so that pun was so obvious, it's a groaner. What's coming? A post on ...tires!

What to do about the common occurrence of  nails in the tires? (Remove 'em, spray soapy water, watch for bubbles. Call the tire guy if you see bubbles.)

How about various tread wear patterns? Flat spots across the entire tire -- probably from locking up the breaks. Wear on the outsides of the tires -- often under-inflation, maybe an alignment problem. Wear on the inside of the tires -- over-inflation. Cupping, as in occasional flat spots around the entire wheel -- a variety of causes, such as an unbalanced wheel or alignment problem. And never underestimate the impact of bad drivers.

But the answer as to what to do should be easy. As a driver, you aren't paid to think. Certainly not to process cause-effect. You do a pre-trip; you do a post-trip; you record what you see; you give the record to your boss.

Your boss thinks. Isn't that brilliant?

I love that.

I don't have to think when I look at wear. I just have to pull out my tire tread depth gauge (or a Lincoln penny). On a steer tire, I need a minimum of 4/32nds of an inch; on a rear tire, 2/32nds of an inch.

Now, of course, driving for a small company without an on-staff mechanic in a county without a scale house (with its threat of inspection) requires an extra skill-set many-a-driver may not need -- one must be able to repeat, over and over, "California law says..." "California law says..." "The CHP says..." "The CHP says..."

Not much thinking involved. When the resident warehouse 'expert-in-all-things' wants to talk about tread depths and what's safe versus what's in the Commercial Driver Handbook, what's 'real' versus what's bureaucratic BS, you can say, "But the CHP says..."   ... Then clock out and go home at the end of your shift.

I mean, really. Tread depth rules are yet another government conspiracy? Don't you think the government is awfully busy covering up other frauds, like the lack of cheese in American cheese?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Top Ten

It ain't funny or quirky, but I recently learned that I'm in a field that regularly shows up in the "top ten most dangerous jobs in America" lists. Often above police or fire fighters.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2009, drivers were 9th. In 2010, we rose to 7th.

(from msnbc.com, with the 2009 numbers) "Miners and police officers face many dangers. In 2009, the most recent year for which we have statistics, 101 miners and 97 police officers and security guards died on the job, making for a roughly similar fatality rate of around 13 deaths per 100,000 workers. 

But neither cracks the top 10 on our list of America's Most Dangerous Jobs. Going by fatality rates, workers have more to worry about in such seemingly mundane professions as roofing, farming and sanitation."

Forbes.com slideshow: America’s most dangerous job

... and apparently, commercial driving.

In 2009, police officers weren't in the top 10; in 2010, they were listed10th. Firefighters in 2010 were 13th.

When I think on it, it makes sense that drivers/transportation workers face high fatality (and injury) rates. We all know how dangerous the roads are -- and commercial drivers are on them 40+++ hours per week. We also don't have the training, societal awareness or support that our brave (and aware) public servants have.

We get on down the road. I've said it before and I'll say it many times, I imagine, "If you bought it, I brought it."

My point? Give those rigs a break. and love your trucker.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

BAD Betty

You may not believe this, but I'm unused to being deliberately, consciously cold-hearted.

Today, I was *Looking left, right. Conspiratorial whisper* a bitch!

I'm going to pay for it tomorrow, but for tonight, it feels, well, kind of wonderful.

Year, month, week, day, moment after moment, we see what needs to be done and what isn't being done. Year, week, moment after moment, we take the high road and do what's needed.

Not today.

I offered to do overtime, knowing overtime was needed to get the runs done. Cocky Dock Guy, who won't ask for help, who stomps around like he's all that, shrugged and said, it didn't matter. I asked, "Really?", knowing that it did, and that he was too much the self-congratulatory martyr to ask for help. Predictably, he repeated, "It doesn't matter."

So I said, "If it doesn't matter, then I'll go on home on time."

Talk about one silent, sullen Cocky Dock Guy. He cancelled one of the last two runs. And he'll find a way to pin it on me. But for me, what a revelation!

I. Can. Be. A. Bitch!

I'll feel guilty tomorrow, but for tonight, *happy dance, happy dance, happy dance!*

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Last Hurrah

I did the 7am run up to Mendocino County today. Crawled into work after finishing at 6pm the night before, and the Soop's Soop laughs, "Living the dream, huh?"

