Tuesday, May 20, 2008
If you haven't read 2008/03/29, it is below and comes before this post. Or click here to read it.
The morning after the early spring blizzard in Wisconsin, I make my delivery; a drop and hook. The drop goes fine because the truck before me parked on the ice and snow. He couldn't get out from under his trailer because he has no traction. I find a spot where they've just pulled a trailer. Parking on the small patch of asphalt, I get right out. Hooking is another story. The parking lot is covered in crispy snow and ice. Last night's heavy snow was wet enough that after freezing last night it is like a rink. Where's Snoopy and his Zamboni? I get under an empty just fine, but it takes a half hour of rocking back and forth to drag the trailer out.
I send my empty call and get my next load assignment. The comments say "Driver must have 50 to 75 blankets." Where am I going to find blankets?! It's a Saturday morning, there's a terminal a couple hours away, but are they open? I ask dispatch for help. "Already taken care of" they say. It must be another drop and hook.
I drive through more of the aftermath of the blizzard. There are trucks and cars and their tracks in the snow of the ditch. My pickup is further north and west. In the stark snowy landscape of Minnesota, the place is easy to find. Finding someone who works there is another matter.
There were several cars on the north side of the building. Around on the south side, there are a few trailers and three locked doors. I check the trailer nose boxes for paper work, but they are all empty. Further around back, a couple more locked doors. I drive around to where the cars are; two more locked doors. There is one last door down by an overhead door. As I tentatively tug on the handle, it clicks open!
In a large open space under the yellowy haze of sodium lights, there is metal stock all around me. I can hear the steady chuck and clunk of metal forming machinery. Around a corner, there is a young guy running a shear. He is a good part of the chuck and clunk as his shear clips off a piece of steel and it drops into a bin. Looking up, he pauses just long enought to thumb over his shoulder to another guy. For all the cars in the lot, these guys are the only visible work force.
The second guy tells me to check the backs of the trailers for paperwork; trusting souls. Back on the other side of the building, I find my paperwork in an unlocked trailer with tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. I'm on my way.
The next day, I'm sitting outside a store in Indianapolis. I-465 was in much better shape than the last time I was here, so I'm early. I made a couple passes by to conoiter my approach. On the second pass, I just hit the four way flashers and get out to walk around. It's going to be easier than it looks from the road.
Three hours later, and two hours past my appointment time, the guys show up to unload me. Then my box beeps and I've got a preplan for one o'clock about 45 minutes away. The unloaders manage to eat up all my time. I help them toss blankets back into the trailer.
Exasperated, I ask dispatch what to do with the blankets. I've got about 40 minutes to do my 45 minute trip. I've driven to the next exit down the highway to a truckstop to do my paperwork. Dispatch asks how many and I tell them I've got 50 or 60 blankets. Their answer comes back "put them in the nose of the trailer." My answer is a new ETA. I give myself two hours to deal with the blankets and drive to the next customer.
When I climb into the back of the trailer and start to fold and stack, I begin to realize there must be over a hundred! I'm never going to get all this done and get to the next stop on time. I'm tired and frustrated and then it hit me. . .
I've become a student of Zen Buddhism and struggle to keep it in my daily life as a trucker. I really enjoyed the book "A Complete Idiot's Guide to Zen Living." It is very Zen with just hints of Buddhism. The authors discuss adding Zen to any religious practice. I highly recommend the book and was glad to use it that day.
Part of Zen and Buddhism is mindfulness; a single minded focus on the task at hand. Even when that task is simply living your life. The extraneous and the negative get in your way. Another part is accepting life as it presents it self. Dwelling on the past or the future does not help you. You only have just this moment to do the right thing. If you do what is right, right now, the past and the future don't matter. Byron Katie is a Author and Life Coach or something. She's made a statement that oozes Zen whether she meant it to or not. She says: "Life is simple. Everything happens FOR you, not TO you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don't have to like it - it's just easier if you do."
When I realized that I was giving over to my anger and frustration, I remembered my Zen Mindfulness. I took a deep breath and dropped it; let it flow through me and out. Focusing on the blankets, I laid one on the floor like a tarp to rake leaves on to. I concentrated on just the task. I pulled a blanket from the pile; found two corners and lifted them over my head folding them together; then a fold the opposite way and another. I began a stack on the first blanket and reached for another. When I missed a grab at a blanket or dust got in my eyes, I let it go; barely recognizing the thought. I purposely did not check the time. A truck slowed as it went by the end of my trailer, I knew he was chuckling at me. I let that go too. Soon enough, I had a pattern, a routine. It wasn't "Dancing With the Stars," but I had a rythm.
In what seemed like only minutes, I was dragging my third and final stack toward the nose. I was done! I checked my phone for the time. I had lots of time to get down the road! I was winded but felt good in that tight way after some exercise or a morning hike. Maybe, if I had let myself get pissed off, I would have been done just as fast. The attitiude, however, was completely different. I felt good. I was smiling. The rest of the day did not carry the weight of upset. There was nothing to forget, to get over. This is the key. There was nothing. It is really that simple.
Mindfulness means many things. It can be brought into your life from different angles. Another angle I've used is about snacking. It is easy to have a bag of pretzels or something on the dash as I head down the highway. This leads to what could be called mindLESS snacking. Just driving, reaching in the bag for a handful . . . and then another, and another, not thinking at all. Applying mindfulness, I still snack, but I get a handful of pretzels and then close the bag and put it away. There is a beginning and an end to the snack. Even if I decide at some point to have another handful, by the time I reach my destination, I've eaten a lot less pretzels; mindful that I didn't need the extra.
Broadening mindfulness, I can more easily defeat my rationalizations. I am one of the most creative and acrobatic rationalizers. This let me fall into the habit of eating in the truckstop more often than from my truck. Truckstop food choices are some of the worst. But it is so easy to just have a burger and fries. There are salads, if you look. I've gotten back to eating healthier again and mostly out of the truck. Mindfulness is not just about doing the right thing for yourself, it is doing the right thing for the universe. I am trying to eat only my share. It is so easy, in this country especially, to feel like you can just eat anything you want. Being mindful of the suffering of all sentient beings means most Buddhists are vegetarians. As my studies continue, I might get back to that myself.
It is easy to sally through this life without considering the consequences of your choices and actions. You can waste your days feverishly planning your future. You can live staring only at the carnival mirror of your past; all while life passes you by. Both are hollow. You can fill your days without really knowing where you are headed or what you want. Pull back into this moment. Think it all the way through and consider the full consequences of your decisions. Be mindful.