By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 2/28/2020
Topics/Keywords: #18-Wheeler #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver #TruckDriving Page Views: 234
An entry from Alternate Roads: Paul S. Cilwa's Truck Drivin' Journal

Friday, May 2, 2003

I was back in Hell, or, at least, Hellish Detergents.

This was the place I'd been to, some months earlier, where all the truck drivers had to wait for hours for their loads and there wasn't enough room to dock safely. I'd seen a driver dent the bumper of his truck on rocks Hellish Detergents had placed to keep trucks off their grass, but which made the area for backing into a dock even smaller.

However, I was determined to not let past experience spoil the day for me now. It helped that I already knew the routine. Knowing, for example, that I would probably have to wait hours for my load, I was relaxed and in a peaceful, waiting mood. I knew to park on the street, first, which I did. I walked into the yard and found two other Schneider drivers talking. (I could tell they drove for SNI by the pumpkin books they held—little spiral-bound notepads with orange covers, that we use to write down our assignment information.) They spotted my own pumpkin book and waved. One of them was furious.

"I've been here since nine in the morning," he fumed. It was now 3 o'clock, local time.

"Is this your first time here?" I asked, preparing to explain to him what the situation was, so he wouldn't be so stressed.

"Hell, no!" he swore. "I've been here ten times, and it's always like this!"

I was amazed. "And you've let yourself get this angry all ten times?"

It was his turn to look startled. "Let myself? They make me angry!"

I nodded. "Ah. So you've decided to give Hellish Detergents control of your emotions." I could see from his expression that the very idea that one can choose to become angry over events—or not—was new to him, so I decided to give him time to mull the concept over. "Well," I said, "if you'll excuse me, I want to register as soon as possible to minimize my wait." And I sauntered up the steps and into the shipping office.

Hellish requests that we fill out a registration slip with our names and truck numbers. I did so, and gave it to the woman behind the counter. She accepted it and I watched as she fed it into a time clock, which imprinted the official time of my arrival onto it. "I'm afraid I don't have any doors available right now," she said, hesitantly, as if I might yell at her for this lack—which, indeed, I'm sure many drivers do. In fact, I might have just been talking to one of them.

So I smiled in a friendly manner and said, "That's okay. I'm early, anyway—my appointment isn't until four o'clock."

She looked at the clock, which said 3:40 pm, and smiled back at me. She had a nice smile, which wasn't marred by the ring that pierced her mouth below her lower lip and came back out over it. "Thanks for being so nice about it," she said. The lip ring clinked when she talked.

"Not a problem," I said.

"Well," she continued, "I'll try and get you a door at four; but, if I can't, I won't have another one before five. Monitor CB channel 30 and I'll call you."

"I know you'll do what you can," I replied, waving, and stepped outside into the Salt Lake City sunshine. The other Schneider driver was standing by himself, as if turned to stone. He didn't seem to even see me pass. Obviously, his brain was busy creating new pathways and I left him to it undisturbed.

In my truck, I turned on the CB to the specified channel and lay down to take a nap. Four o'clock came and went. Five o'clock came and went. Sometime in between, they must have called the other Schneider driver because he and his truck were now gone. At six o'clock, my truck was called and I started it up. Docking was fairly easy, since I knew the place was unreasonably tight and I took my time. I probably took fifteen minutes to do it, but I didn't hit anything and found myself perfectly aligned with the dock door when I was done. I returned to my bunk to await loading.

They were done by nine o'clock. The dock person let me know by pounding on the side of my truck, which is normal. He handed me the seal for the truck, and directed me to the office to receive the paperwork.

When I got there, the same woman with the pierced lip was still there. She gave me the bill of lading and, after punching it in the time clock, handed me the registration slip I had given her when I first came in.

This slip is important, because Hellish is one of the few customers Schneider has that has so spectacularly taken advantage of the leeway given for loading time that Schneider charges them extra for excessively detaining drivers. So I glanced at the slip. It correctly gave my completion time as 21:30 (9:30 pm in military time). But it said I had arrived at 16:38, which would be 4:38 pm. I knew I had gotten there an hour before that, and pointed that out to the clerk.

She became upset, thinking I was accusing her of not punching in the slip right away. "No," I explained. "I saw you punch it in when I got here. I'm wondering if there's something wrong with the clock."

"There can't be," the woman explained. "I don't have access to it. It can only be reset with a key that I don't have." Just then, her manager stepped in and asked what the trouble was.

"No trouble," I replied easily. "I'm just curious about a discrepancy in the times on this slip."

