Allow me to catch y’all up on my adventures with Isaac Hayes. They didn’t begin or end with much promise but at least there was a good bit of misery and uncertainty in between.
After Isaac Hayes took over driving I vaguely remember waking from my nap in the lower bunk to an emergency stop along the freeway. I wasn’t sure what was up but wasn’t concerned enough to ask and fell back asleep. We arrived at our delivery northwest of Laredo a couple of hours early and were allowed through the security gate and were instructed to park until we got further instructions.
An hour later we got our further instructions back up to door number 8. After another hour and a half we were instructed to pull away from the door (we figured that because of all the bouncing around we were already unloaded – no, we still looked pretty much loaded) and park until we got further instructions, which we eventually got but only after I suggested that we check in with the receiving office. There we were told that we had to go to a different warehouse a couple blocks away. Isaac Hayes explanation was that they receive checks the load at the first warehouse to make sure it’s all there and then makes us go to a second warehouse where they actually unload it. Alrighty then.
An hour later we backed up to the designated door and waited another couple of hours for the lumpers to unload us. Finally, we got the go ahead to go on ahead and leave. What a system.
I drove us back to the Stevens yard in Laredo where we dumped the trailer and allowed Isaac Hayes to get his second “random” drug test in three days. We also waited for our next load assignment. I actually knew somebody in the driver’s lounge this time. He had been a trainer at the 45 degree backing area during Orientation 1. Not sure if I mentioned him before but he had been blown up in Viet Nam or the Gulf War or something. This became evident when he removed his cap. I counted three wisps of hair left on his scalp. For that reason, I named him Napalm. Hey, I was developing a network.
Napalm and I laughed about training and some of the stupid rules Stevens has laid out for their trainee teams. He had gone out as a trainer for one of my Houston buddies, Tatts. Actually he was Tatts’ initial trainer, got booted out of the trainer team after he verbally abused a trainee who was walking behind a backing truck talking on his cell phone (the dickfead richly deserved the abuse), then reinstated. Unfortunbately, Tatts and Napalm never finished their training because, I believe, Napalm broke one of the stupid training rules, probably the “no driving between 3 and 7 a.m. (Central Time)” rule or “you gotta let the truck rest for eight hours” rule. Conflicting stories there.
We got our new assignment and would have to pick up a trailer at the same place I had picked up a load of broccoli with Dudley four weeks earlier. We were currently scheduled for a 19:30 pickup. That got bumped to “don’t call us, we’ll call you.” We needed fuel so we headed out to the Pilot on the north side Laredo (Remember? This was truck stop grand central station in South Texas.)
After fueling we each grabbed some grub and settled in until we got the call. At about 11 p.m. the message finally came. I drove us in, hooked up to our trailer, dealt with the shipper’s agent and we were on our way to the Yard in Dallas with a mixed load of produce.
Isaac Hayes’ truck’s inspection sticker was expired so before leaving the state, he’d need an inspection. He was also going to replace the right steer tire and get a new Qualcomm unit since the one he had now didn’t put out any audio.
Taking a truck back to The Yard meant we had to endure Yard Protocol. The truck and trailer would have to be inspected, and the both of us had to jump through whatever hoops were required. The hoops for Isaac Hayes and I were minimal so we just had to hang loose until his truck got the required service. It would be almost two days before we could go get our next load and get the hell out of town.
I had a couple of buddies in the current Orientation 2 class so I had old friends to talk to and even made a few new ones. I took a couple of showers and took the opportunity to do my laundry before we headed out. I even managed to scam some free lunches and dinners as though I was a student in the Orientation 2 class. That saved me some money on food. But golly is it tiring just sitting around. I saw Isaac Hayes a few times but he never deigned to acknowledge my existence. What charisma!
We were dispatched to pick up an import load at the intermodal terminal. That’s the most sophisticated freight facility I’ve ever seen. Everything was automated. You touched in your truck and load information at an ATM-like station on the way in and got a little printout that told you what area, section and parking space your load was in. Since this was my first time at the port, I had to stop in and give them my vitals, copy of CDL, fingerprints, loyalty oath, etc. On the way out we had to touch in some more information and we finally exited. Pretty slick.
The load was sealed but in looking through the access door we saw that most of the boxes had tumbled off the back two pallets. What to do? Call produce and O,S & D. (Overages, Shortages and Damages) and report in. “Thanks for the info,” they said. “Nothing we can do about it now.”
Hey, we communicated the information.
Our route to the east passed but a few miles from my daughter’s place. She was kind enough to meet me at the Flying J near her house and take some of the stuff I had packed that I really didn’t need. She also brought me a few TABs and bananas. It was nice to see her and Big AL, my granddaughter, again. Isaac Hayes didn’t think it was worthwhile to even acknowledge them, which came as no surprise.
