Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"The Old Days..."

I remember the old days. The days when I'd dress up and go door to door soliciting for candy while dressed as a vampire or some other equally frightening thing. It was always exciting to see what the other kids had dressed up as. Then I'd come home and count my sugary loot, anticipating my daily ration of sweets for the weeks to come. 
Halloween was always an exciting night. We would take turns trying to frighten one another. As we got older our scary pranks got more elaborate. Once, Jimmy had us spend hours sitting in a graveyard playing with a ouija board. You should've seen us scatter as the ghost he had on strings finally came barreling towards us when we thought we'd channeled the dead. Rick ran so far and so fast we didn't see him again until the next day in school. Boy did we rib him for that. 

We didn't know at the time that'd we'd caused him so much embarrassment in front of Cindy Markham, the girl he was sweet on, that he would plan the ultimate prank. We didn't know that for another 2 years. 
Billy's mom was having a Halloween party the next year so we didn't get to really pull any pranks. Just the little "spider in the punch bowl" type stuff. Jimmy put some itching powder he'd ordered from the back of a comic book into my gauze packs when I wasn't looking. Everyone got a hoot outta me running around trying to pull off  all my wrapping. I ended up all red and itchy, standing there in the bathroom in just my underwear trying to hide until his dad made me come out. 
I wanted to give him a walloping the next day but I couldn't help but laugh thinking back to how I had to take a shower then wear an old flowered sheet like a hippy ghost the rest of the night. 

That next year, though, that was the year Rick pulled the last Halloween prank ever. He was still sore that Cindy laughed at him too when we told how fast he ran from that old sheet ghost. 

Me, Jimmy, Bill Owens and Steve were walking through the woods towards Rick's house that night. There was a noise like someone coming up behind us and we were expecting Rick to try to scare us. He came running at us screaming, "I'm the headless horseman!" but we could see he'd just painted his face black and tied the cape around the top of his head. I was getting ready to tell him I could see his trick when he started throwing little pumpkins at us that were on fire. At first we thought it was funny but when they hit the ground real fire was coming out and starting to burn the woods. So we scattered. We didn't want to get our hides tanned for him playing with fire. 
I turned to run and tripped. I could feel my arm break as I hit the ground but then one of his pumpkins hit me in the back of the head. The kerosene he'd put in them must've made the insides of the pumpkin like jelly because it stuck to my head, shoulders and face as it burned. 
The pain was horrible and I screamed right away. I could feel my face burn as my mask started melting. Then it started sticking to my face. I'd just got one of those new rubber masks that covered your whole head. A wolf man mask. Only now it was making black smoke and choking me as it melted. 
I clawed at it trying to get it off, trying to get the pain to stop. The fire was in my hair, my eyes and even my ears. The more I screamed the more smoke I got and the more I started coughing. 
Jimmy came running over first, crying and telling me to stay still. Bill Owens started throwing sand on me because that's all we had. Jimmy yelled at Steve to go get help. And Rick, he just stood there. 

I remember crying and screaming from the pain then everything went black. When I woke up I was in the hospital. My whole head was wrapped in gauze and so were my hands. 
I spent the rest of the school year in the hospital. They did 6 surgeries. The gang came and visited me all the time. They kept trying to joke like I was going to be ok but I could see that they just felt sorry for me. 
Sometimes Rick would come with them but he always just stood there. He never spoke again after that night and by the end of the school year his parents had sent him off to some hospital for kids with head problems. We never saw him again. 

Now, almost 20 years later, I still look forward to Halloween only for a different reason. Now it's the one night where I look like a fit in. Even after all the surgeries I'd had over the next 5 years they could only do so much. Third degree burns over my entire head had cost me my nose and one eyelid. From clawing at the mask that night, trying to get the fire away from my face, I'd lost 3 fingers that were burned to the bone. All that smoke had destroyed my lungs so breathing is still difficult. That one Halloween left me with a permanent mask that still scares everyone who sees me. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

"List en Up Ladies"

So I recently posted about this list of things men over 30 shouldn't do. Obviously, my thoughts on that list differed from those of the original author. To be fair, I conferred with several other guys before responding to "the list".
Then, today, I got to thinking, "why don't you make a post for the women out there, you sexist pig." So that's what I figured I'd do. I'll help everyone out. I'm user friendly like that and shit. You ready ladies? Prepare the rotten tomato catapults...

I don't know if it's just that I'm old fashioned or if women these days confuse devolving with evolving. Not all of them, just a lot. From what I've seen walking around the truck stops and Walmart (when I'm allowed in there). 
Let's start by looking at some of the basics, shall we? I mean, not all guys feel the way I do so determine the type of guy you want to attract, ask that type what they think and adjust accordingly. 

