Bad Hair Day

Copied from my old blog. Monday, March 9, 2009

Was parked at a truck stop in Hebron, Ohio, with a loaded trailer, on a Sunday. I wanted to drop the load, and get rolling with something else, but dispatch wanted me to stay with it, and deliver it Monday morning. Although it was March already, it still felt like winter. The air had a bone-chilling effect on me, as it crept slowly through the corners of my truck, and around my shoulders.

¿What could I do to pass this day of idle time? Before I was a truck driver, I attended an LDS (Mormon) church every week. In those days, I was an active participant, serving where I was needed. I didn’t feel needed today; not even with a loaded trailer to tend.

There are a few trucker chapels, fashioned out of trailers, at various truck stops around the country, but they aren’t quite the same as a home church with familiar faces, who share your own religious faith, in depth. My delivery schedules rarely left any opportunity to attend church, and I often felt anxious about it.

My Garmin GPS receiver showed there was an LDS ward building about 7 miles away. I was grateful to have that Garmin GPS receiver, and for how it helped me to find fuel stops, rest areas, and other points of interest.

I considered the 7-mile drive, with a 53-foot trailer in tow, into a residential area, looking for the church, and a place to park my rig. I didn’t feel like going to all that effort for a church meeting. About that time, one of the associate pastors of the local truck stop chapel came walking up to my truck, to invite me to the church service. I recognized his face, and said I would come to the service.

I remembered being in that same truck stop chapel one Sunday last year. There was an odd after-church encounter I had with another truck driver. After the pastor had given the benediction, there was time to socialize, and I asked the man next to me if he used a GPS receiver on his truck. His response was, “Every day.” When I inquired more particularly about it, he kept pointing to his Bible, which was sitting on a chair. In other words, his Bible was his GPS receiver. It seemed he was suggesting that he didn’t need anything else to help him get where he wanted to go. I may be lacking that kind of faith; when I want to get to the Nestle plant, to pick up a load of chocolate, my Holy Bible is not where I look for directions.

This Sunday, I did not have time to get showered and dressed in time for the 09:00 church meeting. Had to settle for a quick shave, before I left my truck. Was already wearing blue jeans (not my favorite) and thought it could be more meaningful, or reverent, if I put on my blue wool jacket, and a silk blue tie. Now, this silk tie was my favorite, until just after the last time I wore it. I left it in my bag of laundry, forgot about it, and washed it in a washing machine. Not a good thing to do to silk garments. The tie came out wrinkled. I couldn’t just toss it in the garbage. It seemed that a wrinkled tie was better than none, since it was my only blue tie on hand.

In my rush to get dressed, I didn’t bother to go inside the truck stop building, to the men’s room, to brush my hair. The front part of my hair was sticking up, from being pressed against a pillow while sleeping. A bad hair day. If it looked odd to the others in that chapel, nobody told me. So I didn’t know about it, yet.

The pastor commented that I looked like I was ready to give the sermon. Nobody else in the chapel – not even the pastor – was wearing a necktie. My own necktie suddenly seemed more wrinkled than it was before I walked into the chapel.

Mercy was a young college student, visiting the chapel. She was practicing photography, and asked each person if it was okay to take photographs of them. I had no objection. I felt reasonably secure, in my blue wool jacket and wrinkled silk tie. Although none of us were supposed to pose, or act any different than we normally would, I kept glancing at Mercy. She was clearly the most attractive person in the room. It was somewhat distracting, the way she kept moving around to try different angles, even as the pastor spoke.

The associate pastor, who came to me at my truck, had a certain medical condition. I felt impressed to talk to him about it later, after the benediction. He had been blessed with the use of a certain medicinal tea, and I had been blessed with other medicinal herbs. We both learned from each other, and agreed that God uses many different people, in many different ways, to bless others with healing. Unfortunately, some of these people are persecuted by members of the more popular medical professions.

Yes, Mercy was still there taking photos of me shaking hands with this man, listening to him talk about his condition. Her camera flashed, not a few photos. I had to resist the urge to turn and pose for her.

