|By: Paul S. Cilwa||Viewed: 11/17/2019
||Topics/Keywords: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver||Page Views: 1670|
|An entry from Alternate Roads: Paul S. Cilwa's Truck Drivin' Journal|
Saturday, May 10, 2003
Wal-Mart, Target, Big Lots, Sears…Schneider is one of the carriers used by these companies to act as rolling warehouses. Most of their inventory is actually on the road, planned to arrive "just in time" to be sold. These chains are so large that, like an insurance agent who knows how many of his clients will die this year—but not which ones—the department store chains know exactly how much of everything they will need. Consequently, they can order their inventory items as needed, and don't need to store them in warehouses at all.This was one of the potential problems of the Y2K situation. When the year 2000 arrived with no obvious disasters, most people thought the whole thing had been hype. But I spent 1999 training programmers to overcome the Y2K problems in their computer systems; and I knew from working with these people and seeing what they had to accomplish, that the danger was very, very real. And, among the problems that would have resulted, had the electricity gone off, was that trucks would be unable to fuel; and, unable to fuel, they'd have been unable to make their "just in time" deliveries to the retail stores, shops, and grocery outlets. Granted, not being able to buy a big-screen TV or T-shirt because Sears is sold out of them is a minor annoyance; but not being able to purchase eggs or orange juice is another matter entirely. When author Robert A. Heinlein (one of his lesser books was the brilliant Starship Troopers) wrote that no town in America is more than 24 hours away from revolution, that's what he was talking about.
So, Schneider takes their Wal-Mart, Sears, and other department store chain loads seriously. Michael and I had picked one of them up yesterday; we had descended southward from Hermiston, Oregon, through exquisite scenery—lofty green mountains, forests, and rolling hills—through Winnemucca, Nevada. We reached Winnemucca about midnight and I was getting sleepy; we should have stayed there.
Winnemucca has more to recommend itself to straight guys than it does to a gay couple like Michael and me. That's because it lies within one of the several Nevada counties in which prostitution is legal. However, I've been told that none of the Nevada brothels offer the services of gentlemen. Only ladies are available, as the women who "man" the CB at the various establishments make clear. They're on CB channel 19, and as unwary truckers rumble into town soon learn, there are "Twelve!" (or eight, or six) "beautiful ladies to choose from!". Exactly what one is expected to do with these ladies is left to the drivers' imaginations, though the CB ladies will hold two-way conversations.
"Can I get one of these ladies to…" a trucker will ask, specifying some depravity or other. I won't bother to repeat the exact request; suffice it to say that he will want to shower afterward. With anti-bacterial soap. Inside and out. But it doesn't matter, anyway; I suspect the driver doesn't actually want to do this. He is just pulling the CB lady's chain, trying to see if he can shock her. But she doesn't shock easily. Her stock answer to all such requests is, "You would have to arrange that with the lady."
In that vein, I once decided I would try to shock the CB lady, too. "Among all those beautiful ladies," I radioed, "do you have any gorgeous gentlemen?"
"All our gentlemen visitors are gorgeous…to us," she replied, in a voice that suggested she either smoked cigarettes since she was three, or had just gargled a buzz saw.
"I mean, do you have any gentlemen for visiting gentlemen? I'm gay," I added, feeling that subtlety might not be this woman's strong point.
"Oh, you're not gay!" she giggled throatily. "You just haven't met the right woman yet."
"Maybe you just haven't met the right woman yet," I suggested, resulting in another set of giggles. But the bottom line was, men were not employed there.
I've seen the brothels; they're right off the US highways. They look like large homes set well off the road, with very large parking lots. As the CB ladies tell us, they have free parking for big rigs, offer free showers and complimentary wake-up calls. "And no one will bother you," they add. That puts them ahead, in desirability, of the truck stops, where less fortunate professional ladies are forced to ply their wares by banging on the sides of truck doors at two or three or four in the morning. Nevertheless, I've never parked in a brothel parking lot. Yet.
