By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 4/5/2020
Topics/Keywords: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver Page Views: 1537
An entry from Alternate Roads: Paul S. Cilwa's Truck Drivin' Journal

Wednesday, June 4, 2003

After spending the night at the Schneider drop yard in Auburn, Washington (a facility I like because it's usually not crowded, it's quiet, and it includes a building with a shower), I spent the day getting giant rolls of paper from a mill in Tacoma. The first load they sent me for, was a relay load; I returned it to the Auburn drop yard for someone else to take to New Jersey. I was a little envious; I could have used a nice long trip like that. But they gave it to an owner-operator who asked my advice on how to best get to the Garden State.

The second paper load was mine, to be taken back into California.

While they were loading the truck, I hung out in the shipping office chatting with the manager. It was his last week on the job; he was retiring and had accepted a part-time job near his home. "That way, I can make some money and spend more time with the grandkids," he said.

Gee, the very things I'd like to do…and haven't been, in this job. Money and quality time. Is it possible?

Loaded, I closed the trailer doors and set out on I-5, south to California. Since I had been to the hot springs just a couple days before, I decided to skip them this trip and just get to the vicinity of my delivery location as soon as possible. I wouldn't have been able to spend much time there, anyway; the schedule for this load was, if not tight, certainly snug.

On the way, my cell phone rang. It was Bruce, who ran the company I used to do most of my training through. Except for the occasional Christmas card or social call, I hadn't heard from him in two years, not since all my classes were cancelled after the attack on the World Trade Center. And he had never called me. So I was particularly intrigued by the call.

"We have a Visual Basic class at the end of July in Missouri," he explained. "And I thought of you."

"Really? What version?"

"Version 6." That was the version of Visual Basic I had taught the most. It's not the most recent version, but apparently customers have been slow to embrace Visual Basic .NET, Microsoft's latest offering. "But are you committed to the truck for that week? Can you get away? Do you want to?"

"I'll make it," I promised. A week of making my old salary would pay back utility bills, even get us caught up with the rent. "I'll definitely make it." We discussed a few details and then terminated the call.

A week teaching! A week not driving! I was excited enough about this to realize that I was excited about this.

The fact was, after ten months, truck driving was getting a bit old. I was driving the same routes over and over. Frequently, I was even servicing the same clients. While that made the job somewhat easier—I didn't have to search for client sites, or worry about directions, or be concerned about getting lost—it also made it less interesting. I had mastered the physical job of driving; now I had to contend with keeping my mind occupied while I was at the wheel.

And the thing that usually occupied it was, how would I pay the rent? Week after week, my take-home pay was under the $300 I needed. Often, this was because I had borrowed against it to make a previous week's rent. But I never seemed to get caught up. If I bought a lot of things, luxuries, or even if I had a cocaine habit I could understand not having any cash. But, I must admit, being constantly broke wasn't as much fun as it's cracked up to be.

In fact, I realized as I entered into Oregon and pulled into the Tigard Operating Center to check my email and spend the night, I was nearing the end of my one-year "sentence" and it was time to start considering other options.

As if in answer, when I downloaded my email I found a message from a company in Jupiter, Florida. It seems they had found my resume on the web and wanted to hire me to work as a technical lead for their new company; and would I please call?

Thursday, June 5, 2003

Continuing on through Oregon and into northern California, I stopped at an appropriate time and gave the guy in Jupiter a call. He described his company as a "startup" and named several companies, most of which I had never heard, as its backers. He assured me I would be able to work from home. "A number of our employees work at home," he said. He didn't provide details on what his company did except that it was involved with the internet. I told him I'd made a commitment to teach a class the last week of July; he said that wouldn't be a problem. He wanted to know how quickly I could leave my current job; I told him I would want to give them two weeks' notice. "They may not want it," I observed, "but as a professional I have to give them the option. You'd want me to do the same for you," I added, and he agreed.

We set up a telephone appointment for me to speak with the CEO the next day. "We're moving ahead aggressively," he said. "We need to be fully staffed by the end of June."

A computer job at home would be ideal. I would be able to set my own hours. I would have to create a more formal office space than I currently had, but that would just require using one of the spare bedrooms. In fact, I thought, Michael's massage clients generally make appointments in the evening; so we could both use the same space without conflict.

And I would be able to go swimming with my grandson, Zachary, every evening.

Although I have informed the Universe that what I really want is to become a full-time writer, I also enjoy programming and this job, if I were offered it, seemed to be perfect.

Of course, I still didn't know what they actually intended to do, but pretty much anything involving the internet would lie within my areas of expertise.

I shut down for the night at the TA in Redding and dreamed of swimming with Zachary.

Friday, June 6, 2003

I made my call to the East Coast before leaving the TA. This time I was connected to the CEO of the new company. He explained that I had been speaking the day before to the new company's Human Resources guy. Except it wasn't totally a new company. The core company had recently been "acquired" by a consortium. It had been the producer of the "Fifth-best-selling virus scan software" which, of course, I had never heard of. While they continued to sell this product, they had another product that they expected to make many dollars from: It was an Internet "filter", a program that could be offered by Internet service providers to allow parents to prevent their kids from accidentally landing on porn sites.

I have mixed feelings about such "parental control" features. Actually, I don't. I am against them.

I have no problem filtering out true porn sites. In fact, I wish there weren't any. Though it doesn't happen so much any more, it was very frustrating in years past to be looking up on information on Queen Elizabeth I, or Egyptian mummies, or Sumerian linguistics, only to land on some site promising "Free Pictures!" of "busty babes," or "barely legal" nymphets, or whatever.

