|By: Paul S. Cilwa||Viewed: 4/19/2019
||Topics/Keywords: #18-Wheeler #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver #TruckDriving||Page Views: 970|
|An entry from Alternate Roads: Paul S. Cilwa's Truck Drivin' Journal|
Wednesday, June 18, 2003
I awoke in my bunk, and it took me a few moments to remember where I was parked. I was in Fontana, at the Schneider Operating Center, and I was there because I had gotten a hernia the day before.
I got up, went into the cafeteria for breakfast, and showered; I dislike visiting the office crew before bathing. But, by 10 am I was there."Good morning, Paul!" Debbie, my dispatcher, said enthusiastically when she saw me. She recognizes me in person; it's over the phone that she gets confused. "How are you doing?" Now, in print that reads as an appropriate statement. But, in person, it was offered as a regular bit of politeness, as if she had forgotten that I had been injured the day before.
"Well, I seem to have a hernia…" I prompted.
"Oh, no!" she said. "How did that happen?"
"Remember, yesterday, I called in from the consignee, and had to visit the doctor? Did anyone tell you?" It was true, I hadn't spoken with her; but usually the dispatchers tell a driver's primary dispatcher when something important has happened.
"Oh, was that you?" she gasped. "Well, how are you?"
I showed her my belly button; she had to take my word for it that it used to be an "innie" but she could see it was now an "outie". Then Jay, her boss and my STL (service team leader) came over to see. Before long I had a small crowd examining my navel and making "ooh" sounds or clucking sympathetically over it.
This was clearly beyond Debbie's purview; Jay took over. "Did you get any paperwork from the doctor yesterday?" he asked. I had, and I handed it to him. He glanced over the pages, and said, "According to this, you aren't supposed to lift more than ten pounds."
"That's what the doctor told me," I agreed.
"Where did you spend the night?"
"In my truck," I replied.
"You can't get back in it," Jay pronounced. "You weigh more than ten pounds, and hoisting yourself into a truck is against the doctor's orders."
"So is getting out of a chair," I pointed out.
"That can't be helped. But you won't be able to get back in your truck. Let me get the Workman's Comp department on the horn and see what they want to do with you."
"Just hang out here at the OC for a bit. I'll come out and get you when Workman's Comp gets back to me."
So I did that. First, I sneaked back into my truck to get my laptop; it didn't hurt to do so and I was very careful. I thought Jay was being too cautious about my getting back into the truck, considering that I had done so yesterday evening without incident. It wasn't like I was loading a piano into it. I brought my laptop back into the OC, set it up and began writing. There was no point in letting the next hour or so be a total loss.
Or the hour after that.
At noon, Debbie came out to find me, but it wasn't about Workman's Comp. "Laine, the driver who had your truck before you got it, is here," she told me. "Laine's things are still in your truck. You'll have to help get them out."
"Okay," I said, happy for nearly anything to do.
"You'll need help," Debbie reflected. "Laine can't climb into the truck with a hurt knee and a cane." She glanced around and spotted Craig, one of the guys who tests newbie drivers at the end of JumpStart classes. "Craig!" she called, and he came over. She explained what was needed and Craig agreed to assist. So, he and I walked over to my truck. He didn't know I wasn't supposed to climb into it, but I knew he would never be able to distinguish my things from Laine's, so I didn't tell him. I sat in the passenger seat, though, as he moved my cab to a position closer to the automobile parking lot. Laine was waiting there—recognition was easy since there was a photo posted on the bottom of the upper bunk where it could be seen it as the driver fell asleep. I don't know why Laine had mounted it there; perhaps the driver wanted to remember what he or she looked like before going to sleep.
That's right; "he or she". I wasn't sure. Laine had a rather bland, androgynous face. From the photo, it really wasn't possible to tell if the photo was of a man or a woman. The person in the photo was wearing pajamas. He/she was heavyset, not grossly obese but chunky enough to make the shape of his/her breasts a genderless mound. He/she had no facial hair and the sideburns were cut short enough that it wasn't certain there were any. There was no obvious beard or bodily hair. The photographer had caught him/her sleeping with three cats.