Two hours later, I'm on the "ridge" at the top of the pass separating lower-elevation Ukiah from higher (in more ways than one) Willits. Hippie central. Home of Wavy Gravy's ranch and the Kate Wolf Memorial Folk Festival. ... oh, how I love both.

There's a dusting of snow on the ridge, and I'm on a four-hour trip, holding consults with Bruce Springsteen, Antonin Dvor├ík, Lyle Lovett and Annie Lennox, four minutes at a time.

The Soop's Soop is in a warehouse in a typical mid-sized city, in meetings and checking email.

Me. On the Blue Star Highway with snow-dusted evergreens. Him. In a windowless office in a concrete building. Me. Enjoying the radio on the kind of rainy day that is all big cumulus clouds and blue skies. Him. Sighing at each never-ending cell phone call and chime of the incoming email.

Yes, I'm living the dream.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I Stink.

Or more accurately, I stank.

You KNOW how much I adore my night showers. Spring has arrived, and with it, spring temperatures. Summer's 80's and 90's are coming, but for now, a 70-something day leaves me sweaty, bone tired, and meat-grinder sore.

When I got home tonight, I hopped under the pelting water of the shower head, not simply to enjoy a dunk, but because I stunk, dear reader (everywhere). And because my face felt pasty and stiff. ugh. hate that. The shower was wonderful.

Spring is here and summer approaches. I started this job last September, so I've yet to experience a summer. ... I'm thinking the coming triple-digit-months are going to teach me a great deal about exhaustion in unfair heat.

Stinky or no, I'm livin' the dream.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I Grow Old, I Grow Old

Okay, enough reference to J Alfred Prufrock.

I grow old.

Yesterday, a dock worker at one of the stores turned 21. I'm twice his age! 2 21's!

If only 1 of those 21's was my left buzzy, and the other, my right. No, indeed not. The buzzies continue their slow unwind. Two weights in a grandfather clock.

And then there's my dock guy. He makes me feel old. Weary. World-worn. Even though he's probably older than I am. Two days of overtime. Not necessary overtime. Stupid overtime. I don't mind the former (weee! money!); hate the latter (my dock bitch is screwing up! in stupid ways!)

He has the unfortunate inability to realize when he's drowning until he's up to his nostrils in murky swamp water. He tries to do it all. Just as Nick Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream wanted to play his role and everyone else's role, too, so does my dock guy. .... He. Will. Not. Ask. For. Help. ... Even when he is repeatedly told to and offered help.

I'm old. I'm annoyed. He makes my ass twitch.

I'm reminded of that classic joke about the man, waiting on his roof as the water rises. A man in a row boat comes by, offering aid. "No thanks. God will save me." A man in a power boat comes by. "Nope, I trust in my God to save me." A helicopter hovers overhead, and it too is declined as the man waits for God's salvation. The water overtakes him and he drowns.

Up in heaven, he asks God, "God, why didn't you save me?" and God replies, "I sent you a row boat, a power boat and a helicopter. What more did you want?"


... Curmudgeon, here I come.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Alpha Grrrl Protects Her Turf

So our other class A has left the building. (I won't say why. That would be indelicate.) This leaves me with five other class C's. Yep. I'm alpha grrrrrrrrl. Of course, I was alpha from the day I arrived, but that, too, would be indelicate to crow over. (Besides, others might disagree. and be wrong.)

So they're advertising for another class A. Even interviewing in the brief days since listing the position, hoping to return us to full staff quickly.

Among the fav's, a driver with "lots of experience." Is it wrong that one part of me is happy with the idea of having a knowledgeable class A around, a mentor, as it were? But the larger, meaner part of me is digging in, thinking, "Mine." ...My turf, my seniority, my Mack, my alpha.

I've put on the metaphorical metal conical breasts protectors. Bring on the new guy.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The new career, flashing before my eyes

I'd rather be lucky than good, any day.

...and that's all I've got to say about that.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

aka 'Just a Normal Day in the Warehouse'

Okay, now, this is important stuff.

Real important.

We gotta get this very important stuff figured out.

Problem-solve it.

Analyze it.

Synthesize it.

Evaluate it.

Come up with a solution for it.

Now, not tomorrow.

