Looking Back at a Bad Couple of Weeks…and the lessons learned

By Sandy Long (written in 2010)

The last couple of weeks have been strange to say the least…too much stuff going on…this happens with truckers though; bad things happen at home and we are hundreds of miles away scrambling trying to take care of whatever it is on the phone.

When you end up with several bad things going on at the same time or within the same couple of weeks; you end up feeling like you are juggling swords while doing that Russian dance….something ends up giving and you can become distracted; then all the swords fall and you end up on your arse.

I am going to share with you what has been going on this summer in my life…not for sympathy, but to show you newbees and wannabees the really hard part of trucking…juggling home and the road, and how a trucker can end up messin’ up.

I am single and live in a small truck friendly town.  My house that I am buying has another little house on the property…sounds fancy, it is not.  My 87 year old mom lives in the little house and I assist her when she needs it.  She is still fairly active and can take care of most of her business, but is starting to get a little fuzzy in her thoughts…not remembering everything precisely.

Last year, I bought the adjoining lot next to mine.  There is an old house on it and a garage.  This spring, my mom started yelling at kids cutting the corner across that property.  In April or May someone started stealing little stuff from my place; a wind chime, a milk crate, a rose trellis and other little stuff.  About 6 weeks ago, someone vandalized the garage…broke in and spray painted everything in it.  This week, someone took off the top to the old oil tank fill pipe on my house…tank is empty in basement, but still.  I am scared for my house now while I am on the road.

Some of you might know that mom was in a wreck and her car was totaled…not her fault, woman ran a stop sign and hit her.  So I have been dealing with insurance agents and adjustors.

Now add in that my car broke down, my computer died, we are running hard right now…3000-3500 miles in 5 days, my dog has been sick, and I have workmen in tearing down the old house on the property I bought…along with the normal things that we all deal with and to say that I am a little distracted is an understatement.  It is starting to show too, my head is not in the game of trucking right now.

Last week, I overslept and missed a pick up appointment by 30 minutes…it was ok, I still got loaded, but being late for a pick up or delivery unless for weather or break down is such a bad thing in my mind and such a rare occurrence for me, that I am still beating myself up for it…my boss wasn’t even mad, but surprised that it happened, it just isn’t like me to do that.

Sunday, I got talking on the phone to my brother’s widow who started talking a lot about him…got me distracted as I was leaving the truck stop after making a quick pit stop and I went west instead of east on the interstate…been in that truck stop a million times too.

Monday, I got lost twice by missing highways I wanted to turn on…now this happens to everyone, but usually not twice in the same day.

The last two weeks, I have been preplanning my trips badly making some bad fueling, for logbook purposes, decisions and stopping too soon to break out making me have to run to make a delivery instead of being there waiting…this causes log book problems as it eats up hours for the day.

This all culminated Thursday night when I was fueling while a relay driver waited on me to change out loads.  I was tired, rushed and stressed from trying to explain all the information from the insurance people to mom all day and from having to speak to the local police here at home about what has been going on here.  The nozzle on the driver side clicked off.  I went to the passenger side and lifted the nozzle a little bit to see if it was stopped yet…sometimes the lift thingy doesn’t click down when the fuel hits the nozzle in the tank.

The nozzle somehow twisted under the strap that I have there to hold it in the tank securely and I got hit in the face with a huge blast of diesel fuel.  Luckily, I wear glasses so it missed my eyes, but the rest of my face and hair got it.

Of course, the first thing I did was to look around to see if anyone had seen what had happened, you don’t want anyone to notice when you do dumb crap ya know.  Wiped off my face best I could and finished fueling, got my receipt and tried with baby wipes to clean myself off; changed trailers with the other driver then got a shower.

I took 10 minutes and looked at why this stupid thing had happened…it was because I was distracted by other things than normal; I had too many swords in the air and they were coming tumbling down causing me to not pay enough attention to any one thing, especially my job….I was distracted.

The little talk I had with myself resulted in yesterday calling some friends to ask for ideas on how to deal with the messing with my house problem…one of them came up with the perfect solution and I will be implementing that in the next couple of weeks.  Mom got her money from the insurance company yesterday for her car and now only has to deal with that woman’s insurance company for doctor’s check ups…so that is pretty much taken care of.  I also called my younger brothers and asked them to step in to help me work with mom, they do not live here, but they can help by talking to her on the phone.

I do not have much planned for today and will take a nap later on…I went to bed early last night for me at least and didn’t set the alarm…got a full 8 hours in my own bed.  Of course, only being home today and tonight, I have the usual stuff to do when home, but am not going to do a lot else…it is time to rest.

Someone, someplace else, asked me why I thought trucking was a lifestyle and not just a job…the above is one reason.  Truckers have to learn to deal with life in unique ways because we are not home to take care of things.  We have to spread ourselves thinly at times and find creative ways to attend to problems both on the road and at home…especially when we are not married/partnered up or have family who lives near to assist us.

Cars don’t break down for us when we have time to deal with it. People vandalize our home because of some BS reason when we are gone, because we are gone and they can without being caught. Parents get elderly and need our help when we don’t have the time or energy to do so; but we still have to help; and sometimes life at home and on the road combine to make us drop the swords we juggle while dancing that Russian dance and we fall on our arses making stupid mistakes. Sometimes it takes a face full of diesel fuel to make us wake up to see we are overwhelmed and distracted.  It is all part of being a truck driver.



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