Truck Stop Troubadour Volume 16- Railroaded

Like most new truck drivers, I began my career as an over the road driver, sleeping in my truck's "sleeper compartment"and showering and eating at truck stops.
Now you can be as anti-social as you want but you are never going to fully escape the banal conversations that waft through these establishments from the TV rooms, the shower stalls and the bathrooms.  It seems like every truck driver has a horror story where he has been railroaded, scapegoated or mistreated at one time or another.  The one theme that seems to run consistent through all of these stories is that it's never their fault.
So keep this in mind when I lay out my own horror story--I have always had a deal with myself to keep out of the trap of seeing myself as a victim and to always be very conscious of my role in these things.  For the life of me, though, this one really is not my fault.
All summer long then throughout the fall and on into the winter I have been delivering a load of palletized groceries to the Stop and Shop in East Hampton, NY.  The details of what I do are pretty boring but for the sake of accuracy I want to describe what happened on Friday January 27.  I pull into the municipal lot in East Hampton at 7am, which happens to be where the loading docks are, and my job is to drop the full trailer, hook up to the empty trailer that's in the loading door, pull that out, hook back up to the full trailer and put that in where the empty one was.  After this, you unhook from the loaded one, hook back up to the empty and bring that back to Newburgh where they will inevitably fill it back up the next day with more groceries.  All pretty straight forward.
I had some difficulty with the trailer that was there when I got there and the receiver on duty mentioned to me that I hit the wall kind of hard. I've heard this from receivers in the past--usually in jest and it never really amounts to anything.
I was in East Hampton from 7:00am to 7:50am. In that time the receiver on duty helped me with the trailer, checked in the load, and signed the documentation.  I purchased a bagel and a donut in their bakery, I had a conversation with the grocery manager about the entrepreneur that developed "Honest Tea" and about podcasts and finally saying good-bye to everyone, I got in the truck and drove back to Newburgh.
I got home at about 2pm and I got myself ready for my gig at Diego's.  When I got out of the shower at 5pm I had a message from my employer, JB Hunt, pleading with me to immediately call them back.  It was this dispatcher named Laurie who had this incredible knack for giving people a stomach ache just from being in the same room as them.  She was informing me that the East Hampton Stop and Shop said I damaged their wall and I better call the safety people at corporate headquarters in Arkansas and explain my side of things.
Well to wrap this up before you want to stop reading this diatribe, the East Hampton Stop and Shop, located in a forty year old building that was once a Waldbaums and I think an A&P before that, was claiming that I caused $56,000 worth of damage to their wall. $56,000!!!!
So you don't have to take my word for how criminal and opportunistic these slimeballs are, feel free to google Waldbaums East Hampton, NY and when you click on Yelp! you will see reviews from ten years ago describing what a dump the store is and was. Given that things rarely get younger over time, it is no real surprise that it is an even bigger dump today than it was in 2007.
I was called into the office at JB Hunt in Newburgh on Monday and told that my people here were going to do everything in their power to fight it but if it goes through at the number that the Stop and Shop is looking for, I will not only be out of a job, I will have a $56,000 accident following me around on my CDL license for all eternity, which of course will make it nearly impossible to find other work.
On Wednesday I wrote an email to the account manager in Newburgh and asked if I should start looking for another job.  He replied that he was typing up a term exception and they want to retain me.  A term exception from what I can puzzle together from corporate lingo means an explanation written by managers in New York why someone bound to be terminated should get a reprieve or an exception.
So far this sounds okay.
Walking out of the dentist office in Lake Katrine at 4pm today, my phone rings and it is my account manager.

"Hey man, I'm really sorry but corporate is upset that you didn't report this when it happened and the amount of money involved, they wouldn't make an exception.  Unfortunately, you've been terminated."

What is angering me most out of this whole turn of events is that in the most honest terms, I did not do anything wrong.  There was absolutely nothing that took place at that store that indicated to me that I better call my supervisors and tell them what happened. And, once again, the probability that I single handedly caused $56,000 worth of damage to their structure--and I use that term loosely--backing a bobtail tractor under an empty trailer is mathematically impossible and contrary to every law of physics known to mankind.

Knowing I am right is not really helping me right now.  What is helping me right now is knowing that we are in the midst of a very serious driver shortage and with perseverance and courage, I will be fine.  I've got little ones that rely on me in a very real way. If I'm not bringing in a pile of cash every week it's not as if I can just slough it off onto someone else.  There is no one else.

During the holocaust there was this man named Stanislavsky Lech who watched as the Nazis stormed into his home, herded up his entire family and one by one killed them all.  His son, his little girls, his wife  It made him temporarily into a lifeless robot but a voice inside of him--a voice that began by asking a fruitless question...why is this happening to me?... progressed into the question--how can I get out of this concentration camp?--he needed to come up with an answer to a seemingly unanswerable question very quickly because it would not be long before they would kill him.  The only reason he was still alive was because he had the unenviable job of loading naked dead corpses onto a truck each day to be taken out of the camp and dumped into trenches.

How am I going to get out of here?  How am I going to get out of here?  It became like a mantra and his sole purpose. Days and days of asking his brain that question finally led to an answer.  It dawned on him to remove every stitch of clothing from his body and lay "dead" in a pile of dead bodies.  The horrific stench was worse than anything else he had ever experienced.  Finally after hours and hours he was loaded, along with dozens of foul rotting bodies onto the bed of the truck and brought outside the fence to be dumped in the ditch.  Even then he waited for hours until dark and he ran--completely naked--for twenty five miles until he was free from the Nazis and in safe territory.

You may be wondering what this awful and poignant story has to do with my being fired unfairly from my truck driving job.  The answer is "absolutely nothing".  But it illustrates the power of asking the right questions and the paralysis of asking the wrong ones.  I could easily be sitting in my room right now asking myself how something like this could happen to me.  I'm clean, I am sober, I am honest, I don't cheat, I don't steal, I don't lie...but Lech could've done the same thing a thousand times over.  The reason he lived to a ripe old age and many of his neighbors died within days of his escape is because he did not waste his time asking his brain to give him answers to unanswerable questions.
So tonight, much like Stanislavsky Lech, I will be asking my brain "how am I going to get out of this?"  And I'll be damned if I don't have an answer by Monday.

Along with a wonderful souvenir: my very own boring as shit story of what happened to me that totally was not my fault.

2 comments

  • Cat

    Cat San Francisco

    Love your writing. This is a great story. Glad you got through it!

    Love your writing. This is a great story. Glad you got through it!

  • Billy

    Billy New Paltz

    Thank you!

    Thank you!

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