This real important stuff needs our absolute

     *Squirrel!*

This other stuff.

It's really important other stuff.

We'll need to put our heads together right away on this really important other stuff....

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Don'Care Delight

Yesterday, the Soop told me I'd be shuttling two to three runs from one (small) warehouse to our (big, main) warehouse, daily for several days. Until the small warehouse is cleared out.

'Ahhh, logistics.' ... No, indeed.  'Ahhh, clear communication.' I'd take even half-assed communication.

First thing today, I had to empty yesterday's run into the big warehouse before taking the empty trailer to the small warehouse. I opened the rolling door and Wham! Two wooden headboard/footboard sets fell on my thigh, leaving a baseball-sized bruised knot-o-flesh. Cursed a blue streak at the useless bastards who put four two-foot-tall planks of wood upright on the end of a trailer.

The Soop's Soop, coming to take a look, said, roughly, "I didn't know they were sending this stuff. We've cleared out the outlet center for their other stuff."

I said, "Their other stuff is out there in a trailer in the back 40."


He said, "Huh?"


I said, "It's been there for days. I hear we're moving in a bunch of loads of this stuff before unloading that other stuff."


He began wondering why that might be, by golly, and speculating on communication failures.

And I said, "Don' care. I'll drive, load and unload whatever you tell me. Just tell me. Beyond that ... I. Don'. Care."

He said, "It's good to be the driver."

Indeed.


(I edited on this one a wee bit, just so's you know.)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Whim is My Copilot

I've been mighty active the past few weeks. Maybe I'm just finally getting into the rhythm of work. Or done grieving the opposite-hours schedule with the Sweet Babboo.

I think it's those things, plus more hours-o-daylight. I'm a sucker for sunshine. (Yep, I'm one of those evil Californians who moved to Seattle -- just to realize that Kurt Cobain's mopes made perfect sense. Every Starbucks should come equipped with a Prozac salt lick.)

Still, I think it's more than spring fever or emergence from the blues. I think I'm finding that sweet spot where my job is a job and my personal life is my own. Most days, I am relaxed and thinking of not much of anything as I drive to work ...and enjoying the return to the surface as I drive home from work. Weird.  ... and I know some of you totally get what I'm talking about.

I'm no techno-phobe luddite, but, damn, we've supercharged our lives and plugged our psyches into the 24/7 news cycle. We're the animal that never sleeps. Work invades our weekends, our commutes, our homes, our dreams. Down-time is something we schedule time for ... and approach with bizzarre intensity. Ironic? Uh, yah.

Not to mention our "I want it all and can have it" delusion. A student bitched me out once because I 'couldn't understand' her limitations, given that I was (then) single and childless, and therefore had an easy, uncompromised life. (Hah!) She was a wife and mother and employee and full time student, after all, so she couldn't possible be expected to be held to a standard I'd hold for other students.

Tip to the over-committed: You Cannot Have It All.

Sorry and thanks for playing.

You have only so many hours in the day, so many resources, and so much potential. (Gasp if you like, but I weren't never going to be Baryshnikov's dance partner. 'Oh say it ain't so, Missy! Why you can do anything you put your mind to!' ... See what I mean?)

But I digress.

If you're tuned in, hardwired to the grid and happy, then more power to you. I have lots of friends who are.

As your classic burn out, I'm just sayin', I love that I'm not out to have it all. That several hours of each day are driven by whim.

I also love that my new career has just enough challenge to keep me interested. But not so much that I'm taking it home with me. Home is for hubby nuzzles, dog adorations, slow cooker experiments (pulled pork bbq today!), apple butter canning, garage door installations, firewood stacking, phone calls with the Mothership, facebook boasts, 8 hours of sleep a night and the occasional blog post.

Friday, February 25, 2011

ooooohnew twucks!

Okay, so they're just baby trucks -- class C box trucks, gross vehicle weight about 26,000 lb. But they're so cute! and so comfy!

Girl moment. They have cup holders (unlike our others which Used to have cup holders way before I arrived). yayyy! And cruise. and a little thingy to plug in my i-pod. (I drive an '02 Rav, what can I say? I have a cell phone that is used merely as a phone. Cut me some slack.)