I found myself consumed with curiosity over the gender of Jeff Roadworthy's previous driver. Not that it really mattered, of course. But I couldn't help wondering. When I found a name in one of the driver logs, that had been left in the truck, I thought the mystery was solved. But then, I realized, "Laine" isn't really a male or female name. Anyone could have been named that. And so, the puzzle remained. Now, I would finally meet Laine and, I hoped, I would be able to get past my morbid fascination with Laine's gender.
But, looking at him/her now, standing with a cane, his/her gender was more questionable than ever. I knew, from the pornographic pictures and videos that had been left behind in the truck, that he/she was attracted to women; but of course that meant nothing as far as his/her gender was concerned…except that he/she wouldn't be interested in dating me. And I certainly wasn't interested in dating Laine. I just wanted to know!
I noticed Craig staring. "Is that a guy or a chick?" he muttered in confusion.
I shook my head. "Beats me," I said. But even more frightening, was the person standing behind Laine. Laine was clearly identified by the cane. The person behind Laine, older, looked like an older, slightly more worn, identical twin, as if Laine had been cloned from a single parent. However, the parent was wearing a dress and I made the guess that she was Laine's mother as, indeed, she introduced herself.
Since I was already in the truck, there was no issue about my getting into it; and Laine couldn't safely climb in with the cane. So Craig and I worked out an arrangement where I would put Laine's things on the passenger seat, and Craig would bag or box them and hand the belongings to Laine's mother, who would carry them to the car. Craig offered to carry the heavier things all the way, of course; but there weren't many of those. The biggest issue was Laine's porn, which filled a box by itself. There were at least a dozen videos (Amateur Bondage IV and Barely Legal III were among the titles) and literally stacks of girlie magazines, not to mention the individual photos with which the truck had been festooned when I moved in. "I'm not comfortable handing these to Laine's mother," Craig said.
"Has she indicated whether Laine is male or female?" I whispered.
"He must be a guy," Craig said. "He's into all these girlie movies."
"She might be a lesbian," I pointed out.
"Oh," he said. "I didn't think of that."
"Well, let's just put all this stuff into a box and close the cover," I suggested. And that's what we did. But when Craig handed the carton down to Laine's mother, the folded cover snapped open and there she stood, with a magazine cover of a woman lying naked, spread-eagled and tied to a bed while a man, dressed in leather, held a nasty looking cat-o'-nine-tails over her. I expected Laine's mother to gasp, or at least to display an expression of disgust. But, in fact, her expression didn't so much as flicker. It was as if she were carrying a carton of back issues of Newsweek. She trotted off to her car with it and returned for the next.
Laine hadn't changed expression when the contents of the box were exposed, either; there was no sign of embarrassment or chagrin. And so, Craig and I continued to pass his/her stuff down: bedding, canned goods, a vibrating mattress, and, of course, the cooler, TV and XM satellite radio receiver. It was a bit of a problem getting the XM antenna off the cab; Craig offered to drive the cab to the shop later and have it removed. Laine accepted the offer, his/her voice a husky contralto that didn't really carry any revealing gender identity.
And, so, finally, my truck, the Jeff Roadworthy was rid of all of Laine's belongings except for the Confederate flag decals that adorned the outside and had suggested the name I had given the truck. The decals would never peel off—at least, not without taking the paint with them. But there was now space beneath the bunk for my belongings…except, I would probably never get to use it. It seemed likely I was going to be off work more than five days, and that meant the Jeff Roadworthy would be assigned to someone else.
Craig and I waved goodbye to Laine and Laine's mom, and then walked together to the OC. "Did you figure out whether Laine is a guy or a girl?" Craig asked.
I shook my head. "No pronouns from Laine's mother?"
"Not a one except 'you'," Craig reported. "She spoke to him—or her—directly. Never said a word to me other than 'thanks', not even when that box of porn flew open."
"I couldn't believe that!" I laughed. "She never changed expression. Certainly she didn't seem surprised that her—uh, child—had a box of it."
Craig whispered, "Maybe she watches it with Laine," he grinned wickedly.