First off, this yoga pants craze. When I hear "yoga pants" I automatically think of only one style but there are apparently several. The ones that seem to be popular these days are basically just colored panty hose. Women seem to wear these about as skin tight as they can get them. Fortunately, some wear underwear with them. Barely. 
I'll be honest, sometimes we appreciate these things. They leave nearly nothing to the imagination though. Sometimes you need that mystery. Some women that wear them need a lot more than mystery. A mirror would be helpful. 

Let's be real here. If it looks like 50 pounds of cottage cheese and golf balls trying to escape and straining the fabric, maybe jeans would work better for you. Sorry ladies, but that's what we guys think. 
I know it sounds unfair or like "body shaming" but that's only because it is. In fact, I feel the same way about guys walking around with muscle shirts on. Dude, if you look like an overstuffed sausage with arms and a head...a muscle shirt probably isn't for you. You don't have to look like a gym rat but you don't see women drooling over guys who look like The Blob. Or if you have more body hair than Chewbacca, even regular tank tops are a questionable choice. Tell ya what, Teen Wolf, embrace it. Braid your arms, back and stomach and just go shirtless. Make a fashion statement. Start a new trend or something. 

Hair is a natural body covering. I understand coloring it to be like an accessory. In moderation it looks nice. In moderation. Like little accent colors, highlights, etc. We dig that shit, sure. But if your entire head looks like a peacock mating ritual, don't be surprised if people throw sunflower seeds at you. 
Again, not all coloring is bad. But there's a difference between tasteful and and looking like a science project. 

Make-up. Here's a tricky one. Again, I'm a n "in moderation" type of guy. When I see a woman who looks like a 64 pack of crayolas melted onto her face I automatically wonder what she's trying to hide behind the spackle. Yes, some people are naturally more attractive than others. But play to your strengths, not your weaknesses. Perhaps Obamacare should cover cosmetic surgery. 

Speaking of cosmetic surgery, what's with those eyebrows on some chicks? They look like they're perpetually surprised. If your eyebrows look like an advertisement for McDonalds then maybe you should tone it down a wee bit. 
Maybe it's just a matter of those jeans being so tight it's forcing the skin on their head upward. Yeah, I've seen women in pants and shorts that tight. I immediately put on Kevlar in case I'm within range when that button flies off like a mortar round. 

There's no telling which direction they're going to fall in when they walk with those ridiculous looking new shoes these days. I hear they're called "wedges". Which makes sense because most of the chicks I see wearing them are walking like they got a wedgie with a cactus. They look like sandals with an 18" lift in the back. I keep expecting some chick to walk through the truck stop and snap an ankle. Aren't giraffes an endangered species yet? I mean, they are clearly being poached so their necks can be used as shoes. 
We are guys, we have this innate need to feel like we can protect you. It's ok to not walk on stilts to show us how tall you can pretend to be. We can't protect you from self-inflicted harm. And that eventual compound fracture isn't going to be sexy. 

Speaking of animals, there's one I wish would go extinct. That weird creature called "duck face". Sweetheart, it's not cute, sexy or any of those good adjectives. It IS a bunch of bad ones though. And, a few of you, you look like you've got gas when you do it. Just, just don't. 
Since it's always in selfies that you seem to do it, let's talk about those. Is this 1964? No? Then what's up with the peace sign? We get it, Moonchild, you're hip. But throwing that peace sign like you're part of some hippie gang looks ridiculous. Especially when coupled with that platypus face. Wanna know how it goes? We guys think it looks stupid but we don't say anything because we like sex. True story. 

You've got your hand on your hip and your butt thrust out for your bathroom selfies. Look, let's cut to the chase here. How many selfies do you need? WHY do you have hundreds of selfies on your social media pages? How vain ARE you? It reeks of desperation. Can't you just post pictures of all your meals like the rest of us? Are you worried you're going to forget what you look like? I promise, if you go missing, we all know what Donald Duck looks like. I'll put the flyers out myself. 

Is your hair naturally curly? If so, awesome. If not, also awesome. Wanna pretend it is? Ok. That's fine but please, please don't wear those curlers out in public. Last week I saw a lady with these weird curler things in her hair and I didn't know whether to feed it mice or avert my eyes lest I be turned to stone. 

Speaking of which, are you planning on showering in Walmart? No? Then why are you wearing a shower cap? If it's raining outside grab an umbrella. It's like these women were in the shower and suddenly forgot they needed groceries. 
Which they're apparently going to eat immediately before going to bed. That's the only logical explanation for the pajamas. Well, I suppose it's possible they just came from a slumber party. We guys see a chick with rollers in her hair, a shower cap on and in her pajamas walking around the store we think maybe she's homeless. "Maybe she was at Lowe's sampling showers, got ready for bed and now she's hungry. Poor thing, she must live in her car." 