But, Michael and I didn't stop in Winnemucca. We navigated the confusing streets of the town, looking for I-80. In addition to my being sleepy, one of my contact lenses was really bothering me, and I could see clearly with just one eye. But, eventually, we found ourselves on the interstate highway. It surprised me, at the time, that when we passed the TA truck stop in town, it was on the opposite side of the road than I expected. Even given that clue, and even when we saw signs declaring Battle Mountain ahead with no word of the distance to Reno, I didn't suspect anything was wrong. After an hour, we pulled off at a mountain summit parking area and shut down for the night.
We slept well, or at least I did; Michael wasn't yet used to the bunk or to sleeping as crammed together as we were. He still hadn't taken my hints ("You might be more comfortable in the upper bunk") and I wasn't about to push him out of my bunk, as I was sleeping fine and loved to fall asleep with my arm around him. Even his snoring, which can be picked up by local seismographs, was like music. And then, morning arrived; we peed, inspected the truck, and took off in the same direction we'd been driving the night before.
Now, however, I was more alert. I noticed that Reno wasn't mentioned on the distance signs. When Salt Lake City was, I freaked. "Oh, my God!" I cried. "We're going the wrong way!" And it was true. We were. After arriving at Winnemucca, I had turned east on I-80 instead of west. My mistake would cost us about 200 miles.
We aren't paid for driving these miles, of course. We are paid for the book distance between two points, the book being a work of fiction that is revised each year, with most of the distances reduced with each revision—further proof that the world is getting smaller. Additional miles are called "out of route" and are not supposed to exceed 10% of the book distance. That's what Schneider tells us. However, the book actually runs about 12% low; and Schneider doesn't complain if drivers hit 12% out-of-route miles.
I was lucky because this was one of the few trips in which my computer had figured out a route that matched the book miles almost dead on the money. Schneider's suggested route was 200 miles longer. So my mistake wouldn't actually cost us anything but time. Still, it was precious time; the Wal-Mart load absolutely, positively had to be in Fontana by midnight tonight.
I turned around at the next exit and took advantage of the fact that Nevada's interstate speed limit is 75 mph in most stretches. Not that my governed truck can accelerate that fast; but I could allow gravity to speed it up on downgrades and did so.
And now, Michael and I settled back for a long, long drive—at least eight hours non-stop, more or less. I explained we could stop to go to the bathroom if necessary, and we could make a quick stop for drinks and to heat our microwavable meals—but there would be no time for sightseeing, no time to shop for refrigerator magnets or T-shirts. Michael, who had not actually been a problem in this regard, agreed easily.
Instead, he took out his notepad and began speaking of ONA.
When Michael and I first met, and began talking of ourselves and our lives, we discovered we each had an interest in metaphysics and spirituality. More surprisingly, we had each come to the conclusion that the seven-level energy systems of the Hindus (and updated by devotees of Reiki and the like) were compressed—that there were actually twelve energy centers associated with the body, as well as twelve energy fields surrounding it and twelve inner dimensional expressions of these energies. Each of us was rather amazed to find someone else who had, independently, come to such an esoteric conclusion. As we compared notes further, we discovered that our conclusions dovetailed almost perfectly; all that differed was the terminology we had made up.
Michael's "guides" (members of traditional religions might call them "guardian angels") had told him to create a set of seminars and workshops based on this information, which he had been doing when he and I met. In fact, he'd given the first draft of some of these workshops. At the time, my professional job was to give classes in computer programming; so I had more familiarity with giving presentations than Michael did. I volunteered to restructure the workshops, making them a little more professional and filling in gaps. As I rewrote each one, Michael and I would argue over the terminology that we used. Should we use his word, or mine? Or one of the others contributed by other participants with whom Michael had worked through the years? We had some mighty battles as we made our way through the material. These battles never became personal. We simply both were passionate about making certain the material went from concept to paper without losing any of its significance.
