By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 12/10/2018
Topics/Keywords: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver Page Views: 943
An entry from Alternate Roads: Paul S. Cilwa's Truck Drivin' Journal

Thursday, January 9, 2003

I started driving yesterday at noon and have been driving almost non-stop since, so I'm (understandably) spaced out. Taking a load from the Sears distribution center in Delano, California to a local Sears retail store in Phoenix, I was originally hoping I would be able to get there in time to spend last night at home—but no such luck. A traffic jam on I-210 held me up for three hours in which I watched the idle counter on my truck increase. It's not supposed to do that, I'm told, when the clutch and/or brake pedals are depressed; but it does.

Perhaps the pedals aren't depressed enough. After all, they are already home.

By the time I got to the Whitewater rest area, I had to pull in for a nap. Since my appointment with Sears was at 7 am, and my computer said I was five hours away, I set the alarm to wake me at 2 am. It wasn't until after I had awakened and was on my way, that I realized I had forgotten to take the time zone change into account. I was going to be an hour late.

Over a thousand years ago, religious scholars announced that certain attributes were Divine. One of the statements was, "God is Eternal." That means that God exists outside of time—quite a sophisticated notion for the period; I wonder if the scholars of that day truly understood the implications. If they were right, then for God there is no past or future; only an eternal now. An additional implication of this attribute is that, for God, there is no cause or effect; because those are "time" words. For God, what is, is. If there is a relationship between, say, driving while tired and an accident, the only connection (for God) is God. (This is why lawyers are uncomfortable with this whole concept.)

But I feel the same way as God on this subject. That's why I haven't worn a watch for years. And why getting loads to a consignee on time seems like such an unreasonable goal to me. It has grown increasingly clear, with each assignment, that something will happen to delay it. This time it was me forgotten about the time zone change, though it was also the three-hour traffic jam delay. It might be a tire that needs changing, a dead battery, a big mud puddle or something else—but it will be something. So, why don't the trip planners include a few hours for unforeseen problems when making these assignments?

And you would think the trucking industry, which, after all, is an industry, would pick a time zone and stick to it. At least, each company ought to pick one for itself. But, no, Schneider has Operating Centers in many states, and each truck driver must adhere to the time zone in which his or her operating center is located…but only for logging. We have to adapt to the customers' time zones for pickups and deliveries, and to the time in Green Bay, Wisconsin, if we need to talk with personnel or anyone at all after hours.

I would like to suggest that the computer be allowed to translate all times into the drivers' operating center time zone. So, if I am assigned to the Fontana Operating Center (Pacific Time) and have a shipment going to Phoenix at 7 am (Mountain Time), the work assignment should automatically adjust and tell me the delivery is due at 6 am Pacific Time. That way, I could keep my truck and my brain set at one time zone for everything. Even the Qualcomm units, themselves, which are, after all, little computers, could perform the translations; or the Schneider mainframe could. Either way, no human would have to worry about time zone differences; they would all be handled automatically.


As I drove through the desert in the pre-dawn hours, I got to thinking more about the nature of God. Those ancient scholars had come up with quite a few Divine Attributes in addition to God's being Eternal. They were originally written in Latin, of course. Some of those words, like omniscient, have come into English but most people don't really know what they mean. That particular one means "All-Knowing", which concept I find interesting. As a kid being raised in the Catholic Church, I was told God was Omniscient, and also that I had to go to confession to tell the priest, God's intermediary, what sins I had committed. If God is All-Knowing, and the priest is God's intermediary, wouldn't it make more sense for him to tell me what sins I had committed? After all, my memory is only human and my knowledge of what constitutes a sin may be incomplete; it seems to me it would be a lot more helpful if God would just tell me what I was doing wrong.

God is also supposed to be All-Merciful. This is a hard concept to correlate with Hell, which God is supposed to have created so that folks who die with unforgiven mortal sins on their souls (Catholic), or who do not "believe in" the Lord Jesus Christ (Baptist) or who were not born members of the Elect (Lutheran) can spend eternity writhing in torment. That should teach 'em, right? Except there's no point to teaching them anything, since Hell, like Heaven, is supposed to be eternal. This conflict is why the Unitarian Universalists reject the idea of Hell altogether. Personally, I believe that people make their own Hell. I wrote a story to that effect some years ago; a woman finds herself in Heaven but doesn't like the way it is run (not enough discipline), and so creates a little pocket of hell for herself right there—it's the closest she can come to happiness or, at least, satisfaction.

God is also supposed to be All-Powerful. This must be a terrible disappointment to those Christians who believe God needs their help in running the Universe. These are the ones who want to make activities illegal that they believe are "against the Will of God." How can I explain to these folks that, if God is All-Powerful, then God's will must be instantaneously reflected in reality? If God wants to put a stop to abortion, then abortion would simply not be possible. If He didn't want people of the same gender to fall in love or have sex, they simply wouldn't—couldn't, any more than a duck can play the clarinet or a politician can really want campaign reform.

Now, I don't mean to imply that we don't need laws—but let's stop blaming God for the need for them. Laws should make life easier for us: traffic laws, for example, standardize what people coming upon a four-way stop should do and which color on the traffic light should mean, "Go." Laws minimize our exposure to bad check writers and child molesters and are our only hope of protection against our abuse by corporations. But none of these things involves the Will of God. God is concerned with keeping planets from crashing into each other, not vehicles.