I'm a strong proponent of "know your limitations" and "play to your strengths". I'm also aware that I'm a bit of a hypocrite here because I don't mind some hair color or yoga pants too much. You get a pass on these if you're hot. (Like my yoga pants wearing girlfriend with the Rainbow Bright hair. Though she does know I prefer her natural hair color.) But if you're not, don't draw attention to it. If, when you walk, it looks like two rhinos fighting in a tent, skip the skin tight clothes. If you're ugly enough to frighten a possum, learn how to apply makeup properly. Be sensible, folks. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"An Open Letter to a Mother"

This is not my story. But it is a story of so many people. A sentiment shared worldwide. I didn't write this though. I'm not the instrument nor the voice for this piece of art. 
I share this with you, my readers, on behalf of one who sent me this beautifully moving story. A mother's story. A daughter's story. A story of love and appreciation. Is this....your story? 

So I'm sitting in my truck people watching. We're great people watchers, we truck drivers. We've very little else to do when we are parked for long periods of time. I noticed a truck that has been sitting here for almost two days hasn't moved nor started. Each morning it has that covering of frost on it that indicates not just a sleeping truck,  but an empty truck. I assume the truck driver is home for a few days off.

Well this afternoon I went inside to get something to eat and when I came back out the doors to that truck were open and there was a car pulled alongside of It . I see a woman, probably in her mid fifties, taking bags of groceries out of the car and putting them into the passenger side of the truck.

I'm assuming she's the "wife of ". She doesn't have the look of a "trucker". Don't judge me, a trucker can spot another trucker. I also see periodically the tell-tale movements indicating that someone else is inside the truck. A fact that is verified when a bag of trash is tossed out the door and into the parking lot. Without missing a beat, the woman picks the trash up and takes it to the nearby trash can.

This is the point at which I begin to suspect that this is not the "wife of", but the "mother of". Because quite frankly, only the mother of a spoilt, indulged, disrespectful, lazy truck driver would pick up his bag of trash without letting him hear about it. This is further verified when she pulls sheets and blankets out of the back of the car and refolds them before handing them up. Only a Mama would do that.

Another indicator is the fact that she never once got into the truck. None of this is what bothers me the most, though. It's not even when she hauled his oversized duffel out of the back of her car and manhandled it into his truck, or even the large cases of water that she struggled with. What struck me most was when she got ready to leave.

Body language indicates that she was waiting for her son to come out and say goodbye to her. He chose instead to kneel on the seat, hang his head out the door and say goodbye to her with a mere wave and few words.

I wanted to scream at him "hey, jerk! Your Mom deserves a hug! She wants you to give her a hug!"

This made me think of the goodbyes that I say to my mother. The time she came to the yard to help me load my truck up to leave. I cried when I hugged her bye. I cried for the first few miles of that load. I am unapologetic about this, I hate leaving my Mom. We bicker and argue and stress everyone around us out with it. But, every single time that I see my mother in person, the goodbyes are always tearful. No one understands that about us, why we always have such a hard time saying goodbye. But, that's okay...they don't need to "get it". We do.

I never know, not for certain, when I will see her again. Or if I even will. We don't get to see each other more than twice a year, not in person.

I would like to tell that truck driver that he should kiss his mother goodbye, that he should hug her, tell her he loves her, because he might not come home, or she might not be here when he does.

I might be 30 years old, I might be a grown up, I might be a mother myself, but one day my mother will not be here any more. She will not be here to hug me,  kiss me, and tell me she loves me.

One day she will not be here, and I will regret every time I did not hug her, kiss her, and tell her that I love her.

See, for the first time in our lives (that we know of) my mom is sick. This scares me. It reminds me that she won't, in fact, be around forever. She's okay with this. She has made her peace with the inevitable end of her time here on earth.

I have not.
I do not.

The thing that I know, that I think this man child of a trucker doesn't that when his mother dies, a piece of him will go with her. He should take more care with the treasure entrusted to him. He should appreciate what he's got here, before all he can appreciate is the memories of what he had.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

"A Different Kind of Love"

Breaking up is always hard to do. Especially if you're like me and commitment means something more to you than just a word. It's about sticking with something through thick and thin, no matter how tough it gets. I take commitment very seriously. 
I take my relationships seriously. That's why, after my breakup last year, I still look back at times we shared together. It wasn't an easy split for me and I fought it far longer than I should have. I was the one that ended it. Oh, it was messy for a bit. At times I fought back tears and there were emotional ups and downs. But I survived. 

It doesn't make it any easier when people still rub my nose in it. They don't mean to. I try to tell myself that. I'll be sitting off by myself minding my own business, waiting on a load to pick up or get unloaded then I'll hear, "sorry, you can't be here, you'll need to go sit with those folks." Then they'll point me towards a table or a bench. 
Within a few feet of that table I'll smell the memories wafting up. It's hard not to get choked up sometimes. It's hard not to get a flash of the longest, most intense relationship of my life. The same old love is always there, trying to draw me back in. But I hold grudges so I can't go back. 