During my year of unemployment, after the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York, Michael and I made a lot of progress, completing and presenting the first nine workshops (preceded by an introductory "Workshop Zero"). Then I started driving the truck, and work on Workshop Ten had stalled. Michael had hoped we might actually accomplish something on Workshop Ten on this trip. He had decided that each of his twelve days on this trip would provide a keynote for one workshop; and, indeed, we had already worked through some thorny problems and today were on Workshop, or System, Five, the one that represents Purpose. Since our self-declared purpose was to complete these workshops, we hoped to get some insight into how we might accomplish the overall task.
By now we were heading south on US 95, which consists of only two lanes for much of its length. A truck had been close behind us for miles; I was going as fast as I could, but the land here was mostly flat so I was limited to the 63.5 mph that the engine's governor allows. Finally, we came to a stretch with a passing lane, and the big, black Peterbilt roared past us. It was festooned with American flags, real ones, flapping like made from the doors and windows. A poster, affixed to the trailer that the driver obviously also owned, professed that "We Will Never Forget 9-11!" and bumper stickers admonished, "Death To All Terrorists!" and "Nuke Iraq To The Stone Age!"
Michael sighed. "How can people be so ignorant?" he complained. "All those flags are creating drag on his truck, which burns more gasoline, which comes from the Middle East. The flags themselves were manufactured by the Red Chinese, who put in a news article in their own newspapers that they've used the money from the flags sold since 9/11 to pay for another nuclear bomb, which is aimed at us. The real terrorists are the CIA, who trained Al Qaida and Osama bin Laden, and the FBI that allowed the guys who flew the jets into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to complete their flight lessons, in spite of warnings from one of their own men, who they fired when he wouldn't shut up about it. And—"
"Diesel," I said.
"Diesel. Trucks run on diesel fuel, not gasoline."
"Whatever." But I knew what he meant, and I knew he knew I knew what he meant. After all, we had been studying alternative news sources on the Internet since long before the 9/11 attacks; we had known the attacks were coming, though we didn't know the exact date or form they would take. Afterwards, those same sources had made it clear that those in positions to protect us, had also known and had actively worked to allow the attacks to happen, and had even profited from them, by selling US Air and United Airlines stock short the day before the attack.
"So," he continued, attempting to regain focus. "How does this relate to the Workshops? What is our Purpose? Are we supposed to convince everyone else they're wrong?"
"No," I said, firmly. "As we always say, 'Againstness Never Works'. Our job in the Workshops is to help participants understand the answer to your original question, which I'll rephrase as, 'How can people believe the range of things they do?' Because they are not ignorant. That driver who passed us undoubtedly thinks of himself as well-informed. He had an XM radio antenna; he probably listens to news stations daily, probably for hours at a time. What he's heard has outraged him, to the point of flying all those flags and putting up those bumper stickers."
"But all the mainstream news comes from the same sources: the news services AP, UPI and Reuters—and all three are majority-owned by the World Bank."
"He doesn't know that," I pointed out. "The radio, TV, and newspapers never broadcast who owns them. They make a big deal over their immediate owners—ABC, Disney, Bloomberg, Murdock—but never draw attention to the fact that corporations can own corporations, which hides the true owners from the casual observer."
"Then, how can you explain the difference between what he believes is so, and what we know is so?"
"Our knowledge may be incomplete, as well," I reminded Michael. "There are almost certainly levels of awareness above our own. So, if we criticize someone for their level of awareness, we are actually criticizing our own, as well."
"How many levels of awareness are there?" Michael challenged. He knew the answer, of course, as I did. It was based on the same twelve-level system as the workshops.
"Twelve," I replied.
"What are they?" Michael was seated with his pen poised over his notepad.
We have found that pretty much everything dovetails nicely with our twelve-level system, which suggests it may actually be valid. The same argument has been used for centuries to validate the seven-level chakra system used by the Hindus; but we have found that crunching things into seven levels requires some forcing that is not present when one divides things into twelves.