Ahhh, but the other shtuff! 6 cylinder in-line. automatic transmission (by Alison). Plenty-o-power for our highway and town purposes.

Girl moment, again. I can reach all the dipsticks and belts and air break drain cords! ... Unlike that pphhhhltttt GMC where absolutely Every fluid and belt check item you need to reach daily is damn near impossible to get to. I'm particularly unfond of the option of standing on my tire in order to reach and pull the auto transmission fluid stick (some 3 freakin' feet long) ... while imagining myself falling into the big spinning fan. fun.

Ahhh, but the International MaxxForce (now there's the name of a pro wrestler or porn star) ... Its nobs, I can reach!

Having a great time reading the manuals. Like I said, these things must be boys cuz they're all laid out in a book. My Mack, #1 in my heart, but the Int's make the day happy, too.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Why We Do It

Well, for one, there's my Origami Dog, our dalmation mix rescue girl who can fold herself down into something that would tuck easily into an overnight case. And there are her pug mix 'brothers' ~ all of whom think Sweet Babboo and I are the best hunter gatherers ever.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Come Home to Me"

We end our phone calls with, "I love you."

Somewhere in the conversation sneaks, "Be safe," or sometimes, "Come home to me."

The typical exchange of husband and wife drivers.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Flares

Sky flares were a part of my childhood, growing up on a moth-balled army base along Highway 101, close but not too close to its civilianaive transit corridor. From my childhood home, a WWII-era barracks, I watched cars and trucks travel on their night-drives, along a far off section of the highway. This was the 70's, the era of big rig Christmas lighting, when the independent operators decked their tractor trailors in burning yellow and white and red, from nose to trailer.

Big-rigs offered the land-flares. In contrast or complement, the military sky flares cracked from the gun and hung in the summer air along an empty valley. No Viet-Cong (the enemy past) and no Taliban fighters (the enemy, as yet unimagined). Just the lazy, slow float of yellow light, witnessed by a child on a bluff above the river plain on a 90 degree summer night.

Even on those nights, big trucks featured in my fantasies. A truck, strung with lights and the hit Alabama tune "Roll On" braying over the FM -- In my dream, this truck and its driver would stop, and the paternal, safe, home-spun hero would take me along for the ride. I'd be his side-kick, his girl Friday, the Bear to his BJ. (Okay, now there's a dated tv reference for ya.)

What kid doesn't fantasize about being that gypsy spirit? And yet, how many kids have memories of the crack of the flare gun, the pop and glow and drift of the flare, and its interminably slow death as it fell in increments of night?

Another kind of flare impacts this adult me, its potential banked in 12-inch red tubes that are stored next to the emergency triangles. So uninspired and unimaginative, these flares are lit much as a match is ignited ... by the friction drag on a hard surface. They have their own beauty, I suppose, but they're the sad things hissing on wet asphalt next to fender benders. For that matter, mostly they're the tubes rolling around in my cab.

I'm not much on nostalgia. I'd be the last to say that the world was better, safer, more innocent in 'my day.' Still, flares in a childhood that experienced truly pristine night skies. Those were damn cool.

...

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Cupid Proxy

Ahhh, Valentines. *bubble hearts halo my head*

Sneer all you like, but if "Hallmark Holidays" weren't here to remind us to express our love and thoughts for others to those others, we'd likely take for granted the people who make us most happy. (Valentines Day reminds us lovers to take a pause to think about how fudged-up we'd be without our beloved other. What's so sucky about that?)

Ah, but Valentines for drivers on day v night schedules (and others like us). We've resorted to passing notes. Last night, I came home to a handmade card that assured me my Sweet Babboo loves me. And two roses from our front yard (yes, roses in Feb! It's not right, but it's tres romantic.)

This morning, he came home to a handmade card with one of those naughty IOU's.

Some lovers in days past sent a proxy to their heart's desire to tickle any embers that might be kindled. Our proxies were folded-in-half computer paper 'cards' decorated in ball-point pen. We're 40-something salt-of-the-earth types, my hubby and me. And I'll take our love affair over any Shakespearean pair any day.

To speak only of the driver's life for the moment, how do we keep the fire hot in a lifestyle that is 24-7 and (for some) spanning 48 contiguous states? ... Cupid proxies. Cell phones. Devotion despite absence. Letting the dogs sleep with us when the other is away in order to avoid the empty bed. Leaving our ghost in the house for the other to embrace when they arrive home.