No more walks together. No more sitting outside holding her after dinner. No more time together on the porch with a cup of coffee. Nope. A year ago I walked away from that relationship and I won't be swayed. 

That's right. After a nearly 30 year, committed relationship, I gave up smoking and started vaping. "Hooray for me, on to a healthier lifestyle, right? Just think of all the benefits! Breathe easier, no more stinky cigarettes, save money, and not have to go out in the cold and rain to smoke. Sound too good to be true? That's where the conundrum begins. Follow me on a fun-filled journey through the eyes of a "vaper"... 
Here's where you cue the squiggly lines and slowly fade to another scene. Geez, I gotta do all the work around here? (Oh, you thought this was about a girl? Pfft..)

See, the thing about Vaping is that when you first start off you typically start with tobacco flavors and those cheap little "e-cigs" like Blu or something. Personally, I started with those "E Go" ones. Then I slowly began upgrading. Next came the E-vod. Then Molly gave me a cool, nearly indestructible one that I liked called the ELVT. 
In time I moved up to a God180. Even cooler and more power which meant I could be more "showy". I even bought a different model, called the Hades, for my oldest son for Christmas. When I discovered my newest one, the Sigelei Oni Limited Edition I had to have it. Partially because it was a Limited Edition. We won't even begin to discuss the tanks I went through during all of this. 

As we "evolve" as vapers we go from tobacco flavored "e juice" to different flavors. It doesn't take us long to refine our tastes. Right now my flavors of choice are Wendigo, which is a delicious Key Lime Pie and Magpie, which is "ooey gooey butter cake". These things smell as delicious as they taste.
Though the "e juice" is a mixture of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin with nicotine added to suit your desired levels, it smells like air fresher. It's like we are breathing out Febreeze and stuff. No need for cologne anymore, I'm wearing "fragrance de key lime". I feel it makes me sexier if I smell like a dessert item. 

Clearly I was working my way backward financially. "Hey, you guys all said this would be cheaper. I must really suck at math more than I thought I did."  As it turns out, I was spending more than I would on those delicious smoky treats. That's ok. I think I've finally settled on this set up so the cost will go back down. Mercifully. Unless something cooler comes out then I may have to explore the world of loan sharks so I can keep collecting. 
Now it'll be cheaper than cigarettes. Or, at least, cost about the same. So long as I can exhibit some self control. Self control isn't my strong suit. Who are we kidding? My only real strong suit is sarcasm. 

So then we enter a world where Vaping is becoming more and more popular. But here comes the rub. See, most people quit smoking and turned to Vaping for the health benefits. (Before you start arguing those with "studies that show Vaping is as harmful or more harmful", remember, those studies came out after tobacco sales dropped. That, to me, makes those studies suspect). Where can vapers vape? (Sounds like a tongue twister. "How much vapor would a vaper vape when a vaper vapes good vapor?") Outside. In the designated smoking area. Of course. 
So, here I am trying to smell like the dessert tray at a fancy French restaurant and you guys have me out here hanging out in the tobacco cloud. These buggers are hacking up lungs and I'm breathing easier. Unfortunately, I'm breathing in second hand smoke now. My clothes smell like this stuff, my hair smells like it and I've spent a year trying to overcome it. Does it make sense to send recovering smokers to hang out with the smokers? Is this like a ruse from the tobacco companies to reel us back in? That's like telling a recovering alcoholic that they've gotta wait at the bar. "Don't worry, shots will be waiting when you arrive." 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

"The Non Eventful Day"

I was asked the other day about writing a post for a website. One I'd written for twice before. (Free plug here: Check em out). In fact, it was the only writing contest I've ever won; with a poem of mine they'd posted on their site. The second piece was an article about "Childhood Memories". 
The topic I was asked about writing on this time was "Life Changing Events". Well that got me to thinking...whose life? I mean, there could be a room full of us who experience the same event and it only really be "life changing" for a percentage of those people. Our realities are both fluid and subjective, dependent upon our individual perspective. 
Sometimes that life changing event occurs without you even realizing its impact upon your life. It may not be an occurrence but a distinct absence of one that institutes the change. 

So I thought I'd take a different road and screw up the grading curve here. How's about I write about a life changing non-event then? That should be fun for everyone, right? 
I don't expect to win this little writing contest because I reckon I'm making up my own rules about non-events as I go. But I just can't help myself. So here goes, hang on for the ride folks. Arms and legs in the train at all times. Safety first. 

I remember it like it was just now and I'm writing about it. It was a chilly morning and I'd wanted to sleep in but I couldn't because I had work to do. So I resigned myself to get up early and get started. 
I got up, got ready and went into the truck stop for my daily coffee. Among the truck stops I feel Flying J has the best so I'd parked there overnight. This way I could get some decent coffee to get my day going. Without my coffee I don't seem to think clearly. I remember thinking that just before everything didn't go wrong. 

