2009: The Year in Review

2009: The Year in Review

By Sandy Long

Christmas is now over and the end of year approaches quickly giving us a little time between events to look back over the last year. In doing so, I find that I have learned a lot, lost a lot and also gained some things.

Up to the first of May, the year went along much as usual though with the economy failing, I had to tighten my belt due to less income coming in. Wasn’t too hard to do though because unlike thousands of other people, I was smarter than some in the choice of my house that I am buying and in my not living on credit. Tightening my belt just meant that I had to become frugal about some things such as what groceries I bought and how many books I bought and rented along with changing the brand of cigarettes I smoked to a cheaper brand. I started having to live by the motto, “a penny saved, is a penny earned”.

On a dating site in I think April, I found a man down in S Missouri that I thought was the one. Once again in my life, I rushed in where angels feared to tread after a year of having decided I would be alone the rest of my life. He too jumped too fast and we talked of him moving up to where I live. I thought he was perfect for me as we shared many interests and opinions. I was enthusiastic about life and the future promised.

The first week in May though, the bottom started falling out of my life with my nephew’s suicide. Because of the family dynamics, we had not been very close in recent years, and I felt terrible that his life had gotten to that point without him contacting me for help. I loved him and I think that he loved me, but just being his auntie I guess he didn’t trust me to help him when he needed it. I carry that burden in my heart now, that I allowed us to drift apart.

Just a month later in the first week in June, my deceased nephew’s dad and my oldest brother who was my best friend, hero and father figure was diagnosed with cancer. While he didn’t tell me, I knew that his time was short and perhaps he didn’t realize just how little time he had left with us.

Tom was a Viet Nam vet and retired Seabee and was a trucker up until a few months past; to say he had courage is an understatement. I wish I had his courage during June and July. But actually, in a way I did, though I had to lean on my friends…hard. You see, with all the other things I do, I am also letting my mother live on my property so during this time, I had to be strong for her too. I was spread too thin emotionally while still trying to stay afloat financially…cracks started to appear in me.

July brought more chaos as Tom kept going downhill and I tried to envision a life without him in it. July 10th, I went into the walk in clinic for an A1-C test and asked the doctor for a little something to take the edge off while I was home so I could sleep. I suffer from major depression, agoraphobia and have anxiety attacks when under extreme stress which shows up as insomnia. Back when I was off the road, I took an antihistimine that is also used for anxiety. I knew its effects on me and that it would allow me to sleep.

While the doctor was checking me out he all of a sudden freaked! He said my heart sounded bad and sent me for an EKG. When I came back from getting it an hour later, he told me I had to be rushed to a hospital as the hospital where the clinic was did not have a cardiologist. I had Atrial Fibrilation or irregular heartbeat. He was freaked out and over-reacted come to find out, but not before I got hysterical…I thought I was going to die just when my family needed me most.

By this time, my brother was in the hospital in Liberty so I made sure I went there too though I knew that I wouldn’t tell him I was there…I just wanted to be close to him. It was a good thing too as he started having strokes or stroke like symptoms. No one knew I was there outside of my youngest brother and mom, so when one of my other nephews called me that Tom might die any minute, I took off downstairs to his room. Got my nurse mad at me, but I didn’t care, my brother needed me and I was going come hell or high water.

Sitting next to him while he gasped for breath and stroking his arm was the hardest thing I had ever done up to that point in my life. I held his hand and stoked his arm and told him to be at peace. I stayed until the rest of his family could get there then went back up to my room.

A couple of hours later, the nurse on Tom’s floor called my nurse and I went back down, he was worse again. I had to tell him it was ok for him to go and that I would love him no matter what. It would get harder before it was all over though.

I was released the next day and went home. You see, he lingered on suffering not being able to speak or breathe easily. When I got home, that night, I went outside and called on all of our ancestors to come and take him home so he would not suffer anymore. I called on all the power of my belief in the Lady to bring him peace so he could come back soon. I let him go……..

Tom made it another five days and died; with him went a very big part of my lifetime support base and the only shoulder I could count on leaning on…they say it gets easier with time, but so far I miss him as much now as I did the day he died. On Christmas Eve after the stressful drive home thru the snow and ice, I came into my house and looked to the answering machine thinking “I wonder why Tom hasn’t called?” Then it hit me all over again…he was gone.