I gasped. "I never thought of that!" I said.
"I wish I hadn't," Craig admitted, ruefully.
But now the excitement was over, and I returned to my waiting position in the OC. It was now 2:00 o'clock, and I poked my head back into the office area to make sure no one had been trying to find me while I was out puzzling over Laine's gender. "Not yet!" Jay called, cheerily, and I returned to the cafeteria area where the tables, outlets, and phone connections for laptops are located.
At 3:45, I returned to the office area. "Not yet!" Jay called, cheerily.
"But it's almost 4 pm," I pointed out, "when you guys go home. If I'm not supposed to get back into my truck, I'll need a ComCheck for a motel." Jay agreed, and gave me the express code that would pay for my room.
"Come back tomorrow," he said. "I'm sure we'll have heard by then."
So, I took my laptop and gym bag and got on the shuttle to the motel, got a room and settled into it. If I didn't get Workman's Comp for this injury, it was going to be a very expensive day off. If I had driven 600 miles this day (which, granted, I was seldom asked to do) I would have made $125.
As I dozed off, I wondered why I had been so fascinated by Laine's gender. It was like the old Saturday Night Live sketches about an androgynous person named Pat. In them, everyone was so captivated by Pat's apparent lack of gender that they made fools of themselves trying to get Pat to reveal whether he was male or she was female. Fortunately, I hadn't done that—being inside the truck while Laine was outside probably saved me from humiliating myself—but I certainly had been distracted by the issue.
Gender is such a fundamental aspect of our lives, it just can't be ignored. One of the first things we learn as babies is that we are boys or girls. Until recently, even truly androgynous babies were surgically "clarified" shortly after birth and raised male or female. And, as part of being a boy or a girl, is the behavior that our society associates with that gender. Unenlightened parents might enforce toy trucks for boys and dolls for girls, but even more enlightened parents encourage little boys to pee standing up and girls to pee sitting down.
As a gay man, I know that gender does not automatically dictate gender attraction. Being attracted to males or females is a separate issue. I am attracted to men, but I certainly identify as male. And, as such, I have never really understood the transvestite thing. I can accept it, I just don't understand it. Sure, as a kid I experimented with wearing my mother's shoes and even an old dress she had cast off. But I was past that by the time I was nine.
I think the toughest part of dealing with transvestites and transgendered persons, for me, was not knowing how to treat them. Should I behave as if they were male or female? —And don't imagine we treat men and women identically, even in the business world. Almost everyone, male and female, gay and straight, uses a deeper and more forceful tone of voice speaking to a man than they do a woman. (Outside the business world, I've noticed a few women who speak meekly to men—but they usually speak meekly to other women as well; and often turn out to be victims of abuse.) An often-overlooked motivation of behavior is the desire not to be humiliated by social gaffes. I think some men ridicule transvestites simply because doing so seems less embarrassing than being caught speaking to them the "wrong way."
Of course, in gay society one encounters transgendered persons fairly often. And so, I simply asked a friend once: how am I supposed to treat such a person? And the answer I got was, treat a person how their chosen appearance suggests they want to be treated. Treat any person in feminine dress as female; treat anyone in masculine dress as male.
But that still leaves the Pats of the world. Laine was dressed as androgynously as he/she looked. In fact, if he or she had been wearing decidedly feminine clothes, I probably wouldn't have even wondered about his/her gender. Masculine clothes, on the other hand, wouldn't have helped; many women wear men's styles and manage to look very feminine in them. But Laine would be androgynous in anything less feminine than a dress.
Now that doctors are not surgically assigning gender to androgynous babies—the idea is to let the child decide on a gender, and then enhance that, if necessary—some of these kids may decide that androgyny is their gender—that they are truly neither male nor female, but something else entirely. If so, as a culture we'll have to develop behavior patterns appropriate for them. Meanwhile, I've decided to simply pick a behavior between the way I treat men and women: Softer voice than I use with men, edgier than I use with women.
And, of course, if I have to have hernia surgery and it goes awry, I may find myself experiencing androgyny from the inside out.
Which is not a cheery thought.