Half hour later I've checked in with the shipper and I'm backing up to their dock. Being a flatbedder this feels unnatural. Usually we get loaded from the side or by overhead crane. Bumping docks is what the "other guys" do. We flatbed drivers think that like we're some kind of special but we aren't. Unless by "special" we mean not smart enough to limit our manual labor in a job that has "driver" in the title. 

It took them all of twenty minutes to get the load on my trailer. Less than half that length of time later I had it strapped down. Only thing left to do was put a 6 foot tarp on top of it, bungee that down and get my paperwork. Pretty simple process which I had done countless times before. 
Only this time they brought me out a ladder to use. I'd never seen a company do this before. A ladder? To tarp? Ok, sure I can figure out how to do this their way. 
That's when it didn't happen. That's when I didn't almost die. I didn't climb up a 12 foot ladder with 85 pounds of dead weight on my shoulder. 
I distinctly remember not having that ladder slip out from under me on that angled dock. The world sliding out from under me as I felt myself hang in the air like a coyote who's just overshot that clever roadrunner. Weightless for a split second before gravity remembered its job. The side of the trailer, 5 feet or so below me, the only potential barrier between me and the ground. 

I barely missed it on my way to the cement, hurtling head first like an errant meteor. Throwing my hands up (or down as the case may be) to push the man made stone away from my face, I definitely didn't feel the impact or hear the multitude of breaks as I connected. 
When the ambulance didn't show up and the EMTs didn't put me on the gurney I wasn't realizing that I'd nearly just died. At the hospital they didn't take X-Rays after the doctor said "oohh, that's broke" as he pointed to bone that tried to displace where my wrist had been. 

After determining surgery was going to be in order to repair 10 breaks in the right hand alone, there was no panic because I knew none of this was happening. I knew it was all just a bad dream brought about by eating hot wings too close to bed time. None of this was real. I'd wake up any minute now in a cold sweat. 
At 39 years old I hadn't just been informed that there was a chance I'd lose the use of my right hand. I definitely hadn't just been told that I may be permanently disabled even though I was the only source of income for my family of four which included 2 boys too young to even start school yet. 

This was clearly a non-event created by my sleeping mind to teach me a lesson. To make me realize that life can end in an instant by something as insignificant as a fall. A non-event that not only changed my life but could have ended it, thereby changing my kids' lives forever as well. 

In reality there were 6 months of intensive therapy to regain enough strength to hold a pencil, much less be able to write again. There were epidural injections of steroids for the cracked discs in my back and talk of surgeries to fix them. 
In reality this event could have ended differently. I could have chosen to tarp the load the way I always had and thereby not fallen. Or I could have clipped that trailer on the way down and been paralyzed or killed. Even the fall alone should've killed me. But it didn't. The fall was an actual event. Dying was a non-event. 
Each minute choice or action leads to another. That ladder slipping was a single factor caused by other variables yet we don't focus on all those minor details but only on the larger picture. The consequence of our choices is only because on the intangible decisions. There is no single, cataclysmic act but only the result of the smaller ones. So be mindful of the steps you take today for tomorrow you may not be able to change them. 
Would it have affected your lives? No, because you didn't know me. Ironically, among the serious of events I've not considered "life changing" is this blog that seems to entertain so many of you. Our realities....fluid and subjective. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

"Eating Dis Order and Dat Order"

Let's face it, I'm a pig. I can admit to that. I'm in love with food and, as a result, I eat like a tiger shark. The strongest muscle in my body isn't my heart, it's my jaw. There's a good chance that if anyone ever opened me up it'd look like a weird flea market booth with all the stuff I've eaten. "I'm sorry, we have to send the contents of his stomach to the Smithsonian. We've never seen anything like this in a human."
Some people eat because they're hungry, some eat out of boredom. I eat just because I enjoy it. I mean, I eat to live and stuff but I also eat just because I like food. The tastes, the textures, the smell of it cooking. Hell, I'm getting hungry just typing this out. I tell people I want to travel the world and they're all, "so you're looking for adventure?"  Nah, I'm looking for food. Especially in Europe. I'd eat my way across Europe like a one man Mongol horde. "Get outta my way, I'm going after some schnitzel today!" 

I used to think that my appetite was getting exponentially larger. As it turns out, some foods are just getting smaller. Which is weird in America because our portion control is ridiculous. On the one hand we've got double quarter pounders and on the other we've got tacos made out of tortillas the size of Kennedy coins. What gives, people?! Be consistent. That's all I'm asking. 
Why charge $2.00 for a fajita that's half the size of the one I paid $1.00 for a couple years ago?! That's how people get hurt. Here I am all excited about getting my grub on and they hand me a chicken fajita that'd look small to a midget. Not cool. Now I have to order more of them. And that's the hook. They get us hooked on certain foods like carnivore junkies then dial back the dosage while upping the price. Clever. Risky but clever. 