Of course other things happened during those few months. The guy down in S Missouri changed his mind about being with me or even continuing to talk to me as a friend, though he said he wanted to do so. I found out who exactly my friends were and who were just going through the motions…while this might sound like a negative, it was actually a positive in some aspects.   While I lost some so-called friends, I also lost their negativity and drain on my strength.

I found unknown depths of strength in myself when I got up during Tom’s interment service at the National Cemetery in Leavenworth KS and spoke my heart’s thoughts and all of this while I continued to drive for the really great company I drive for. For years many have commented on how strong a woman I am while I didn’t see it in myself. I do now.

Some good things have come out of the chaos of this year; my mother’s sisters, my aunties have stepped up to the plate and have started calling me more often. My two other brothers too have become a little more close to me which I need. While in the hospital, I found a good doctor who has replaced my old one as my family doctor who retired several years ago; she is helping me get healthy again or as good as it will get anyways.

With the slower freight these days, I have more time to be more involved in working within the trucking industry to effect change the best way I know how; by working with the Women In Trucking Association closer and in writing more in-depth commentary about issues utilizing my skill as a wordsmith, though now, I don’t get paid for it since leaving Layover.com. Something else will come along when the economy gets better I hope, it will have to because I think my days as a trucker are numbered.

Looking back over this year of chaos and change, I see that I have changed too mostly for the better. I am stronger in some ways and more confident in myself while now being able to understand other’s losses better. I have a tiny solid core of close friends who I can depend on completely and know that they will stick with me no matter what. I work for a company that respects me for being the quality driver I am, and who I respect for their treatment of me. All in all, I can say that I have survived and isn’t that what we all have to do; survive what life throws at us and keep trying to find personal growth in that survival?

Hopefully, 2010 will bring some peace and ease to my heart. I have once again gotten to the point that I believe I will be alone the rest of my life and that is ok. I can continue to fill the empty places with perhaps new friends and continue to assist others where I can, passing on the help I have received thru my life. As long as there is breath in my body, I will continue to work towards using life’s challenges to bettering the person I am and sharing that with others to help them grow too. Finally, I will continue to have faith in God and the Lady to keep me in the palms of their hands and help me survive.

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Not My Business?

Not My Business?

Copyright Sandy Long

My ol’ granny used to say that anything did not affect you directly was not your business. Sound advice on the surface, but identifying what affects a person directly or does not can be a hard thing to do.

One’s neighbor beats his wife and children. While that does not affect one directly, would not a caring person try to help, making it their business?

A person sees someone commit a crime…say vandalism. That does not affect the person directly, but shouldn’t that person make it their business and report it?

A car flips over on the interstate ahead of you not coming anywhere near you; the road is clear. Do you continue to drive on by or do you make it your business and stop to see if you can help?

You do not drink alcohol. The state you live in wants to prohibit anyone from drinking alcohol which does not affect you directly, but you think it ok for others to choose to have a drink. Do you support the bill or not support it making it your business or do you just ignore it?

A long time ago truckers were thought to be the safest drivers on the road. We were always there when someone needed help and were not feared by anyone. These days we are considered by the public we serve as being unsafe, stupid and are feared by a great segment of the population. This loss of image has resulted in our being over regulated and maintaining our licenses is costing more and more every day along with increases in fines and laws against us.

There are several factors in the destruction of our image, but in my opinion how some of us act and appear these days is the greatest negative factor in the bad image we have with the general public. Because this negative image directly affects me as a trucker because of increased regulations, fines and costs along with how I am treated, I have made how some act or appear my business.

On a personal level, I could give a rat’s patoot about how anyone dresses while they are home or away from the truck or trucking venues. When I am home, I run around town in old holey jeans and t-shirts and sometimes I step outside of my house in my robe and fuzzy slippers to let the dog out or to take a bag of trash to the trash can. I even might not comb my hair all day if I am not going to town. My mother has said that I look like a bag lady when I am home; she is mostly right.

However, when I am on the road, working representing my brother and sister drivers and the trucking industry, I am at least neat and clean. Do not think that I wear designer clothes or shoes or even take a shower every day; I do not. I wear jeans without holes, work shirts or non-wrinkled t-shirts and moccasins; my hair is combed, my teeth are brushed and my hands are clean. If I am laid over somewhere, I wear track pants in the truck and might, if I am not on the front row in front of God and everybody, take the dog to the grass wearing them; never into the view of the general public because I know they are watching and judging us.

