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8:04 pm EST        52°F (11°C) in West Monroe, LA

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It looks as though I spoke too soon yesterday; I thought I was done dealing with my managers' ego trips. As if the one from yesterday afternoon wasn't enough, now I'm getting criticized for my inability to be a robot and stay awake at somebody else's whim.

I had left the company's Dallas yard, and was 50 miles to the east of there in Texas, when I received a message from the overnight dispatcher stating that she needed my help. Apparently, the wife of some other driver had been in an accident, and had been taken to a hospital — I'm guessing this was in Dallas. He had a load destined for Conroe, TX, about 35 miles northwest of Houston, on which the delivery appointment was 5:00 am CST this past morning. To top that off, the load he was carrying was what we would call a "plant shutdown" load, which means that without the load, the receiving facility's manufacturing operations would have to stop for lack of the necessary raw material. Had I been told about this at a more reasonable hour yesterday, like say 8:00 pm CST or so, I just might have been able to pull it off.

However, it was 11:15 pm CST before I received any notification about this at all, by which time I had already made it a fair distance east of Dallas. Given the time it would have taken me to loop back around to Dallas to go meet this driver, perform even a quick pre-trip inspection on the trailer, and proceed to drive another four hours from Dallas to Conroe, I would not have been able to meet the 5:00 am delivery appointment either. On top of that, given the fact that I had awakened not too long after noon CST yesterday, I knew I'd have a very hard time staying awake long enough to get to Conroe. Considering these two issues, I told the dispatcher I would begin looping back to Dallas, but that I very likely couldn't arrive in Conroe until late this afternoon. After a bit more argument on her part, and a reiteration of my inability to stay awake for 20 hours straight on my part, she sent a rather nasty message: "Disregard, but you must stop [and] take your break [because you are] unsafe to drive."

Huh? That's about the last point I was trying to convey. I did not say at any point that I was feeling overly tired at that moment; rather, I was saying that I was fairly certain I wouldn't have enough "gas in the tank," so to speak, to stay awake another six hours. I think I was pretty clear on that point, but for whatever reason, the dispatcher went off on a similar power trip, basically trying to tell me when I was required or permitted to sleep or be awake. That is to say, she had all the concern in the world for this load, and absolutely none for my safety and health. After what happened to me at Commuter Express in 2001, I refuse to allow myself to be put in a position like that.

Frankly, I'm at the point where if I get a message tomorrow morning, stating that I've just hauled my last load for this company, I really don't think I'd care much. I don't know whether this dispatcher has that kind of power or not, and in all honesty I do hope this just blows over with no more problems, but I wouldn't be all that distraught if they did decide to put my ass on the street. This would be a great company to drive for if I wasn't always having to fight some half-baked, half-witted argument (and the threats to my continued employment that invariably seem to follow) concocted by some middle-management type. A fair number of the people I deal with regularly are nice, decent, respectful, and respectable individuals. Really, I'm just tired of the few people who seem to feel the need to put me down, insult me, or just generally treat me like a six-year-old — and I'm also getting tired of the fact that something like this seems to have to happen every couple months.

I haven't mentioned this yet, but last weekend, my folks joined the world of high-definition television (HDTV). This was done more out of the necessity of buying any new TV set, rather than wanting to adopt the new technology earlier than most other people; the 27" set we had bought in 1996 had been a major piece of shit since at least 1999. At first, a purple cast took over the screen; setting the tint control to maximum green only served to make Caucasian faces look orange and football fields look gray. Within the past several months, my father found a few adjustment knobs I had never known about, and by fiddling with these, he was able to partially correct the color problems — but not long after that, the picture lost all sharpness, and everything was blurred pretty badly. In any case, we came to convince him that if we were to buy a new TV, it would be worthwhile to go ahead and buy an HD-capable set with the all-widescreen, all-HD intermediate future in mind. So, last Saturday night, he lightened his wallet by $1,200 to purchase a 30" wide-screen Sony HD set, a five-year extended warranty, and a set of component cables to hook the DVD player up. Even with no HD programming coming in on their basic-cable service at this time, the new set is a massive improvement over the old one — and if and when they ever do take the HD-cable plunge, it will be even better.

Well, I'm going to check out a few of my favorite online haunts, catch up with e-mail, and then head into Mississippi. Let's cross our fingers for tomorrow morning — even though I'm not really all that sure anything will happen, I wouldn't put it beyond them to pull some kind of stunt on me.