Just today I stopped and got my slice of "mega meat" pizza (seriously, they failed to understand what "mega" actually means) and hot wings. Why hot wings? Because I'm a fool for them. Only these wings...were they from hatchlings?! I hear people talk about growth hormones in food but there's no way they added them to these guys. I ate 4 wings before I realized they had bones. I'd thought they'd accidentally given me nuggets. 
Imagine my disappointment when they were fried and flavored but the truck stops quit actually putting the buffalo sauce on them. It's not natural I tell ya. I want buffalo wings, not "barely above mild flavored" wings. I feel so betrayed. I need that buffalo wing sauce. It's like an ambrosia for my hunger's soul. Yes, my appetite gets its own soul. Don't look at me like that. 

Which leads me to this "organic" thing. It's "organic chicken". That's the explanation I got for chicken little being served these days. "It's naturally smaller because it's all organic."  Oh. Organic chicken. Gotcha. So can we bring back the cyborg stuff? It was tasty and there was more of it. I liked the fake chicken. 
Oh, there are organic vegetables too now. That's good. They're vegetables. They grow in the ground. How much more "organic" can they get?? Take the damn organic vegetables and feed them to the damn chickens and grow them before you cook them up. Is that a difficult thing to ask?

I know, I know, "organic" means no growth hormones and stuff. And there's also "free range" where they wander around and eat of the land. Because it's more humane. Then they round them all up and kill them. But at least they lived an enjoyable life before they were slaughtered. They're chickens!! They didn't rent Lamborghinis and party on the Vegas strip. They ate worms, grubs and whatever else they could peck. They flapped their useless little wings before they got served up to guys like me. You want them to live purposeful lives? Get them some free weights, let them bulk up those little arms. 
Companies throw out words like "organic" so they can charge more for smaller quantities. And people clamber for it because it's the newest fad. "Gluten free", "wheat germ free", "non gmo", "bland", blah blah blah. Our food is free of everything except charge. Grog wants gluten. In fact, if you're not eating yours I'll take it. 

Sorry, I got sidetracked, I was mentioning that I like food. What I was going to say is that I'm fortunate. There's not much that bothers my stomach. It might be all that Teflon I ate as a kid but I can pretty much eat roadkill with no side affects. Considering some of the places I've eaten I'd say I probably HAVE had roadkill disguised as a casserole. 
We truckers call most restaurants "greasy spoons". We use the term affectionately most of the time. It's like truth in advertising.   The only healthy thing on the menu at these places is probably the menu itself. But we go there as often as we can; to these hole in the wall places. Why? Because they're consistent. The prices don't jump up and the portions don't go on a diet. 

Look folks, I'm not saying you've gotta gorge yourself and get stricken by that disease called obesity. Nor am I encouraging restaurants to start heaping food on plates like they're trying to rebuild the pyramids. I am, however, saying that if you go to your local dine n dash joint and the food is shrinking but your tab is growing, maybe you should find a new favorite place so they get the message we don't like getting ripped off. Plus, I just don't trust the food at these places. If their food is losing weight how's it supposed to provide you with nourishment? "How do you expect me to eat this? Even your food is starving!"

You know what I miss? I used to walk into convenience stores and they were always making popcorn. God, the smell of fresh popcorn can make me hungry even if I just ate. Same with bacon. I go weak for bacon. If I walk in and someone is cooking bacon then it's guaranteed I'll order something. Hell, I've been full and walked into a truck stop while someone was making bacon and eggs and I walked out with a to go box. "I can't eat another bite. But that smells so good! I'll take a bacon and egg 4 egg omelet and 6 slices of bacon to go please!" Then I roll myself back out the door, out to my truck and straight into a food coma. Occasionally I'll wake up a little and eat some of my omelet and go back to sleep. Every day I'm like a bear preparing for hibernation. 

I don't just eat comfort food though. I like that phrase, "comfort food".  It's like I'm depressed when I'm not eating? I just cry while I'm driving along until I find some biscuits and gravy? They know me so well. 
Anyway, I eat healthy stuff too. Molly got me started on Kind bars. It was an accident. She didn't like them and knew I'd try them with my landfill appetite. They're delicious but they're definitely whole grain and whole nut. I think I lose weight eating them because they take so much energy to chew. But I love them. Sometimes, if I'm good, she'll toss me one like a Scooby Snack. It's also a tactic she employees to shut me up for 45 minutes. You simply can't talk when you're eating one of those things. It's like trying to whistle with a mouth full of crackers. 
I eat yogurt now too. Toss me a half gallon tub and a pound of granola and you've made a friend. I didn't think I'd like yogurt. It just seemed too girly to me but a friend of mine practically forced me to try it once. Basically that just meant opening one near me. Like I said, I'm a pig. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

"Me and Custer"