At first, he thought I was trying to nail Hellish for more waiting time than I had experienced. Then, when the clerk agreed that I had come in before 4 o'clock—she remembered our conversation about my being there early—he offered to correct the slip manually.

"That's fine," I accepted, "but that's not the issue. I don't really care about the time slip. I'm wondering about the wrinkle in time I seem to be experiencing."

He suddenly laughed, with enthusiasm. His laugh was infectious. "I thought I was the only person who thought about such things!"

So, we all became friends and didn't worry about the event. We simply acknowledged it, after making sure we hadn't missed any obvious, prosaic explanation for the phenomenon. I had arrived before 4 o'clock; the clerk remembered me and my arrival, and our conversation about my being there early. We agreed the time clock could only be changed by the boss, who had the only key, and who had left before I got there. We agreed the time clock was now accurate, and so had probably been accurate when I had arrived. There was no practical explanation. But it had happened; I held the proof in my hand.

"This might be one-half of a phenomenon," the manager said, still chuckling. "Pay attention. The other half could come at…any time." And he laughed again.

I pulled away from the dock, still wondering at the significance of this bit of strangeness. The load was to be taken just a half-hour north, to a drop yard used by Schneider. I uncoupled there, then continued further north to Clearfield, Utah, where SNI maintains still another drop yard. I was to pick a trailer up there, but it wouldn't be ready until three in the morning. I would, however, have to get it then, because I would still have barely enough time to get it to its destination.

I hate having to get up at three in the morning to drive. But, this time, I didn't seem to have any choice. I wondered if I could turn it to my advantage.

Saturday, May 3, 2003

Clearfield is in the vicinity of Ogden, Utah. I needed fuel, and the nearest fuel stop was in Ogden. I was also bobtailed. That meant I could check out a hot spring I had heard about.

I figured, there wouldn't be anyone in the spring at this hour; so I could rest—sleeping "faster" in the warm water—leave at two-thrity, and get to the drop yard in time to pick up the trailer and start on the next trip.

The fuel stop is located at I-15's exit 347. This was useful, because the instructions I had downloaded from the Internet said to use that very exit. So, I filled up, then headed east on UT 39, through town, and into Ogden Canyon. The instructions said the spring is at the mouth of the canyon; but it was dark and I passed it by, continuing up into the canyon itself, along a seriously contracting and winding road that heads deep into the hills. Finally, after going about ten miles, I found a place I could turn around and backtracked. It was now well after midnight; but, by God, I was going to find the spring.

The instructions said the spring came just after a water pipe that "hangs over the road". In this direction, it would come just before. I had missed the pipe on the way up; now I saw it. It looked less like a pipe and more like a suspension bridge. There was parking on both sides of the road, so I pulled over and shut down. It was 1 o'clock.

There is not adequate parking for a full rig, I must emphasize. But, bobtailed, it was no problem.

I crossed to the south side of the road and found the trail. As dark as it was, I was forced to turn my flashlight on a time or two. There were places where the trail was a tad steep, but it wasn't a long trail and never went far from the road. If anyone had tried to start my truck, for example, I would have been able to race back to it and stop them before they pulled away.

When I got to the springs, I found a couple of guys already there. They didn't know each other; and there were two pools, with one guy in each pool. I asked the nearer one if he minded my joining him. He gave permission, and I got in.

The water was warm, bath-water perfect; and I stretched out in luxurious indolence, very grateful to be able to relax for a few minutes.

The next thing I knew, a hand was running up my leg. And it wasn't mine.

I opened my eyes, probably jerked in surprise, and the guy with whom I was sharing the pool pulled his hand back and apologized. "Sorry," he said, softly. "I thought you were gay."

"I am," I said, puzzled. "But why would you think that?"

"Mostly gay guys come to this spring," he replied. "Cruising."

"Oh." I hadn't known that; I found the spring listed on an Internet site devoted to hot springs, rather than hot times. "Well, I'm flattered, but I'm not cruising. I just thought I would soak for a bit." I realized that the fellow in the other pool had left while my eyes were closed, leaving me alone with my would-be trick.

He was a young man, in his mid-twenties, and was quite attractive, with wavy black hair, blue or gray eyes—hard to tell in the moonlight—a strong chin, and broad, muscular shoulders. Whatever other attributes he might possess were hidden beneath the surface of the water. I closed my eyes again and began to relax, when I heard him say, "Oh, shit. Now I'm really embarrassed."

I exhaled, heavily, and returned to an upright sitting position. "What are you embarrassed about?" I asked.

"Well, coming on to you like that. I don't know how to do it, and I guess I did it wrong."