"The first System is Foundation," I recited. "That has to do with the physical body and basic life processes. So, Awareness One," I continued, making up the new term, 'Awareness', on the spur of the moment, "would be of the purely physical world. A person whose primary awareness operated at this level would see no reason to believe in God or gods; no evidence of angels or UFOs or, indeed, any power greater than himself. The world would seem to be chaotic and survival a chancy thing. Life would be a constant struggle simply to make it to the next day. Government is irrelevant or an enemy. People at Awareness Level One do not vote."
"And," I added, with emphasis, "awareness at this level is self-contained. Anything a person experiences, can be explained entirely at this level. You'll find that each level has this attribute."
"What about a visit from an angel, or a UFO sighting?" Michael challenged.
"A trick of the eyes, or the planet Venus, or swamp gas. Even if I don't know what the explanation is, if my awareness is at this level, I know there is one. And anyone who believes otherwise is simply mistaken, or trying to make a profit off the gullibility of others—something I well understand, and even envy if they're successful."
Michael nodded and took notes. "The second System is Acknowledgement," he reminded me. "What's the second level of Awareness?"
"In Acknowledgement, people become aware of the authority of others, as well as their own authority. At Awareness Two, a person recognizes the need for government and active participation in it. He or she votes, and may even run for minor office. At this level, there is still no need to bring in metaphysics. Everything is explainable in terms of what others are doing. So, at this level, the weather is just a chaotic system and government is to be trusted. If a person at this level believes in God, that deity is perceived as an absolute authority who must never be doubted or questioned."
Michael wrote furiously. "And Awareness Level Three?"
"That corresponds to System Three, Livingness, which is concerned with emotions and the interconnectedness of all life. At this level of Awareness, a person sees the Earth as alive and the ultimate cause of everything we experience. At this level, the government is perceived to be able to make mistakes. Environmental concerns are taken seriously. Emotions run high at this level, so if the news paints an individual or a country as a villain, it is believed."
"Like all that talk about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction to justify the war, and then when we got there we found there weren't any," Michael suggested.
"But the news didn't play up that fact," I agreed. "They just stopped talking about the supposed weapons. But, yes, you're right—this is the level of Awareness most Americans are at. Since it includes awareness of the Interconnectedness of All Things, or at least, of all life, it cannot be thought of as ignorant—but the emotional aspects of it make people at this level particularly susceptible to manipulation by those who are at higher levels."
"What about religion?" Michael asked.
"Most orthodox religions are emotional, not spiritual; so this is where you'll find the believers," I asserted. "Think about the things you hear from the televangelists and so many of the preachers: The fear of getting a complex theology wrong and so being condemned to eternity in Hell, for no more than an honest mistake. God is perceived as frightening and vindictive."
"Let me do a couple," Michael said.
"Sure," I agreed. "The next level is Mobility," I noted. "That has to do with mental capabilities, facts and logic over emotion."
"That's right," Michael said. "People at this level of Awareness can still be fooled by a media that lies to them, but they can also learn from other sources if someone points out the other sources to them. A person at this level, exposed to the information, is likely to believe in at least the possibility of a Global Conspiracy. More to the point, though, you'll find most of the leaders themselves operating at this level. And, at this level of Awareness, the Interconnectedness of All Things seems less important than a belief in Reason. Any problem seems solvable; so if we must destroy the ozone layer to keep the aerosols industry profitable, we'll do it—after all, we can always solve the ozone problem later, and probably make more money doing so."
"Religion?" I prompted, as I slid into the new right-hand lane to let more accumulated traffic pass.
"At this level of Awareness, you'll find people in some of the more rational religions, like Unitarian Universalism. The possibility of a God is accepted, but God is seen as super-rational, rather than as petty and vindictive. And you'll find that people at this level keep themselves aware of issues, and they vote, and campaign, and actively attempt to make this a better world."
"How does that tie in with what you said about Awareness Four politicians being willing to destroy the ozone layer for profit?"
"People at this level truly believe that increasing one's wealth, and the wealth of a nation, is the greater good."
"But isn't wealth part of System Two?"