So I had a fun experience this morning. I'm pretty sure the guy was seriously contemplating taking a swing at me. I'm not saying I blame him, I was getting pretty snarky with him. 
I think one reason he reconsidered was because he was in a bad place for fighting a trucker. He was definitely mad though. This was evident when he followed me into the truck stop to confront me. To be fair, once he began irritating me on the road I deliberately antagonized him. Why? Because I could. Here's a snippet of what happened before he slinked back over to his car and tore out of the parking lot:

As I parked my truck he pulled up right in front of me, flung his door open and came at me with a purpose. Even with my windows up I could hear him cussing and carrying on. So I opened my door all casually and smiled at him as I got out. He started laying into me with "I'm so sick and tired of you f%*^ing truck drivers!"
Still smiling I replied, "well that's refreshing. Here I was just telling my friends how we never get enough recognition." He balked for a second before continuing, "you saw me. I know you did! And you just kept trying to push me around! I'm sick of you guys thinking you can bully everyone! You deliberately got in my way!" 

"Well, Sparky, it's like this: I had that blinky thing on on my truck. Did ya see it? No way you didn't because you floored it immediately after I turned it on." 
"What's that got to do with anything?! You deliberately pulled out in front of me, asshole!"
"Yep. Yep, I sure did. That there flashy blinky thing is a sure sign that I was coming over. Are you not familiar with how they work? See, I turn that on to let you know I need to move into that lane. Since you were far enough back when I turned it on the lane was clear. Then you accelerated like mad to try to take up that space. I'm bigger, I win."
"Well you almost hit me!"
"Nope, you almost accelerated into the back of my trailer. Good thing you had enough sense not to. I'll admit I'm surprised because everything you did afterward made me think you were full on retarded."
"What?! What. The. F%^k did you just call me?!"
"Retarded. It means mentally deficient. Below average intelligence. Less advanced than should be for one's age. Did you do poorly in vocabulary in school? You're kinda confirming my initial diagnosis here."

I should point out here that this is the point where I thought physical violence may be imminent. Since "snarky" is my default setting I've gotten good at anticipating when I've struck a nerve with someone. I should also admit that I smiled even bigger as I continued. I figured I'd take the opportunity since he appeared to be trying to determine his course of action. I'd clearly knocked him off balance with my insolence so I just let it roll so as to keep him that way. 

"Look, I signaled I was coming over. That's what I did. Then you kept flashing your lights like you thought that would speed my truck up and get me out of your way. So I slowed down thinking you were special needs and I didn't want to frighten you. Then I just kept your stupid ass there. If you were in such a hurry you shoulda left sooner. 
"But don't you dare follow me into a truck stop to bitch me out like some spoiled little princess and get in my face while calling me a bully when you were the one trying to exert your will on me while I was driving responsibly. If I'm using words that are confusing I'll try using smaller words. Bottom line, you pulled in here to show me what a badass you are and how you're gonna get your way. So either get ready to get your suit dirty and step up or shut the hell up, get back in your car and drive your dumb ass to work. But, if you get one step closer to me I'm gonna kick your asshole up amongst your shoulder blades, pour you back into your little toy and have 10 witnesses saying you assaulted me and I defended myself. So make your choice."

I must say, part of me was disappointed. For a minute there I really thought he had the minerals to take a shot at me. Instead he just stood there shaking. I'm proud of the fact his decision making skills finally caught up with him though. I'm not a violent guy; I really don't like fighting. But I will not be pushed around either. If I let a four wheeler pull into a truck stop and get away with backing me down then the rest of the cars will think it's ok. We can't have that. 
Had I not been in a truck stop I'd have simply dismissed him. But in a truck stop parking lot? I can't have him embarrassing me in front of my friends like that. 

"So what's it gonna be Captain Hypocrite? You gonna come bully me since bullying me on the road didn't work? You gonna pull a Custer or are you gonna slink your ass outta here? Either way, I've still gotta pee so you need to either get out of my way or get stepped on."
I guess this finally motivated him because he responded, "I'm gonna call your company. They're gonna hear about this! Nobody talks to me like that!" Then he snapped a couple pictures of my truck. "What's your name?!"
"Well, apparently it's 'Nobody' because I'll talk to you as I see fit. You're an asshole on the road and a complete retard. Now why don't you scurry on to work or wherever it was you were in such a hurry to get to before you thought pulling in here and starting shit was a good idea." 
Careful not to touch him at all, I stepped around him and started to walk inside. Over my shoulder I remarked, "by the way, my dash cam shows you pulling in front of me here and getting out yelling. So if I come out and you've done anything to my truck...I've got your picture and your plates so you should be easy for the cops to find."
I don't actually have a dashcam but there's no way he could know that so I hoped my bluff would work. It must have because my truck was fine when I came back out. 

Now, I'll be honest, I'm not worried in the least about him calling in. I don't doubt he will. And our safety department will probably placate him by apologizing for us big, mean truckers. Then they'll call me and ask what happened. I'll give them my version and they'll say something like "well we rarely get complaints about your driving so I'm sure he just overreacted." They're more diplomatic than I. 