The problem is, many people have an expanded definition of what constitutes "porn". Many people, for example, would put any web site with the word "gay" on it in that category. The fact that this very site contains photos of Michael's and my church wedding would make it unacceptable to such people.

Now, if they don't want to visit this site, that's fine. But the number one cause of teenage suicide in this country, is gay kids who feel isolated and alone, unaware that there's a whole gay society out there. They believe their parents won't accept them for who they are; they are told by their church that the feelings God built into them are sinful. Their parents won't allow them to attend public schools so they don't know about Gay/Straight Student Unions or the like. They certainly aren't allowed to watch Will and Grace on TV. Their sources of information are so limited and so restrictive, that, in too many cases, suicide seems like the only option open to them.

These are the kids that need access to the freely-available information on the web. Again, I regret that their first exposure to gay society is likely to be a porn site—the last place one should go to learn about the physical expression of love one feels for one's partner.

Another aspect of the product I was uncomfortable with, was the "email notification" feature. If some member of the family should attempt to access a site on the forbidden list—the Playboy web site was given as an example—the product would automatically and secretly generate an email that would be sent to the "system administrator" (Dad) that would let him know it was "time for that father-son chat". Well, yeah, and what if Mom is trying to escape an abusive relationship and would like to visit a web site for other women in the same situation? Abusive husbands are the very people who would want such an alert.

I am a proponent of the free access to information…for everyone. Well, maybe not three-year-olds. Little ones benefit from a limited list of sites to visit anyway. But an eight-year-old, any kid who can read, should already have had the existence of porn sites, and alternative news sites, and religious tolerance sites, and so on, explained to them before they ever stumble on them. Stripped of the "forbidden pleasure" aspect, these sites would seem far less desirable and finding them less interesting. And that homework assignment about Queen Elizabeth could continue without further distraction.

Now, I realize that this system requires a parent to actually pay attention to his or her kid, and to help the child understand the wealth and breadth of information available out there. I know there are parents who prefer to put the education of their children on autopilot. But I don't think it benefits society as a whole to support them in the intellectual abandonment of their kids.

Of course, I didn't say this to the company CEO. I needed the job. Or, at least, I needed the money such a job would bring. And, I thought, if I were involved in this project, I would have input so that the user interface would be easy enough to use, that parents would be encouraged to at least be aware of what sites were on the forbidden list, instead of merely accepting the defaults.

So the interview went well, and I was told the next step would be a call to a technical representative, who would verify my technical skills. Since I am the author of four technical books, one a best-seller, I didn't expect any problems to arise from the interview. In other words, I had the job if I wanted it.

Except, as the CEO added just before he hung up, the job would not be performed at my home. He wanted me to move to Jupiter, Florida. This was not open to discussion. Not a problem, I said, still in "impress-the-guy-at-the-job-interview" mode. I used to live in Florida, and I am familiar with Jupiter. I love the beach there.

"We're two hundred yards from the beach," the CEO assured me; and we said goodbye and hung up.

So, as I started up the truck and headed for Livermore, California, I had to make a decision I had not expected to make: Did I want to move to Florida?

More to the point, would Michael want to live in Florida?

Meanwhile, I had to deliver my load. There were two stops: One in Livermore, and one in Lodi. As is often the case, there wasn't enough physical time on the clock to get from the first stop to the last, if as much time was spent unloading as the work assignment estimated.

And, in fact, that was the case. Stop one took longer than estimated. And thus, the final stop's appointment had to be rescheduled, and was—for Monday. I was told to bring the load to Sacramento for relaying, although the Latham drop yard was much closer. I did take the trailer to Sacramento, and spent the night at the Woodland rest area.

Saturday, June 7, 2003

Today's assignment was a trailer full of bottled water to be taken to Phoenix. So, I would be going home.

As I drove south on I-5 through California's Central Valley, I wrestled with the question of whether I should accept the job in Jupiter. Michael and I spoke on the phone.

"I'm committed to finishing this course in college," he pointed out. "So, I can't move right away."

"But would you move ever?" I asked.

We discuss the pros and cons. Michael and I had each lived in Florida; we both liked visiting but didn't like living there. On the other hand, Jupiter is truly a nice part of the state. And we had both complained about the heat in Phoenix. And this wasn't necessarily the last job I would ever have.

"And there are good schools in Florida," I reminded him. "You can finish your degree there as easily as in Arizona."

We ended by agreeing that the job was a good thing, that it would be great to not have to worry every single week about where the rent money was going to come from.

But, as I continued to drive, one fact continued to haunt me: If I moved to Florida, who knew how often I would get to see Zachary?

I could picture his face when he discovered that I had gotten a new job, but instead of its keeping me near him, it would take me farther away. I know I can't live my life to accommodate a four-year-old whose mother might move away with him at any time. But, still, leaving him made me sad.

"I wish I didn't have to make this decision!" I cried out loud, to no one since I was alone in the truck.

And then, I thought, so don't. We barely made the rent every week, but there was no reason to believe I wouldn't continue to barely make it. And this job possibility had come about; another one might come tomorrow, or next week. I didn't have to treat this one as my last chance.

When the call came Monday, I would simply explain I had thought about it, and decided we were not a good match.

Instantly, I felt better. I smiled. The miles flew by.

It's nice to have options. It's nicer to know they don't all have to be exercised.