"Maintaining wealth is an aspect of System Two. The increasing of wealth is an aspect of Mobility. 'Upwardly mobile'—get it?"
I got it, and Michael wrote more notes, so as not to forget what he'd said.
"At Awareness Level Five," I said, "which is based on System Five, Aspiration, we find the first true awareness of meaning outside the physical world."
"But earlier levels believed in God," Michael protested.
"Not really," I corrected. "They believe in a fiction that is simply a super version of themselves. Level Two believes in a Super authority; Level Three in a Super Avenger; Level Four in a Super Thinker. The actual Creator of the Universe is none of those things. At Level Five, God is perceived as less understandable to the human mind—but there is no need to understand God; the effort is to understand God's messages, so that one's true purpose can be achieved."
"Messages," Michael wrote.
"You know, all those coincidences that New Age folks put so much stock in and physically-oriented people work so hard at ignoring."
"Oh." The truck jumped over a pothole. "Hey, I'm trying to write! Try to drive more smoothly, will you?"
"Sure," I said, grinning. "I'll stop aiming at each hole in the road." Michael didn't laugh. He loses his sense of humor when he is working. I decided to distract him. "Awareness Level Six corresponds to System Six, Awakening," I prompted.
"That's where Intuition is activated," he recalled. "And that is this level of Awareness. It's also the level we're using right now," he added. "This kind of information always comes from the heart, which is the physical location of System Six. People who live primarily at this level, live by their intuitions. They vote if they feel they should and don't otherwise. They have an innate sense that all is right with the world, even if there are problems that need solving or crises that need resolving. This is also the first level of Awareness where you find true spirituality. Even if the individual isn't sure what form God takes, he or she knows, intuitively, that there is a Shaper of the Universe; and that's good enough." He took a sip of his soft drink. "What's the next one?" he challenged.
"I don't have all twelve Systems memorized!" I protested. "You've got 'em in your notebook. What is System Seven?"
"Communication," he reminded me.
"Oh, yeah," I said. "That one deals with relationships. That's the level of Awareness in which it becomes clear that there's much more going on than is visible on the surface. That's the level, for example, in which the fact that the current President's grandfather was good friends with so many people involved in the planning and execution of World War II becomes significant. That virtually every President and other world leader of the twentieth century belonged to the same secret society suggests that society, itself, holds the power of shaping world events. At this level, it isn't possible to believe in the 'lone gunman' theory because the existence of so much conflicting evidence simply cannot be ignored. This is the level of the conspiracy theories."
"But, don't forget, the other levels of awareness aren't wrong. Each level is self-contained. The world can be adequately explained from any level. At, say, level Four, reason might be shown these relationships and dismiss them as coincidence. At level Seven, coincidence isn't accepted as a viable explanation of anything, so these relationships seem significant. It's an example of that old saw about the five witnesses to a car accident who tell the police five different stories. Or the story of the three blind men examining the elephant. One, feeling the tail, says it's like a rope. Another, feeling the trunk, says it's like a vine. Another, feeling a leg, says it's like a tree. None of the three are wrong. They just don't realize they don't have the whole story."
"What's the whole story, then?"
"Well, let's keep going. The next system is Eight, Transformation."
"That's right," Michael agreed. "I can do this one. Transformation is about creating new things; so Awareness Eight must be one in which we see what can be, versus what apparently is."
"And how what can be, can be brought about," I agreed. "And then, there's the ninth system, Perception, right?"
Michael checked his notepad. "It is."
"Okay, that's where we see through illusions," I said, referring to the catchphrase Michael and I established long ago for Workshop Nine. "In this case, the illusion to see through is that any of this is real. We describe, in Workshop Zero, how everything we perceive is really just an agreed-upon illusion built upon the appearance and disappearance of bubbles in the quantum foam."
