Monday, August 24, 2015

"Life Behind the Counter"

I live my life in 15 minute increments. I'm a truck driver and with that come certain rules as dictated by the Department of Transportation. I have to justify my whereabouts. Every 15 minutes, 365 1/4 days a year. 
Now, that doesn't mean I've gotta check in on Facebook every 15 minutes. But I do have to state where I've started my day, (city and state), and where I stop every time I stop longer than...you guessed it 8 minutes or longer. Gotta round up. 
To try to explain all rules behind how long I'm allowed to drive each day, "on duty", "off duty", etc. would bore you to tears. I do this every day and it still bores the hell outta me. 

Some truck drivers are paid on salary, some local drivers in daycabs (itty bitty trucks with nothing but seats) get paid hourly. Most of us get paid by the mile or by the load. To translate that for you: we ain't got time to waste. 
Time, as this industry and life itself has taught me, is a non-renewable, precious commodity. That means my time is valuable to me, just as yours should be to you. When I'm off work for a week or so, as I am most months, I enjoy myself and my time with my kids as much as possible. When I'm at work? I'm here to work, not play. 

So, here's today's complaint. Yeah yeah.."honey, he's gonna hop up on his soapbox. Get the popcorn; there's about to be a scene again. I wonder where he got kicked out of this time."
Don't worry, I actually don't get kicked out of places often. I usually get that look like "I can't believe you just said that!" Then, usually, there's a few people around cheering me on because I say what others are thinking but are too afraid to say. This was one of those days:

I pull into a Flying J truck stop in Indiana, get fuel and pull forward so the truck behind me can fuel. (That's supposed to be a courtesy for other drivers so they can still get fuel while waiting but we'll get into that another day). I get inside, grab a coffee and go to the register. And wait. While I stand there I see 3 cashiers at the other end of the counter talking about Mary's new tattoo. On and on they drone as another guy gets in line behind me. And another. Oh goody, I've formed a line. I look outside and it appears the truck behind me has finished fueling too. And now I also have the intimate details of why Mary got this rose tattoo. 
Personally, I couldn't care less that it's her favorite flower. In fact, is Mary suffering dementia or something and needs the tattoo to remind her in case she gets confused at the florists? Maybe that dementia has spilled over and she forgot she's at work. So I gently remind them:

"Um, excuse me, is anyone on this register?"
Nah. That one's closed. And they keep chatting away. 
"Ok, well, Mary, which register IS open? You've got a conga line forming down here and you guys are just chatting away. Any of you folks work here, or do you just think the name tag is a fashion statement?" 
Excuse me?! 
"You're excused. Now, how about us customers? Any chance we can give you some money today?"
Sir, I don't like your attitude. 
"That's cute. I don't recall caring. I DO recall that I've been here for 5 minutes too long to buy a cup of coffee and get a fuel receipt while you guys ignore your patrons."

By then the guy behind me was getting riled up too. Time. We don't have it to waste for free. 
So Mary starts ambling her way over to the register while Jeff checks his cell phone. He's mumbling just loud enough for me to hear that I should "get the hell over it" with my "shitty attitude". 
"Oh? Ya wanna see 'shitty', Sparky? Why don't you bring your manager out here? You guys get paid to sit around and ignore your customers?"
Well, you truck drivers get cranky and I'm tired of it. 
"Oh. Well I understand. You know why we get cranky? Because we have a deadline and you asshats put us behind schedule because you wanna socialize instead of work. I don't get paid by the hour. I don't get to clock in, do a piss poor job of customer service and then clock out, go home and relax. Some of us out here don't see home for weeks or months at a time and you people, YOU make our timelines difficult! Why? Because running a register is too stressful and you need to take time out in the middle of your shift and talk about Mary's shitty little rose tattoo that, honestly, looks like the tattoo artist was stoned and tried to carve out a butterfly in an oak tree. 
And you, Mary, should never use that cross-eyed Jackson Pollock wannabe again. I've got better artwork on my fridge from my kindergartener. Sorry, but someone's gotta be honest with you."
Silence throughout the truck stop. I was waiting for a manager, a bouncer or even a sheriff to show up. Instead I just got "here's your fuel receipt. The coffee is free. Please, just leave now.", from a shocked Jeff and a dumbstruck Mary. 

Ok. So maybe I was a little harsh, I'll admit that. That incident took place back in the beginning of December and I WAS on a tight schedule and had personal issues stressing me out. Yeah, I could've been nicer. My point at the time though was that our time is valuable out here. We aren't on vacation; these aren't RVs. Yet it happens often, people just boopydooing around with no sense of urgency. Oh, but let your UPS package run a day late and they raise hell. Sorry your Christmas package missed the delivery flight but a whole trailer load was late because Mary needed to show her friends her new ink. 

Now, I've heard talk of fast food workers wanting $15 an hour. That would set a precedent wherein these cashiers would potentially get $15 an hour and cry for more. 
Well here's an idea: how about people actually get paid for the work they manage to do? You want more money? Work harder. I periodically go places where hourly employees go above and beyond in the performances of their duties. Those folks should get paid more than Mary and her gang. People that approach their job with a sense of urgency should get paid more. People who just ride the clock? Less hours and less hourly wages. 
Yeah yeah, "fairness and equality" and all that hullabaloo. Except we don't all do the same job with the same work ethic. 
I know some people are gonna cry that "it's not fair. Minimum wage for fast food workers isn't enough to live off of." True. However, the fast food industry is for kids in high school. It's not an actual career path intended for raising a full Brady Bunch type family. Sorry, I know that sounds harsh but it's true. I've only ever heard a few people talk about their "dream job" being the fry guy at McDonald's and the few that I HAVE heard say that...their parole officers are quite proud of the amount of "swag" that they have. 

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with fast food workers, cashiers or anyone else. I've worked the grill many times, registers, they've even let me work as a waiter at some places. And regardless of your job I believe you should exercise work ethic. I don't care if you want to grow up to be an ice cream man...be the best damn ice cream man out there. Show up to work and do your level best. If people got paid on their merit and earned what they were worth then maybe everyone's self-worth would improve. Maybe our quality of life as a whole would improve in this country. But don't do minimum work and expect maximum wage.