Something that has gotten so common for me that I rarely think about it was brought up by a friend in the last couple of weeks. That is what one hears when one is in a truck stop or service plaza from non truckers. My friend was standing in line at a Pilot truck stop and the lady behind her was heard to say, “I don’t know why they let THOSE people in here!”

My friend turned around and asked her who she was referring to. The lady replied, “Why those truck drivers of course. They are such dirty, nasty people!”

Of course my friend being who she is told the lady pretty quick about how important THOSE people were to the health and well being of the lady and her family and friends; but my friend was taken aback by the comment once again; because it was not the first time she had heard it.

I hear a lot of drivers complaining because they are not allowed to use the bathrooms at warehouses and other places we deliver or pickup…every wonder why we are not allowed in those places? It is because how some of us act; period. Truckers have written on the walls, urinated on the floor or worse, and some have even torn the sinks and toilets off the walls or broken mirrors. Hell, looking at some of the drivers and listening to how they talk out there today I wouldn’t want them to use my bathroom either! You think that woman working in that office wants to unlock her door to allow someone thru to the restrooms that looks like a gang member or homeless person or who uses F bombs every other word? I don’t think so.

Getting treated with respect seems to have become a buzz word topic lately by some; especially women truckers. Let us be logical here for a minute; what is the first thing a person sees when you walk in the door? Uh, excuse me; YOU! Now I am sorry, but it is human nature to judge a person by appearances and that is not going to change. So let us look at these scenarios.

A woman goes into a shippers’ and is dressed like a crack whore with brown missing teeth, matted hair, smells like rotten eggs and whines around expecting special treatment. She gives the shipping clerk a hard way to go. 5 minutes later, I walk in. The clerk looks up and sees another woman walking in even though I am dressed neatly and smiling he/she is thinking, “oh shit, not another one!” Human nature.

A woman gets out of her truck on the fuel islands wearing a skirt. She bends over and has on no underwear; drivers stop to stare. Do you think that those drivers are going to give her any respect, or you for that matter? Nope, they are going to be wondering if you have your panties on…again, human nature.

A woman in the last year down in Alabama was at a meeting about a city putting in an intermodal yard near her neighborhood. The local paper reported that the woman said in a panic, “but my children won’t be safe at school with all of THOSE truckers around; they will steal my children!!!”

Again, let’s apply a little logic; do you think her thoughts might be because she has seen some trucker with his Johnson hanging out of the bottom of his shorts or that looks like some sort of gang banger or pervert? I have seen those types, she could have too, while I understand the diversity of trucker’s appearance, she does not so she is scared of us. It is human nature folks.

You have to remember that it is the general public that pushes politicians to pass laws and make regulations; how we appear to them motivates them to leave us alone or to be afraid of us. Their fear causes us more regulations, higher fines and more laws governing where we park and drive. Look in the mirror though and take a good look at yourself; would you like your son or daughter dating you or would you like to meet yourself on a dark and lonely sidewalk at night? If not, then you should make it your business to take steps to improve your image.

Personally, if you want to run around in pink fuzzy jammie bottoms and pink fuzzy slippers in the public’s view and act like an ass, knock yourself out, but do not ever think it is not my business because as I have pointed out in this article, it directly affects me and the trucking industry that feeds me. I consider those who dress or act unprofessionally as part of the problems we face as truckers and I will continue to make it my business to point it out.

Satin and Steel Sisterhood: Changing its focus

Satin and Steel Sisterhood was born this last summer just when some family tragedies started in my family and I did not have the time to devote to its start up that I should have. While I still think that there is a need for a website dedicated to women who work in all of the non traditional jobs out there, I have decided to slightly change the site’s focus more towards women truck drivers.

Satin and Steel will not be in competition with any other site or organization, I want that to be clear from the get go. I have spoken with Ellen Voie of the Women In Trucking Association and have her support in changing Satin and Steel Sisterhood over to serve women truck drivers as a social meeting place and as an educational resource for women who are considering entering the trucking industry.. As a member of WIT and on the Association’s driver advisory committee, Satin and Steel will work with the WIT, not against it in any way.