An imperfect Valentines Day, but the gesture was there and the bond reaffirmed. And the dogs aren't complaining.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Year or So Later

It was January 2010 that I began training to become a class A driver, and I'm feeling nostalgic, one plus year later. I've also been reading a bunch of 2011 news reflections on the end of the 'Great Recession' ~ which apparently r.i.p.'d many months ago, although no one told me, nor my struggling friends, family, peers and coworkers.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for those who know me has been how very much I've loved this career change. My ten gentle readers know I spoke often of Sweet Babboo's amusement as I began this 'lark'. He's among those who never figured me for the kind of girl who would shoulder-march across asphalt to get an upward look at the under-belly of a tractor.

A year later, the husband is thoughtful and judicious in answering the ongoing commercial-driving questions I have for him. "Is 140+ psi too high for the air brake cut out?" ... "The tire is hitting the steer arm in right turns. That shouldn't be possible, right? What's supposed to stop it?" ... "Exhaust manifold? Injectors? Leaking injectors? What's that all mean?" ... "How important is it to have dust caps on the brake chambers?" ... "Does my Mack have a brake clutch (oops, I mean clutch brake)? One of the guys says it does but the Soop says it has a hydraulic thingy, not a clutch brake. What's he talking about?"

Babboo has always loved, honored and encouraged me, never fear. But this left-turn-o-mine took some convincing. He's convinced.

While waxing nostalgia and progress tonight, I also find myself revisiting the very fabulous* Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B Crawford. Again, I say, read it. And while I find I agree with him that simplicity is not the same as vocational work or craft work or skilled labor ... I also adore the knowledge that I can only do x in y amount of time. At the end of the day, when I shut down the truck, turn in the paperwork and clock out, I can do no more. Bliss! ~ the liberation of the email-shackled white collar 'information worker'.

The Great Recession is giving me many opportunities. To perfect poverty. To realize, as Thoreau knew, that our wants and needs mandate an exchange of life energy. And to honor my life energy, valuing it above the things I can let go. To learn what I can give up and who I cannot. My family, my husband, my self.


*Yes, I remember, fabulous is a superlative. You've probably noticed many many changes in the vocab over the year. ... Momala despairs over my potty mouth.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ask the Womb

So tonight, the Sweet Babboo asks me where the can opener is. I say, from my chair in the office, that I used it last night. Other than that, I couldn't say. He calls out from the kitchen again, "Can't find it!"... I say, " I don't know what to tell ya." A minute passes. "Can't find it!" I walk into the kitchen, open the dishwasher with its clean dishes. Bottom rack, silverware basket, can opener.

I hand it to him, and he says, "It's not my fault." Because that's what men say.

I reply, "I asked my womb. I said, 'Womb? Where's the can opener?'" and it told me.

In the warehouse this morning, I'm doing my thing, feeling the Monday grumpies, and wouldn't you know? The warehouse folks have put their crap on the transportation dock again. Or, more the the point, the men of the warehouse have. I ask Y-chromosomed coworker about the mess, and he says he didn't do it. To him, that's all that matters.

Thank God, the X-empowered coworker came along. She doesn't care who put the crap on our dock. Within 10 minutes, she's got the docks clear and the X-challenged working on working the trash compactor, clearing up boxes, putting things where they belong and generally just making order of the chaos.

So how is it men overwhelmingly outnumber women in jobs like ours?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cutting-Board Prayers

A friend has a sorrow, you cook 'em up something. That's just the way it is.

If broken in body or spirit, what comfort is there, except in a beef stew with carrots and potatoes? Home-baked peanut butter cookies? Neighbors showing up at your door, refusing to stay but dropping by a little something for the freezer, so that you won't have to cook for a few days while you mend.

A casserole equals time. No one wants to think about putting on dinner when they are under a shadow, when gravity has set in particularly hard that day to weigh them down and make even the act of breathing just a bit more difficult. A casserole popped from freezer to oven is one less thing. And the quick comfort of being cared for by friends, neighbors, family.

And what comfort is there to give, except words, which you can't eat, and food, which you can? (Although, arguably, I've eaten my words a few times. It just wasn't very satisfying.)

