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!

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, 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." 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.