Having worked with new and prospective drivers for several years online at my yahoo group Trailer Truckin’ Tech, I will bring my expertise in assisting newbees and wannabees to make the proper decisions on schools, training companies and in making the decision to enter trucking in the first place. Assisting me in this, there are also other experienced driver members at Satin and Steel Sisterhood who will share their knowledge and tips.

The homepage at Satin and Steel Sisterhood will feature articles by myself and from other trucking industry sources to keep members informed of changes in the industry and other helpful news.

While Satin and Steel Sisterhood’s focus will slightly change over more towards women truck drivers, all women and men in other non traditional jobs are welcome to join and enter into discussions on our forums; there is room for everyone and forum boards are provided for different areas of non traditional work.

Satin and Steel Sisterhood is free to join and everyone is welcome to join. As with all of my groups though, our forums will be strictly moderated for the safety and enjoyment of the members. Come on over and check Satin and Steel Sisterhood out. http://www.satinandsteelsisterhood.com

Tenacity or If You Will…Stubbornness

Tenacity or If You Will…Stubbornness

copyright Sandy Long 

I got hurt on the road in 1983 trying to put 55 gallon drums of glue onto pallets without a barrel jack being available. I ended up in the office of ACB trucking for 2 years then returned to driving which made the injury flair up again to the point that I could barely walk. I had to leave trucking and ended up on disability.

In 1988 I married a guy who was also disabled being in a wheelchair. We lived in a smaller N MO town of about 6,000 people. He got me interested in disabled rights and I learned about the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). The ADA is enforced by the Justice Department and is required to be followed by public entities. The town did not have any curb cuts nor a handicap parking ordinance.

Because of my hubby then being in a wheelchair, it was hell trying to get him onto sidewalks to go shopping, to businesses or for him to access the courthouse. I contacted the city and was told that they did not have the money to put in curb cutouts on the sidewalks…nor an elevator in the courthouse. Yet the town had just spent several million dollars building an 18 hole public golf course and a new park with minor league quality ball parks in it. I decided to get active in city politics.

I went to a meeting of the court house preservation committee to talk to them about getting an elevator in the courthouse. (the courtrooms were on the 2nd and 3rd floors and the town had about 30% of the population elderly or disabled). A woman on the committee said to me that I only wanted an elevator because I was too fat to climb the stairs! I remained cool, but knew this was just the first shot in what was to turn out to be a war.

With the city out of compliance with the ADA, I contacted the city administrator and the mayor and asked to be heard at the next city council meeting and to have private meetings with each of them. At each event, I used the very big stick of filing charges against the town with the Justice Department because I kept getting told the town could not afford curb cuts or any type of handicap assistance in their public buildings.

I wrote articles for the local newspaper and letters to the editor; to say I stirred things up would be an understatement! Eventually, the town agreed to start an ADA city committee to start working on a plan to provide curb cuts and to become more handicap accessible.

During this time of conflict over helping the elderly and disabled citizens of the town, I received threatening letters and phone calls, trash was thrown in my yard and the tires on my car were slashed. I was disrespected in meetings and verbally attacked both to my face and behind my back. The mayor even told the police chief to write me any ticket they could think of to harass me. It was pretty ugly!

But you know, the more they tried to stop me, the more stubborn I got and the harder I worked at doing what was right for the elderly and disabled people in town. I started an advocacy group for the disabled and got appointed to the board of directors of an accessible living center which helps people stay independent in their own homes if they become disabled. I already was on the advisory council for at risk kids at the high school; though they tried to get me off of that too by trying to ruin my reputation.

All sorts of things were done to try to ruin me and my reputation. They said that I had financial interest in getting the advocacy group going…though there were no dues required or money changing hands for services rendered. They tried to say that I was supporting the use of the disabled to further my own agendas. According to them, I was stupid, fat, lazy, a cheater and a liar. I just kept working harder.

I go through that town often as it is on a major highway and I still do some business there. (I moved when I divorced my husband and came back on the road) I smile when I do go to that town because there are curb cuts on every sidewalk now, an elevator in the courthouse and even two traffic signals with beepers so the blind folk know when the light changes so they can cross safely. I remember the thank you notes and calls and the shaking of my hand by a lot of elderly and disabled folk when the curb cuts, elevator and lights were put in….they make me smile to remember them. All of the fight was worth it…because I helped others.

Trying to stop me from doing what I do or ruin me by threats, rumor or innuendo do not work, I just get more stubborn and work harder to do what I do best…helping others…it makes me smile.