Now, to help you folks out I'll explain a couple things. Firstly, that turn signal means we need over. If you gun it to try to occupy the space we need you're running a big risk. Once we start changing lanes we aren't prone to jerking the wheel to get back in the other lane. Understand we need that lane for a reason. We don't just arbitrarily get in your way. 
Secondly, if you come up behind a truck, flashing your lights like they're strobe lights is NOT going to speed us up. Don't turn the road into a disco just because you're frustrated. With many trucks they're probably already going as fast as they can. 
We see you back there. We most likely saw you a mile before you reached us. Trying to irritate us into moving will sometimes even cause us to slow down because we are thoughtful and are trying to teach you patience. 

Thirdly, and this is important, never ever follow us into a truck stop or rest area to bawl us out. This will not end the way you want it to. That's like watching an inchworm crawl into an anthill. Truckers that weren't even there will swear you came out swinging and then tripped into the pavement five or six times. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

"Safety First

Interesting fact about truck driving: it's one of the very few industries not subject to OSHA guidelines. Hard to believe, isn't it, that there are still jobs OSHA isn't concerned about safety at? 
Now, consider the fact the trucking industry is very tightly regulated by the Department of Transportation. With safety being a primary concern. That's sweet of them, ain't it? Oh, wait, it's not TRUCKERS' safety they're concerned with. It's the safety of people in cars. Plus, that freight is super important. True story. 

Where am I going with this? Well, it's like this, I got to a steel mill to unload some freight. I show up in my usual "work" dress code: a pair of khaki cargo shorts, a white ish t-shirt and some canvas high tops. All mostly clean.  And I go into the shipping office. "Where are your sleeves?" Um, right here on my shirt. "No. Go put on proper attire before you can check in." Ugh. 
As it turns out, this place requires steel toed boots, long jeans, long sleeve shirt, safety vest that can be seen from Saturn, and a hard hat. Oh goody. It's only 101 degrees out here in south Alabama. And I've gotta dress like Nanook of the North to pull 80 pound tarps off of freight and roll them up in the dust. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for safety but I think it gets counterproductive. There's no "temperature controlled" indoor facility to go cool off in, no roving water truck to make sure we are hydrated, no ice cream truck to keep me in delicious frozen dairy desserts. Man, I could really use one of those orange sherbet push-ups I loved as a kid. 
Did they come check on us periodically? Sure. Let the sweat cause your hard hat to slide off your head and they'd come get onto you. Like, what, the friggin CLOUDS are gonna fall on my head?! "Breaking news story: a cumulus cloud fell and crushed a man to death who wasn't wearing his hard hat. Other drivers nearby said the cloud bounced right off of their safety helmets but they were helpless to watch the disobedient driver die. Here's Joseph with the story."
"Thanks Maggie. I'm on the scene where the driver fell prey to a rogue cloud earlier. Safety supervisors at the mill say had he worn the proper safety vest and hard hat this could've been prevented. However, since truck drivers don't fall under OSHA rules, no one actually cares. The plant manager said production will continue."

I'm cool with the rules that come with these places. It'd be even cooler if they had an ice cream truck though. Yet I find it interesting that periodically I'll encounter a place that'll put us in the middle of a field and leave us there for hours and expect us to be performing monkeys when they get around to us. 
Sometimes there are 6-7 hour waits after a 10 hour drive and we've gotta be nice while they growl at us. During those waits sleep is impossible most of the time because if we nod off we may lose our place. Yes, that does happen. Take a wee nap and a truck or two may jump ahead of you in line. If you say anything it could lead to a fist fight and I'm just too fat, old and lazy for fisticuffs in the heat of summer. 
Meanwhile, you've got these safety managers riding around in air conditioned pick up trucks drinking ice water and making sure we are complying with all of their safety rules and pitching a fit if our hard hat slips off from all the sweat. Seriously?! How about you fumble around with these heavy, black tarps for a few hours out here, pal?

What's even worse? Just last week a buddy of mine goes to pick up shiny, aluminum pipe with holes all in it. All but the first and last few feet is wrapped in paper. And they want him to tarp it. 
It's 8 feet tall, looking like Swiss cheese in paper wrapping. And they won't even lend him a ladder to climb up on it. Even if he manages to get on's still riddled with holes. That's just a bad situation. You booby trapped this shit and want a driver to walk around on top of it?! 
Ultimately he had to have them unload it because they simply refused to even let him use their ladder. For "safety reasons we can't get up there and help you. It's just too unsafe." Oh, but it's ok for US?! 
They expected him to put an 85 pound tarp on his shoulder, climb up this 1,000 degree pipe like King Kong and walk around on top of a friggin whack-a-mole board. "Hey, it's your job". 

Maybe we really need to start discussing hazard pay.