Today was another day for cutting-board prayers, this time for my neighbors J & M and their kids. J had a heart procedure yesterday to remove two blockages, stunning us all. He's okay, thank God, so most of my prayers as I browned chicken and chopped onions were prayers of thanks.

So I gave many thanks and now a chicken provencal is bubbling in the pot. I'll take it by the house this evening.

...Of course, being a childless forty-one year-old woman, I didn't consider until half-way through the process that I'm cooking a dish that calls for 3 medium onions, 1 1/2 cups dry white wine and 16 cloves of garlic. For a household with a teen and a pre-teen.

Not a perfect comfort, but maybe if I sieve the sauce, the kids won't notice.


(A 2/3/11 note: I'm somewhat relieved to report that J&M are fine. It wasn't J, but J's father-in-law who was ill. And he's doing well now. ... and it wasn't 16 cloves, but 12. Which I eyeballed into 3 tablespoons of chopped garlic from a jar. ... So I'm lazy. You're surprised?) 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Keep Walking

Lost my "Holy F**k!" drivirginity this week. (What? If Shakespeare and Germans can play loose and festive with contractions, so can I. ... Well, I can.)

Tractor trailers are big, freaking dangerous death machines, in case you didn't know.

In this case, a trailer just ate a leg. Well, chomped-n-gnawed on it a bit, although my coworker and friend, now on day two in the hospital with a cast up to his ass might parse it differ'nt.

First, I wasn't there, gentle reader. I had dropped off the trailer at the loading dock that morning. But I've seen pics, heard the tale and visited the leg, and so I'm counting this 'holy *uc*!' moment.

Here's the story. Most trailers only have tires on the back end of the box, whether one or two axels doesn't matter. The point is, for a trailer to stay horizontal without the truck/tractor on the other end, you have to put down a landing gear (metal legs) located about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way down the box. In the end, the trailer's nose will stick out some distance beyond the landing gear.

Unless there is a brace or a jack under the nose, do not put anything very very very heavy into the box's nose. Like a forklift.

You. Will. Tip. The. Trailer. Like. A. See. Saw.

Which is what my friend did, regretfully. He drove a forklift off the dock onto the trailer and out to the nose to pick up a gaylord.
  • Good news, the trailer nosed over only some 2 feet or so.
  • Bad news, the very very heavy dock plate got jammed up in the trailer.
  • Good news, the very very heavy dock plate kept it from going ass-over.
  • Good news, bad news, good news, bad news later ... my friend's leg wound up pinned between the trailer and the dock. Fractured. Flesh-mangle, bone-views and all. ... He took pics on his i-phone.
Lessons to learn:
  1. Respect these beasts.
  2. If you have the good luck to walk away from bad luck, keep walking.

Monday, January 17, 2011

My Mack HAS to Be Male

Top Ten Reasons My Mack Has to Be Male:

10. The Freudiobvious implications of its 24 inch stick shift. I'll leave you to come up with the countless graphic cliches. Don't forget the nob.

9. His name is Mack. Duh.

8. My Mack is a big, powerful machine, but when he breaks even one little thing, he becomes a big baby that needs to be nursed along with lots and lots and lots (did I say lots?) of TLC.

7. I have to pretend to agree with him while I make him go where I want him to go. If I need to back the trailer to the left, I have to turn the wheel to the right. and vice versa. If I need to turn into a driveway on the right while towing the 48 footer, I had better take my Mack far to the left. Never mind that I'm blocking all the traffic behind me. My Mack is all about screwing the other drivers on the road.

6. He's all big and bad, but he needs a good woman to drive him.

5. He needs lubricant. Lots and varied kinds of lubricant.

4. He's obsessed with coupling ~ Butt connectors (no lie. butt connectors). Worried about glad hands and the possibility of kinking hoses? One website offers, "Nylon Composite gladhands with stainless steel connectors, urethane seals and brass nipple." Brass nipples. Hmmm. Only a male would find those advantageous. A prudent woman would think about the cost of clothing wear and tear.

3. His air cuts in with a sigh at about 85 psi; then it builds and crescendos, cutting out at around 120-135. Oh dear, such a dramatic release. BIG hiss and falling gauge. Sooo over the top.