I didn’t care what Mercy did with her photos, until I made my way to the men’s room, and looked into the mirror. That’s when I learned that my hair was sticking up, making me look goofy.

I imagined that Mercy was having a laugh about this.

Strange Lumpers

This article is copied from my old 2008 blog.
* * *
Was driving my big rig down Randolph Street, in the downtown Chicago area, following the directions on my Garmin. This was a bit intimidating, with so many tall buildings and cars around me, so I was going slow. After I made a right turn, about two blocks away from a meat customer, two black dudes waved at me.

I don’t go looking for things to annoy me, but plenty of annoyances seem to find me.

One of our drivers recently experienced an attempted hijack in Chicago, at night. It was reported on the Qualcomm device, with a warning to stay alert. As I was driving in broad daylight, it seemed harmless to slow down and see what these men wanted. They were dressed in decent clothes, and had neatly trimmed hair. One of the men gave the twirly motion with his fingers; he wanted me to open my window, so he could talk to me. I opened my window. He stepped onto my doorstep, hung his hands over the top of my window, and asked where I was going. After I told him the customer name, he said he would “take me in”. This seemed right friendly; people on the street waiting to help me get to my destination. I could actually see the building where I was going, but I did not see the name, or any docks.

The dude asked me if I wanted to hire a lumper; I said yes. Since my first stop in Wisconsin required a lumper fee to unload the meat, I did not think it strange to be faced with a similar situation here in Chicago. My first clue, that these men were not legitimate, was the absence of any clipboard, or PDA, or receipt pads. Nevertheless, the man hanging onto my window presented himself as a lumper for the customer where I was headed, saying, “Yeah, we unload for them.”

Actually, these strange lumpers already knew that my delivery customer did not charge truckers for unloading, but I did not know it – yet. So they intercepted me on the street, to press me for a lumper fee, before I even checked in with the customer.

It bothered me that he was hanging onto my window, yapping in my face, while I was trying to drive, so I told him to get off my truck. He did not seem to listen, so I raised my voice, warning him that I did not want any accidents, or people slipping under my wheels. My tone seemed to bother him, but he got off my step, and walked down the street ahead of me, directing me to the customer.

When I got to a narrow street, next to the customer’s building, the yappy dude directed me to turn there. I hesitated, as I checked out the area; there were cars parked along both sides of the street, a fire hydrant on the corner, and precious little space to pull a 53-foot trailer. When I expressed my doubts about making this turn, the yappy dude said he would take me “around the block”. His companion was walking ahead to the right. I did not like this around-the-block idea.

I noticed that there was another big truck up the street, double-parked, and waiting for something. ¿Was there a dock here? Was this customer expecting us to unload right on the street? I needed to get to the customer, and talk to somebody I could trust. I made the turn, and parked up behind the other truck. The yappy dude was again standing on my doorstep, hanging onto my window, and yapping in my face. ¿How many pallets did I have? How many boxes? Was it a full load? Where was my next stop?

I looked at the packing list, and expected this yappy dude to do the same, as he was looking over my shoulder, but he kept pumping me for answers. Maybe he had trouble reading. I told him there were 100 boxes; he decided he wanted 40 dollars. “Cash”.
No deal. I refused. My company always pays lumpers with a ComChek. He changed his mind right quick, saying, “Write us a Comchek”. This required that I send in some information, for an approval code. So I asked for his name, and a tax ID.

“¿Huh? What that?”

A social security number. The yappy dude understood that, and gave me his SSN. I began typing a request on the Qualcomm, when the yappy dude got greedy. “Make it for 80”, he said. Then it was 60. Then he repented a bit, and said since he already agreed on 40, that was acceptable. I did not like him standing on my doorstep, hanging onto my window, yapping in my face. I wanted to get inside, to check with the customer about this lumper arrangement. And I needed to go to the bathroom. I asked him where the restroom was located, since he seemed to know the place. He wanted the ComChek first, but I could see there was no satellite signal coming to the Qualcomm.

