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1:15 am EST        32°F (0°C) in Hubbard, OH

Calendar of Updates

Not much has happened in the last few days; I delivered my previous load in Iowa on Monday, went out toward Des Moines to pick up Tuesday, and am headed for New Jersey with this one for Friday morning.

My reason for making this update is that I want to set the record straight on a number of things that happened during the period when this site was offline or largely ignored (roughly March 2001 to late 2003). As I was driving along earlier today, one of the many times fate has crapped in my general direction came back to mind, and I got the inspiration to write about it as the miles wore on. Later, one of my cousins called me, and mentioned some problems he's been having lately with his sister (another cousin of mine, obviously); hearing the stuff he told me just added more fuel to the creative fire. Anyway, without further ado, here goes …

Commuter Express (February 2001-June 2001) … While I originally wrote about this in June 2001, I didn't tell the entire story. Basically, two bullshit incidents ended up leading to my being terminated there. I was one of four drivers to take an eighth-grade school group to Washington, DC in May 2001; one of the young ladies in the class was acting rather flirtatious toward me from the moment I took the reins of the bus in Pennsylvania. She would always say, "Hi Larry" and "Bye Larry" in a flirty voice, and do the wink-wink thing, every time she got on or off the bus. Anyway, at the end of the third night of the trip, this young lady decided she wanted her picture taken with me; before I had a chance to say anything, she handed her disposable camera to a friend and plopped down in my lap in the driver's seat!

I didn't think anything of it at the time, partly because the whole thing happened before I could react, and partly because I knew I had no sexual/romantic interest in the girl in question (that's what "being gay" means). I did say something to the girl the next morning about how I noticed she was acting flirtatious toward me, and asked her to stop; such behavior fortunately did end with that conversation.

A week or so after we had arrived back, I was called in for a disciplinary meeting with a company vice-president! Needless to say, I was quite surprised to hear that the tour company that had organized the Washington trip had asked that I not be assigned to any more of their trips. Ordinarily, I don't feel the need to be "out" on the job; most of the time, that simply isn't relevant information. In this case, I clearly explained to this V.P. several times that I am gay, and that it was the girl's behavior toward me, not the inverse, that was inappropriate. One would think that a company would stick by an employee when such a frivolous accusation is tossed around, but this particular person was one of the many people in the world to whom the truth means nothing.

A month after that, they ended up forcing me to take a run which did not permit me the minimum eight-hour rest break mandated by federal law. I didn't arrive back to their yard from Holland, MI, until 8:30 pm one evening, and had to be back in at 2:30 am. I asked my supervisor to remove me from that run while I was en route from Holland, stating that I wouldn't get my required eight hours off, but he refused to take me off the run. The consequence of his inaction should be obvious; I found myself being startled by rumble strips at more than one point along the trip. I don't think I was ever completely asleep, but I came pretty damn close. Needless to say, another complaint was made, another disciplinary meeting was held, and this time, I was fired as a direct result of my dispatcher's refusal to remove me from a run I could not complete legally and safely. I suppose I could have "overslept" and just failed to show up; in retrospect, perhaps that's what I should have done. If I was going to lose the job anyway, why put 45 passengers at risk in the process?

Jimmy John's (July 2001-October 2001) … Within a few weeks of my starting employment at the Jimmy John's in Royal Oak, MI, I was being offered a management position at a soon-to-open (November 2001) location. I was thinking that working there was a good thing. Not long thereafter, though, things turned sour with Jason, the store's general manager. Apparently, without my ever having been told anything, Jason had this attitude that somebody who had been "anointed" like myself had to match or exceed his attention to the finest details of the operation; I get the feeling he was taking frustrations with the other two, less-motivated managers out on me.

