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Gloria’s Trucking Saga: Part 5
By Gloria Diaz
Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!
Fort Wayne Reader
Mid-January, I score a great trucking gig; great, that is, for someone just out of training. I was assigned a route where I was out and back every night. I mostly ended up in either Ohio or Michigan. I had a brand-new truck and was eager to get started on my job. I had visions of working steadily, saving up a few bucks, and making headway on some bills. Unfortunately, the best-laid plans…
Three days into my job, I screw up. I was late to my second stop, which in turn made me late to my third stop. Based on that, I should have been taken off the account permanently, but they made me choose: go 48 states or stay on the route as a flex driver. Since I got spoiled by being home every night, I decided to stay on as a flex driver, giving up my health benefits and my brand-new Kenworth T-600.
During this time, some interesting things happened. I was forced to “slipseat,” which meant that I couldn’t leave my stuff in the truck, since I no longer had one. I had to carry whatever I thought I needed in a tote bag that seemed to get heavier every day. And there was plenty to carry. A hammer for loosening a stubborn diesel tank cap that supplied fuel to the reefer unit. My atlas. Snacks. Gloves. A flashlight. My binder with my directions and paperwork. And tons of other stuff.
All that junk wasn’t enough to keep things from happening. One truck assigned to me had a faulty APU unit. Since we weren’t allowed to idle, the APU device operated the heating and cooling systems for the cab. Theoretically, we could shut the truck off and still keep warm, or cool. This night, the APU wasn’t working and I ended up with a mild case of frostbite. I felt funny about sleeping in someone else’s truck, especially since I didn’t know how often he washed his bedding, but despite bundling up in my coat and whatever else I could find, I couldn’t get warm. I wore the wrong shoes that day, and with the weather being what it was, my feet were wet—and cold. After a few hours in the truck, I went to the trucker’s lounge and grabbed a two-liter bottle out of the recycle bin and filled it with hot water. I stayed in the lounge until my feet felt normal again.
Then there was the night I hit a deer, got stuck in the snow, and was late to my last stop. It was probably the roughest night of my trucking career, and I vowed never to take a route that went out at 11 p.m. or later. The bad stuff seemed to happen when I drove in the wee hours of the morning.
I’m ashamed to admit four weeks into my gig, I was thinking about what my next challenge would be. I’d worked so hard to get my CDL, why on earth was I restless? I couldn’t accept the fact that maybe I’d taken the wrong path, yet again.
Then, I got pneumonia, which grew out of a cold that just never went away. Feeling pain in the left side of my chest, I thought about my choices—I could take a couple of Tylenol P.M. and roll over, or I could seek medical help. I wasn’t sure if I was having a heart attack, so I went to the emergency room. I recovered, but while checking my mail one Sunday, I realized I forgot to send in some information to the state of Indiana, and because of that, I wouldn’t be able to drive until they got what they wanted. During that time, I nearly went crazy. I can’t explain what happened to me during that time, but I did a lot of crying. I didn’t know it at the time, but it turns out I was mourning the loss of my trucking career.
Getting the information took another few weeks, and when the information was received and I could drive again, I was told my position was no longer available. They knew I was waiting on that information, but I was out of a job. A few phone calls and a few days later I thought the issue had been resolved, but turns out it hadn’t. I’m not entirely convinced everything was on the up and up.
I still have my CDL, but as for a career in trucking, that’s still up in the air. I’d like to continue driving, but despite all my persistence, right now may not be the right time to be a big rig driver. I have mixed feelings about this. It means some dreams I had when I decided to become a truck driver may be postponed for a little while, or worse yet, may never see the light of day. As for my current situation, I am now in what the employment people might call “transition,” or what ordinary folks call “dire straits.” It’s a humbling situation, but I’m getting through it the best I can.
But no matter what job I take next, I take pride in the fact that even though some of my friends say I give up too quickly, I never gave up on getting my CDL. Two schools, several hundred extra dollars worth of tutoring, and eight attempts at the test over a period of nine months finally enabled me to reach my goal. I’m not sure what’s next in my life, but I’m sure it will be, as my mother would have said, a “learning experience.”