"Sure," Michael agreed. This was a reference to a discovery of modern physics. The components of atoms, such as electrons and protons, are themselves composed of quarks, which are themselves composed of quantum particles, minute bits of energy that come in and out of existence from some underlying source that forms the Universe. That's fine, but empty space is formed of the very same bits of stuff. At the quantum level, things "look" exactly the same as non-things. Reality is shaped by our experience of it; it has no external reality. "Like the old question of the tree falling in the forest," Michael suggested. "There is no sound, because if no one is there, there's no tree and there's no forest. The fallen tree is manifested later, when someone shows up, out of his or her expectation of what will be there to find."
"Exactly," I agreed. "And then we come to Enlightenment, System Ten and subject of the workshop I'm currently completing."
"I certainly hope you are!"
"Soon," I promised. "At this level of Awareness, comes the understanding that everything that exists, exists for the reason of the advancement and enlightenment of All That Is. That whether there was one gunman or twenty-seven, is ultimately unimportant. There were exactly enough to bring about an event that was for the ultimate advancement of all mankind."
"Most people would find it necessary to know who pulled the trigger," Michael reminded me, "so they'd know who to punish."
"Few people operate at the Tenth Level of Awareness," I pointed out. "This is the level Jesus referred to, when he told people not to judge others—that, as he put it, the 'Heavenly Father' had all responsibility for justice and balance. He knew that all things are as they must be, and that we can relax about it—that the Universe will evolve properly with or without our trying to help it."
"Then there's System Eleven," Michael prompted, "which we are still working to find the proper noun for. We've been using Service or Illumination."
"At this level of Awareness," I said, still relying on my intuition to describe a level I certainly haven't experienced, "people do understand how to assist the Universe in its unfolding."
"Sure," Michael agreed. "This is the level at which Jesus and Buddha actually operated for most of their lives. It's where it's possible to help others heal their illnesses or to walk on water."
"Right, because this level of Awareness, is the Awareness of how the Universe works at the energetic level."
"At this level," Michael said, considering, "the anointed ones do not punish. They heal. Read the four Gospels; no where in them is Jesus ever described as punishing anyone. Only St. Paul ever accused Jesus of striking someone blind."
"Yeah, and, conveniently, it was an enemy of Paul's that was thus punished."
"And the same thing had happened to Paul," Michael continued, "suggesting it was Paul who had this ability to punish, though he credited Jesus, whom he had never met, with the power."
I nodded. "The last System is Continuance."
"That's right," Michael agreed. "The System of wholeness, of integration. This level of Awareness describes a being who understands, with complete certainty, that All is One. That no human does what any human cannot do. That the capability of the most heinous crimes, and the most sublime achievements, are within us all. That every tree, bird, atom and sun is simply a manifestation of God, the Universe, the All That Is. That nothing is separate, not really."
"That we are all God," I offered.
"That God is all things," Michael returned, writing the last few notes and closing his notebook. The timing was perfect; we were pulling into the Fontana Operating Center. "So," he said. "Do we have the job of changing people's level of Awareness, or not? Is that something people enjoying a higher level of Awareness are charged with?"
I shook my head. "I don't think so," I said. "For one thing, all these levels are valid. Like the twelve Systems, none is really superior to the others; all are part of the whole, part of the Earth experience. I think, as an individual becomes more enlightened, more levels of Awareness become available to him or her—but they become available as enhancements, not replacements."
"As happens with holy hermits, you mean?" Michael asked. The gate to the Operating Center swung up and I pulled in, looking for a place to park.
"How do you mean?" I asked.
"Holy hermits gain a level of enlightenment, but then cannot function in normal society. So they go to live in caves or huts, unable to contribute except to those who seek them out."
"Exactly," I replied, a bit distracted as I backed into an available hole, but finding I could, indeed, maintain two levels of Awareness at once. "By developing the ability to function at all twelve levels at once, a person can be enlightened and be a functioning contributor to society, at the same time."
"And, that said," I said, shutting down the engine, "I am now aware that I'm exhausted and it's time to send in the message over the Qualcomm that we're here, the trailer is delivered, and that I'm going to sleep."
"Amen," Michael concluded. And, within minutes, we were, indeed, aware only of the Arms of Morpheus.