One Friday night, a dispute from a nearby bar spilled into the street in front of the store, and eventually into the store itself. A middle-aged woman with a broken leg sought me out, asking me to hide and "protect" her, just before the fists began flying inside the store. I had to mop the restroom floors in the back of the store anyway, so I showed her to one restroom and proceeded to mop the other one. I never heard a full explanation of what I did wrong there, but I assume it was failing to be right in the middle of the fracas, telling the participants to take it outside again (as the night manager and one other employee were doing).

A week before the end came, somebody stole the store's delivery sign from my car. (Delivery drivers' cars had to be parked in a dark alley behind the store.) Of course, Jason went off into a rabid rage, accusing me of stealing the sign, and threatening to dock $125 from my pay to replace it. At this point, realizing a threat to my financial survival, I contacted one of the store's owners to ask him about the situation; the minute Jason saw me on a phone, he literally ripped it right off my ear, slammed it into the wall, and went off into another violent rage, creating a huge scene in front of several regular customers. The owner in question raced to the store, arriving within a few minutes to calm the situation; he not only assured me that I wouldn't be charged for the sign (as I had reported its theft immediately), but also overruled Jason's decision to fire me on the spot there. Of course, I had already seen the end coming, and one day I just failed to show up — I had started another job.

USA Truck (January 2002-August 2002) … It's a miracle I made it eight months with them. Between a threat by my trainer to "bash [your] fucking head in," the virtual non-maintenance of my truck, and the sometimes-illegal antics of Gordon, my dispatcher, I don't know where to start.

Part of USA's training process included Saturday afternoon sessions at a shipping/receiving dock, practicing backing skills. All along, I had been told by USA's training department that I was to log it as "on duty, not driving" time (I wasn't going on a public street at all, so logging it as "driving" was not required). One Sunday morning at 5:05 am, I arrived back at the yard to meet my over-the-road trainer, and he asked to see my logbook. He asked me why I had logged "on-duty" time the previous day, and I explained that the backing-practice time was supposed to be logged as "on-duty." (If the company is requiring me to be there, it's on-duty — simple as that.) He called the person who led the backing session, waking him in the process, to ask him if he had instructed me to log it as such; apparently he said no, and that led to the "I'll bash your fucking head in" threat. (My protest that I was following training department guidelines got me nowhere with him.)

The clutch on the truck they assigned me had been shot for at least 100,000 miles prior to my receiving the truck. Frankly, just getting the truck moving from a stop was becoming a potential safety issue; but as you can probably guess, USA didn't bother to do a damn thing with it. I had a mirror arm pop out of its hole in the door, allowing the mirror to bounce freely as I drove (giving me absolutely no idea what was going on to my truck's left); it took a threat to pull into an open weigh station and get the truck declared out-of-service by the state DOT to get them to fix that.

As for Gordon, he was just an asshole all the way around. He decided he had to charge me with a "service failure" (late delivery, three of which in a year will get you fired from USA) because I was still woozy one night from a concussion I suffered the day before, when I was hit by a forklift on a dock and thrown several feet into a trailer. I honestly didn't feel any concussion symptoms until 24-36 hours after the incident; other than a bruised arm and a swollen foot, I felt 90% fine immediately after the hit. But I guess to Gordon, getting the load delivered on time was more important than a driver's health. Two weeks prior to my resignation, Gordon attempted to schedule a delivery appointment for a time I could not legally make; one Wednesday morning at 5:30 am, I sent a message saying I had been loaded in Ticonderoga, NY (way upstate, in the Adirondacks), but that I could not legally leave there until 9:00 am. Basing his calculations on 820 straight-line miles (when the actual route is over 900 miles), the 5:30 am timing of the loaded message, and using a formula that didn't allow time for fuel, food, and restroom stops, he set the delivery in Hammond, IN (next to Chicago) for 8:00 am Thursday! Complaints to his boss, and his boss's boss, got me nowhere.