2. And if he cuts out above 135, I'm supposed to contact his doctor.

And the number one reason my Mack couldn't possibly be a female ...

1. Want to know how my Mack works? He's totally explained in a book.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Effort vs Inspiration. Success Stories vs Little Bastards.

I was a B student at university. I can even attest to 2 D's on my transcript ~ French and French Literature. The first, I blame myself. The second, I blame the throat-clearing burn-out who lost her train of thought whenever she lost her place in her notes.

In any case, I have never been an inspired, 'natural' learner. I was of the work hard, show up each day and go home and do your homework each night, vein of student. I am arrogant enough to realize I'm smart. I'm also aware enough to know smart don't count except in inked-in crossword puzzles.

The first rule of success is showing up.

I had a smug little bastard in a class back in the early '90's who blew off too many lectures and too many assignments, then showed up for the final. He'd already failed, of course, but had a right to take the test. He later showed up in my office, talking about how he'd been bored by the level of material and the stupidity and struggle of the other students. He was planning on attending an Ivy League one day.  ...blah. blah. blah.

And I admit to some pleasure in telling him that those "stupid" students were heading for university while he was not. ... Success is showing up.

So here I am, a student once again. I want sooooo much to learn! Sometimes I'm frustrated that there are few mentors in my current workplace. Still, most times I'm excited by each new 'ah Hah!' moment, each new skill.

For 4 months, I've been inspecting the same 6 trucks, day in day out. And every once in a while, there will be a day when I think, "I've never noticed that before." Missing dust caps on the brake chambers. A slipped splash guard that is now rubbing a tire.

For a week, I've been puzzling over a random shiny spot on the steer arm of my beloved Mack. Today, I had that lovely Eureka! click. I climbed up in the cab, fired him up, turned the wheel ...and viola. Turning the wheel to the right, pulls the steer arm back, and 'there.' The tire hits the steer arm. Not good. and yet how much fun to puzzle and solve, to work the problem, to grow as a driver.

I may be an ocd witch, but I ain't a little bastard.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

One

One of the great honors of my life has been to be present for a few hours of the final twenty-four hours of a good friend's life. I held his head in my palms as his wife and his nurse adjusted him on his bed, the last day of his life. Once he had slipped into the quiet beyond us. He was warm under my fingers, and his hair was clean, and he was angel and man, peace and struggle, united in that hospice bed.

Grace in life and grace in passing. It was last year that his wife and children lost him. That they lost him, and we lost him too. One life means so much. His did and does.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Driver's Life for Me

Lots of folks think a driver's life is Over the Road (OTR), and certainly many an OTR driver is out there tonight, inspiring those luddite folk-song writers I love in the way that I love all lost causes. My current favorite trucker song being Bobby Braddock's "Gear Bustin' Sort of a Feller" (ya gotta hear it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xn-RKyhJa-E )

But there's another driver, the local guy, who usually starts his-her day at 7am or so. or 11pm. Or some odd-ass hour that attempts to minimize rush hour hassles with those annoying little passenger vehicles -- road-remoras like Escalades and Hummers and Suburbans. Schools of Priuses, flowing and weaving like sardines. So cute. But annoying in their huge, shimmery, unpredictable and chaotic numbers.

These days, I have the 9:15am shift, ending at 6pm. The Sweet Babboo has an 8pm shift, ending around 7am. Plus a 1.5 hour commute each way. You don't have to say it. He's a masochist, we know. A masochist with an OCD-like obsession with providing for his family (c'est moi et notre chiens) and being a good man.

With differing days off, we have 1/2 days together and a few days when we share only our commutes, mine home and his to work, his home and mine to work. Thank God for cell phones. ... and those 1/2 days after a few days' absence where we cram in as much loving and longing and sharing and reconnecting as two middle-agers can. (Hint to 20-somethings, it's a LOT, no viagra needed.)

... "If you bought it, I brought it." Not only is this a lovely bit of alliteration, it's true, without exaggeration. The bringing and bringing and bringing, though, promotes some crazy lifestyles. I'm happy enough with mine right now ~ hell, I'm happier these past 4 years with my husband than I've been my entire life ~ still, I look forward to a time when we have the same hours and same days off.

Not the oddly romantic, quirky, valiant, insane, inspiring life of the OTR guy, but I'll take it.