The confusion of God's will with ethics is ancient, and comes from the human desire to be more convincing than one, by nature, would be. I may have a wonderful idea that, if everyone follow my suggestion, would make us all happier and better adjusted. But hey, who am I? Just some slob who drives a truck. What do I know? And so people do not give my idea, whatever it is, the consideration it deserves. However, if I tell people that it isn't my idea, but God's—that it was passed onto me via a bolt of lightning or while I was in a whale's stomach or wrestling with angels—well, that may not convince many folks now, but a few centuries ago it got everyone's attention—and, in most cases, belief.

That was also the era of high snake oil sales, I should point out.

Another attribute of God is that He is All-Seeing. A purist would point out that this is the same as All-Knowing; but it isn't, exactly. Is God All-Seeing because He is All-Knowing, or is He All-Knowing because He is All-Seeing? Either way, it seems to be the same super-power possessed by Santa Claus: "He knows when you are sleeping; he knows when you're awake…He knows if you've been bad or good…" Any Catholic child knows that God is watching when you pee, when you masturbate, when you try to microwave the cat…there's no escaping the All-Seeing Eye of God (which, again, makes confession seem redundant).

Schneider is also All-Seeing, thanks to the satellite hookups to the Qualcomm units in the trucks. These units include GPS transponders, which receive signals from the GPS satellites and then send the results, via different satellites, back to Schneider's computers.

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. These satellites are in non-stationary orbits around the Earth, positioned so that there are always three of them above the horizon at any given time. A GPS receiver on the surface of the Earth receives a signal from each of them, and determines, via the slight time lag (due to the fact that radio waves travel at the speed of light) relative to the others, precisely where on the surface of the Earth the unit is positioned. This is actually a very cool and useful technology. Once the GPS in my truck has figured out where I am, it can then send the information back to one of the Qualcomm satellites. Unlike the GPS satellites, Qualcomm's are in geosynchronous orbit, which means they appear, from the surface of the Earth, to hang motionless in their spot of sky. Geosynchronous orbits must lie on the same plane as the Equator, so the Qualcomm satellites appear to be in the southern sky from the United States. That's why, if we park on the north side of a mountain or tree, the Qualcomm unit might complain that it cannot find a signal. If the unit cannot "see" a satellite, it cannot communicate with it.

Via the GPS signals, Schneider can extrapolate not only where we are, but what direction we are traveling and how fast we are going.

Years ago, I had a programming job for a company that was installing transponders in boats that plied the waters of Lake ??? in Venezuela. The boats were owned by an oil company that was drilling the lake, and the boats were supposed to act as a taxi service for the oil company. Yet, mysteriously, the boats would often be missing for hours at a time. Well, it wasn't really much of a mystery; everyone knew the boat captains were using the boats to take private passengers. But it couldn't be proven without the transponders. The oil company spent several million dollars to develop this pre-GPS system simply to catch the captains cheating. For some reason, after the transponders were installed in the boats, they didn't work. A bullet would become lodged in one, another's moorings loosened and it fell in the lake; the electrical connections of others would become prematurely frayed and short out. It seems some people don't really like to be seen when they're awake, sleeping, bad and good. I observed that the company could have saved a few million dollars by simply hiring enough boats so that they always had the services they needed even allowing for some private usage by their captains. But, hey, who am I? I should have claimed that God told me that while I was riding in a wheel within a wheel.

Some truck drivers resent the Qualcomm's ability to report on their whereabouts, too. Also, the units can determine how long you've been driving and send messages—either to the company or to the driver, or both—when they are about to be behind the wheel for an illegally long period of time. They are not infallible, though. In the past, I had moved my truck from one part of a lot to another during my DOT break, and the Qualcomm reset the break time, so that when I was ready to drive, it thought I had to rest another few hours. But I've also moved the truck and had it not register. So I've learned that, after moving the truck, I should call my STL and get a report of when he thinks the truck was last moved.


The folks at Sears didn't seem to mind that I was an hour late. They'd been warned; and, anyway, they weren't ready for me when I did get there; they were still unloading another trailer and I wound up waiting almost an additional hour myself.

Although the Bible (and the original Sumerian tablets) say that humankind was created in God's image, people seem intent on remaking God in their own. We try to invent a God that is a Super-Human. If we can be knowing, then God must be All-Knowing. If we can be merciful, then God must be All-Merciful. Folks who are vengeful rather than tolerant see God as being All-Vengeful. All these people seem to miss the point: God is an alien, an extraterrestrial. He/She is unlikely to possess human traits because God is not human. (For purposes of discussion we are not talking about Jesus here.)

Besides, all the Divine Traits assume that God is located "outside". To be All-Seeing, God must be on the outside looking at us. To be All-Merciful or All-Vengeful, God must be on the outside judging us. This is not the only possible configuration of God. The Hindus and Buddhists believe that God is on the inside. In other words, God is not a bearded old man reaching out to play "Pull My Finger" with Adam. Rather, God is Adam's cells…the molecules that make up Adam's cells…the atoms that make up his molecules.

In this point of view, God is the quantum foam out of which all aspects of the Universe arise.

Including time.

But not time zones. Humans made those up unaided.

And don't even get me started on Daylight Savings Time!