I tendered my resignation, effective as soon as they could get me home, to USA after that stunt. As a final "fuck you," I was sent to a grocery warehouse in Connecticut where USA required me to hire a lumper to unload the freight, but no lumpers were readily available; following that, they sent me into the trucker's hell that is Brooklyn to pick up my final load.

The California disaster (July 2003) … This was largely the doing of my cousin Jennifer, who is three weeks younger than me. After four years of no contact at all, she called me in June 2003, and within a mere few days, having heard of the troubles I was going through with my parents at the time, she was suggesting I move to California to join her. Given the situation I was in with my folks at the time, this seemed like an attractive offer, and I decided to take "home time" in Palm Springs to check things out. During the four days while I still had my truck parked at the Pilot truck stop just outside town, Jennifer acted genuinely happy to have me there, and drove me almost anywhere to assist in my search for a place to live, a job, and other such necessities of life. For my part, I got to know her husband, and I was enjoying being around their then-16-month-old daughter — a constant source of energy and good humor.

Oh, how things turned on a dime once I returned the truck to U.S. Xpress' Colton, CA terminal … Jennifer's initial promise of quick employment (she was a good friend of the human-resources manager at one of the local casinos, at which I had been more or less assured of a $13.00/hour job) turned into what would have been a months-long wait to find solid work in a town that is economically dead from May to September. Her promise to "make up for all the time we've missed" eventually turned into my not being invited to the weekly family Sunday dinner after my first Sunday there. Her initial hard work in the interests of setting me up out there turned into hiding a very important piece of necessary information from me.

(The aforementioned friend in H.R. at the casino lived in the same apartment complex. One Saturday afternoon, I was running out of money and was getting frustrated with two or three job interviews a week turning into nothing; I wanted to talk to somebody about my options. I called Jennifer, and getting no answer, I walked across the street from the house I was renting to her complex. I got no answer knocking on the door, either, and I decided to call Jennifer's friend. When she said "sure, come on over," I told her that I was in the courtyard of their apartment complex, having just failed to find Jennifer. Between that and the fact that I was a bit animated during the ensuing conversation, this friend somehow came to the idiotic conclusion that I was "angrily stalking" her, and she decided she would no longer consider me for a position with her casino. I wouldn't have been as angry at Jennifer as I was if she had just told me what her friend was thinking, but I had to get the story from another cousin (her brother)! A week later, I packed up the rental car and left town without speaking to any of my family members there.)

Now that said brother has moved out and married, Jennifer still seems to feel the need to viciously cut him down. She goes as far as blaming him for the whole disaster in California, when in truth, he actually shortened its duration! Had I continued listening to Jennifer instead of my other cousin, God only knows how long I would have been stuck in that hellhole. I won't get into the details of the problems that occurred between my aunt and uncle and this other cousin during his teenage years — let's just say those were a hundred times worse than any huge fights my parents and I ever had — but assigning 100% of the blame for said problems to him, as Jennifer is frequently wont to do in a vicious, abusive manner, is unfair, unethical, and immoral, not to mention totally wrong. It's not my place to go into any more detail of their issues beyond the ones that have an effect upon me in some form, though. (I know what you're thinking, loyal readers: damn, just when he was about to get to the juicy stuff)

Anyway, that pretty much tells the story of the time period during which this site was not regularly updated, or even online for that matter. I don't want to sound like I'm blaming all of my past problems on other people or things, but honestly, I don't see how doing things any differently would have spared me any of the above catastrophes. Should I have acted like an asshole to a 14-year-old customer ("no, I'm not letting you take a picture with me, and you better cut this flirty shit out")? Should I have jumped into a fight to move it out of the store, or just simply let Jason steal $125 from me without argument? Should I have driven until I fainted with post-concussion syndrome? Should I have just kept on blithely believing the entire bill of goods Jennifer was selling me, all the while ignoring the truth? If I had to face these same choices all over again, I'm convinced I would do just about everything the same way. Have I made a few people angry here and there in these cases? Sure I have. Do I care? No, fuck 'em.