Saturday, August 18, 2007

In My Sights.



I've had Corporate America in my sights. In conversations, emails and obliquely here on the blog, I've railed against their inertial policy filled, creativity killing, joy sucking, frustrating ways. I proclaimed I was free of them. I really am, but Corporate America recently got the chance to poke me in the eye.

In the mid 80's, I did a professional internship through Michigan State and worked for an automotive packaging company. It was a great little company, which may not be so little any more. We were working on the first designs of a revolutionary idea; returnable packaging. The automotive industry, starting with Buick City in Flint, were going with a concept where packaging was made to last for several trips. The racks and dunnage would collapse or nest and go back to the vendor who would use it again to ship parts. It has become the norm in many areas of manufacturing. I designed several systems as a part of my internship.

So, Wednesday afternoon, I am looking for an empty trailer. I hauled a damaged trailer from a customer to our yard in Irving, TX. Typically, I either get unloaded while I wait at a consignee or I drop a trailer and pick up an empty. Occasionally, finding an empty is a problem.

At a yard, drivers congregate for different reasons like repairs or inspections etc. Empties are a valuable commodity because there are so many drivers; a supply-and-demand thing. I was having trouble finding one. So I thought I was getting inside info from a guy who checks trailer lights on the yard. I went around the corner to a drop yard that was full of trailers! I found an empty right away. After doing the computer "trailer change," dispatch informs me I can't have that one it is reserved for an automotive load. OK, no problem. I found another. Same deal; can't have it.

Irving, TX is right between Dallas and Ft. Worth. Wednesday, it was in the mid to high 90's. I began to check the other trailers in the yard. This time before I bothered to hook up to them. :o) There must have been 50 trailers in the yard. I didn't look at all of them, but it was close! I was wandering around the yard; doing a cursory inspection. I opened the rear doors on at least 30 trailers. Frustrated; dying of thirst; getting pissed. EVERY SINGLE TRAILER was unavailable. I didn't have to contact dispatch for these. It seems that because the Automotive Industry has slowed a bit, there is a glut of the returnable racks and dunnage. The "Float" between vendor and customer to keep the shipments flowing was now backing up. All of these trailers were at least partially full of Automotive Returnable Dunnage. I'd open one, two thirds full, and move to the next. The next might be only a quarter full of racks that looked exactly like the first racks. It is like those debit card commercials where drinks and sandwiches are flying around, everyone is happy, the music is pumping along. And then someone wants to write a check. . .

So, TOUCHE! Corporate America. You got me.

Of course, I'd never been to the Irving yard before. They all work slightly differently. A yard dog driver came over and asked what I was looking for. "AN EMPTY!" I said. Oh, sorry. He tells me I should talk to Mike over at the office. He doles out the empties. "There's three or four of 'em over there," he says. So, in fifteen minutes, after three hours, I was ready to roll. Of course, my then it was about 6:00 pm. So I slept at the terminal and ran off in the morning to get my load of bottled water in Ft. Worth. Now, I know.

Alex Dorsey is in the South Pacific on a 28' Westsail. He ends his posts with "Peace, Love and Coconuts." I can't wait to say that my self.

So for now,

Peace, Love and Diesel Fumes,

TrT

PS - I've been on Diesel Fumes for two months now. I don't have any trouble with worms or long term relationships. I highly reccommend it. :o) [stolen and paraphrased from a Texas Singer/Songwriter]

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Stardate 2007.08.16



Two days ago, I was in Laredo, TX. I've been to Grand Prairie, Irving, Tyler and Dallas [even though my cousin Steve was not!]. This morning, I drove up US75 through Choctaw Country in OK. It was a nice drive. Lake Eufaulla could be the coast of Maine. I am in Roland, OK tonight.

Nature's adaptability is amazing. Puts us humans to shame. There are these little black birds with long beaks in Texas and Oklahoma. They have discovered the smorgasbord on the grilles and radiators of semi trucks. The birds literally hang out at the Fuel Island at truckstops and pick the bugs out of the radiator. I even saw one fellow with his head cocked on a funny angle as if deciding whether it was worth jumping up on that grille or not.

Another fuel island folly, I was fueling and noticed that someone had dropped a ten dollar bill. My first thought was whether I should turn it in or pocket it. By the time I finished fueling, I forgot all about it and drove off.

As I was driving up US75, I was chanting the name of Checotah, OK. It just sounded cool; very spaghetti western indian-ish. When I finally got there, it is the hometown of Carrie Underwood. She wasn't home.

I also heard a song destined for my repetoire:

"I never kissed a girl until I was in college,
she got drunk and cheated on me.

I never kissed a boy until I was in prison,
murder in the first degree."


What a hoot!

Have fun!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Friday, August 3, 2007

It's never too early for Mea Culpa.

I am sitting in a truckstop in Greenville, VA. I'm not in Nelson County but I've never been closer. My uncle, Bob, lived there when he died. I can't say he was my favorite uncle; I have another who has done so much for me. However, from an early age, it was obvious he was a kindred spirit. He was Bob #2 in a family of at least four.

Bob was a free lance photographer. According to family legend, he did many covers for Stereo Review magazine. Bob and his family lived in New Jersey. I can remember a big tree in the backyard and some furniture made out of small barrels. Some time in the 1970's, Bob packed it all in and moved the family to a farmhouse in western Massachusetts where they lived off the land.

They sold chickens and rabbits to pay their property taxes. It was a big old farmhouse with a slate roof. I can still see the big garden, the barn and the yard. There was a big old pool table in a parlour off the living room. I ate cereal or oatmeal with milk still warm from the cow. We didn't have chicken one night; we had rooster! There is Uncle Bob sitting in the living room blowing smoke rings.

I remember playing pool downstairs at my other Uncle Bob's; #4. #2 and I played and talked for a long time. I was living in the basement at the time as I had just moved to the Detroit area. Another time, I was helping him grill snapper behind Grandma and Grandpa's Nokomis house. Uncle Bob showed me how the best part of the fish was the skin that peeled off as it grilled. While everyone else was waiting for grilled fish, we were eating fish skin like potato chips right off the filets.

When I started a business in Florida, I also went through a streak of empty headed conservative politics. I was rabid. We had a salesman working for us who was the only dyed-in-the-wool socialist I've ever met. His name was Ron something. I can't remember his last name for the life of me. Uncle Bob was in Nelson County, living with his ex-wife [something else we have in common] when he sent me a card and took a little jab at my politics. This was at the peak of the Clintons' Whitewater mess. I wrote back the worst, most immature, vitriolic letter. It began in the same fun his card was but quickly devolved into a mess. It must have hit him like a roundhouse slap.

When Uncle Bob got sick, I had just started a job in Sturgis, MI. Mom and Dad, Aunt Chris and Uncle Bob and Grandma and Grandpa went down to see him. As I waited for news on his condition and wrangled for some time off, he was gone. I have very few regrets in my life, but that letter is an open debt. I never had the chance to look him in the eye and talk to him. He probably would have told me to forget the apology. If we had talked, he would have known without me saying. We are still kindred spirits. I almost wish that I could believe in some way that he could be looking down on me; knowing that I am living my own life inspired by his. That is a salve I cannot afford.

If you have something to tell someone; especially someone you don't get to talk to often DO IT NOW! Just pick up the phone and do it. Uncle Bob always called at Christmas, I know that I was passed the phone. Just maybe, he could hear in my voice that I wasn't the guy in that letter. Maybe, but wouldn't it be nice if I had said it out loud.