"What, are you telling me you've never tricked with anyone before?" That seemed unlikely; feeling up a stranger seemed like a relatively bold thing to do.

"Just my best friend," he admitted. "I'm not really gay. I just like to have a good time."

"You have sex with your best friend, think sex with men is a good time, but you're not gay?" I challenged.

"I might be bisexual," he admitted.

"You have a girlfriend?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said. "She's a real bitch, though."

"If you're just with the wrong woman," I offered, tentatively, "that doesn't mean the whole gender is wrong for you."

"Oh, I know that!" he exclaimed. "It's her, she really is a bitch. She had me arrested, and had my car impounded. And she killed my cat," he added, bitterly.

"Maybe you should stop thinking of her as your girlfriend," I suggested.

"I can't," he moaned. "I'm living with her, and I don't have another place to go."

Well, I thought. This is a reverse of the usual battered wife story. "How about your best friend, the one you fool around with? Could you stay with him until you get things straightened out?"

The young man seemed to consider it. "Maybe," he said, thoughtfully. "Shit," he added. "I wanted to get laid, not analyzed."

"I understand," I said, "I really do. But it's not going to happen tonight, at least, not with me. You can take advantage of what I can offer you, which is conversation and advice, or we can soak in friendly silence and you can hope someone else shows up."

He considered this. "How do you know you're gay?" he finally asked.

"How do I know I'm gay?" He nodded in the moonlight, and I decided to take the question seriously. "Well, for one thing, I've been attracted to men since I was about two years old. I was raised in a world where such things were never spoken of, so I got married to a woman, thinking I was truly the only man in the world who wanted to have sex with other men."

"You married a woman?" the young man asked incredulously. "How could you do that? I mean, if you're gay, how could you have sex with one?"

"I was twenty years old," I explained. "A twenty-year-old can fuck a tree. Sexual orientation hardly figures into it. But, as the years went by, the situation got more and more difficult. Especially since I was truly fond of my wife, who was, and is, a wonderful and attractive woman."

He considered this. "I really like having sex with my buddy," he admitted.

"You might be bisexual, and you might be really gay," I pointed out. "Only you can figure that out. But take your time and try to be sure—especially before you get married, or even set up living arrangements with someone. But, when all is said and done, make the most of wherever you find yourself."

"I try to," he said.

"Practically speaking," I said, "I should never have gotten married, not to a woman. But I did, and we had four children. If I'd been better informed, and not married a woman, those kids would never have been born—and they're wonderful kids; I love them more than anything and the complete experience, I now see, was absolutely worth any amount of difficulty. And now I've got grandkids, and that's even more wonderful. So, I do not regret the life I've lived—but I also have to advise others that it didn't make sense. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"You have grandchildren?" he asked incredulously. "How old are you?"

"Fifty-two," I answered promptly.

"Wow," he breathed, as if he'd never in his life met anyone so ancient.

"Why?" I asked, "How old are you?"

"Twenty-five," he replied.

I chuckled. "That's two years younger than my youngest," I remarked.

"I never was with an older man," he commented, suggestively.

"Look," I said. "I don't have a problem with casual sex. I really don't. Sex is exquisite when it happens between two people who love each other, but, let's face it, it's also fun when it's between strangers. You gotta do it safely, these days, of course. But it's also got to be the right strangers, and the right circumstances. Otherwise, it's just tedious."

"Sex is tedious?"

"Well…maybe it's my age talking. But, yeah, sex for sex's sake gets old quickly. I'd much rather wait for the right person, than go for the first opportunity."

"But you could show me so much!"

He'd hit a weak spot. I do love to teach people things, even though it's usually more on the order of how to program computers or how plate tectonics formed a chain of mountains.

And I knew that fooling around with this kid would not threaten my relationship with Michael. Michael, my husband, and I have never mistaken our love for each other, for ownership. I'd really rather be with Michael. But Michael wasn't here. I felt myself starting to weaken.

"What time is it?" I asked, seeing he had a watch. I figured it was about 1:30 in the morning, and we might have an hour before I had to leave for my pickup.

He glanced at his wrist, and replied, "3:30."

I jumped up. "3:30??" How had it gotten to be so late? "Sorry, man, I have to go. I have to pick up a trailer." I hopped out of the pool, pulling my dry clothes over my wet body. I turned to go, then faced the young man again. "I swear this isn't bogus," I said, trying to remember if "bogus" was currently in use. "I really have to get to my next job. I didn't realize it was so late." And then I was scampering up the trail. I jumped into the cab, started the engine, and was heading out of the canyon when my eyes fell on the Hellish registration slip with the evidence of wrinkled time on it.

The missing hour had come due…just in time.