“I need to go now”, I said as I opened the door, to gently push the yappy dude off my doorstep. He steeped down, and agreed to take me to the restroom. Then he asked for the bills.

I took the bill of lading, and packing list, and went inside the building. The yappy dude took my papers, and pointed at a strange hallway. “Go down there”, he said. I started down the hallway, giving the yappy dude a chance to present my bills of lading to the receiving clerk, without me present to interfere.

The receiving clerk hollered at me, and shook his head. I was not allowed to go down that hall. If I needed to use the restroom, I had to go around to the front of the building. I took this opportunity to present my paperwork. When I did, the receiving clerk gave me the scoop: “You don’ have to pay nobody. Nothing.”

I still wasn’t clear. “So”, I said, “¿Is this fellow not affiliated with your company?”

He repeated: “You don’ have to pay nobody. Nothing.” He gestured for emphasis.

There I realized that I was being played by the yappy dude, who retorted, “He’s payin’ us for bringing him in. That got nuthin’ to do with you.”

I have since spoken with another driver, who was lost in New York City, grateful for the dude who stood on his doorstep, and offered to take him to his delivery for twenty dollars. He gladly paid the man twenty dollars for the help.

Here in Chicago, I was not so glad. Got back into the truck and told the yappy dude I did not need to pay him anything. He kept after me, and suggested that my company would pay him a ComChek for bringing me to the delivery location; “that got nuthin’ to do with you.” I showed him that there was no signal on the Qualcomm, so I could not get approval for the ComChek he wanted. He yapped some more, about how he was a working man, with family to feed, and bills to pay. I reached for my coin purse, and dumped a handful of coins into his hand, to get rid of him. After that I closed the window. His companion came to my window, and gave the twirly motion with his fingers. He wanted me to open the window for him, presumably so he could stand on my doorstep, hang onto my window, and yap in my face. I was weary of them already, so I refused to open the window. Those strange lumpers left, but another scammer came up to me shortly.

Still needed to drain my bladder, so I used a special receptacle in my sleeper berth. Sat waiting for the receiving clerk to come out and get me, with no idea when he would have a door open for me, to unload the meat. After I got tired of sitting, and stepped outside to stretch, a different fellow came meandering up to me. He was a bit older, and missing some front teeth. He was playing like he was one of the good guys. “I heerd they tried to get choo. That aint right. We never go that high. He don’ know them, but he know me.” He wandered a short distance, looking at the dock, and continued his chit-chat. I asked if he was a lumper. His answer was vague. I waited patiently until he suggested something different: “I’m gonna back you in.”

I was a bit suspicious about this idea, so I inquired if he was expecting a fee for his service. He suggested twenty dollars, or whatever I wanted, then without waiting for an answer, he continued his chit-chat.

“I’m here to help you, so you don’ smash into somethin’. Some drivers smash into somethin’ and get fired.” Blah blah blah. He gestured toward the driver who was backing up to the dock as we watched, saying he knew him, and he was a nice guy. He said he knew other drivers in my company.

I got into my truck and closed the window, because I was weary of listening to this fellow. He did not want to leave me alone, and gave me the twirly motion with his fingers. Reluctantly, I opened the window, only partially. He did not stand on my doorstep, but he talked through the window, repeating some things he said before. In summary, he expected me to pay him for helping me to back into the dock. ¿How much money did he expect for this service? He suggested twenty dollars. I’ve never been asked to pay somebody to spot me during backup, no matter how hard of a backup experience it was. This customer did have a rather difficult dock, but I was not going to pay anyone to tell me how to back up to it.

I was anxious to put these scammers far behind me, but the biggest trial that day was actually backing up to the dock. I followed the pattern of the driver ahead of me. I approached it blindside, around a building, next to a steel railing, blocking a long herd of cars in both directions, sliding my trailer axles to the rear so they would sit on two wooden wedges, and almost ripped into a steel impediment between the dock doors. Words alone did not adequately describe the situation, so I took out my video camera, capturing images of the streets and dock area.