The load was bound for Atlanta, so we hit the road. It was a quiet ride. Isaac Hayes continued his quiet, somnolent ways, and stopped every couple of hours – on the freeway. Turns out he was stopping to pee. Yeah, that’s safe. In Alabama he cleverly stopped on an upslope, meaning he had to really work to get the truck up to speed.
We pulled into the refrigerated warehouse on the southwest side of Atlanta at the appointed hour and got unloaded. It only took about four hours. I then drove us to the Petro truckstop where I had stopped with Dudley so many weeks ago. We did an overnight there and since we were not scheduled to pick up our next load for about 36 hours, I really got to know the place. I spent time in the TV room, the movie theater, the restaurant and just wandering around the store and the lot. Quite an interesting assemblage of trucker humanity. A lot of couples walking hand in hand. I’m sure they were all traveling together. Since I lived there for almost 12 years I tried making contact with a few old friends. Actually connected with one but was not able to persuade anybody to come and see me. Sigh.
The day after tomorrow finally came and we set off for another warehouse, a Kraft facility I believe, in Union City on the extreme south side of Atlanta off I-85. It was a clean drop and hook and we were off to southern California. Isaac Hayes was sleeping more than 18 hours a day now. It was like driving solo, which, theoretically, is the whole idea. While driving, it was actually more comfortable with Isaac Hayes in the back, sleeping or on the phone or peeing.
Now the company-issued route plan to L.A. had us taking a more northerly route across I-40. Because Isaac Hayes had to stop at this bank, he elected to take I-20 and make a stop in Dallas on Monday. So we did. Trouble is, when we stopped in Dallas, parking behind a Sam’s Club on I-30, he discovered that because it was a bank holiday (Columbus Day? I thought that because he was a conquering racist they weren’t celebrating his day anymore.) his bank was closed. I asked what bank it was and he said Bank of America. I asked if he had to talk to his personal banker at this particular branch and he said no, he just had to talk to any banker at any branch. You know how many B of As we had passed over the last four days? Dozens!
Well, at least I got a chance to stock up on a few snacks at the Wal-Mart right next to the Sam’s. I drove us out of Dallas and we got as far as Pecos. Texas where we packed it in for the night. I went in to the truck stop to take out my contacts, and when I got back, Isaac Hayes was gone. He got back a short while later. He mumbled something about getting a bowl of chili at the truckstop restaurant. Fine. I wasn’t hungry anyway. The onliest meal he bought for me was a second piece of pizza he got at the Sam’s where we grabbed a cheapo hot dog before he went to the (closed) bank in Dallas.
He started us out the next morning without a word. I was getting used to silence.
After about 50 minutes on the road, we had just reached the end of I-20 and were traveling west on I-30, Isaac Hayes barfed on himself. He pretty much covered his right leg and the splatter emanated from there. I didn’t get hit, but my green journal did. The smell didn’t get to me right away, but it got to me. I handed him half a dozen sheets of paper towel and then another half dozen. Ii gave him an empty plastic grocery bag to put the soiled towels in. I asked if he could continue driving. He didn’t respond other than to say it must have been the chili, but he kept driving. He drove the remaining half hour to a TA on the east side of El Paso. I went to put my eyes in while he cleaned up.
I’m sorry, but I had no pity for the dude. This is the frame of mind I was in: after I put my contacts in I went into the restaurant and got a to-go breakfast. He was pretty much done cleaning up and he made it clear that he wouldn’t be driving anymore that day. So I pulled out of the fuel lane and Isaac Hayes directed me where to park.
ASIDE: As uncommunicative as Isaac Hayes was, he had a real micromanagement streak. In previous days he had told me to:
- Get out of a warehouse complex the same way I had come in. (Very helpful.)
- Throw the trash into that (pointing) trash can. (Thanks a pantload.)
He now told me to pull ahead and park by that (pointing) trash can. Even though there were dozens of open parking places that I would have been able to simply pull into. Those was pretty much the last words we exchanged that day.
So I ate my breakfast (grin) and set off for parts west.
I gotta tell you, El Paso is a neat and clean town. Traffic was a bit thick but I eventually got to the open road and I was in New Mexico. Through the desert I drove and finally reached Arizona. I was on the lookout for my first saguaro cactus. I found it in a ravine about 40 minutes into the state. They multiplied quickly. While I had visited Tucson several times this was the first time I had driven there from the east. In previous visits I was there on an expense account and staying at four or five star resorts. Trust me when I tell you, I did not get even close to those neighborhoods in my 18 wheeler. NOTHING looked familiar.
Heading north out of Tucson I finally saw something that looked familiar. Check out the photo.
Luckily I arrived in Phoenix at rush hour. Roads were packed with thousands of people wanting to get home as quickly as possible. That meant they absolutely had to cut off the truck driver to get to their exits. To complicate matters it was sunset and for miles I was looking directly into the setting sun. I was starting to get terminal squint. Finally the sun went behind the clouds, gave me a spectacular sunset, which I will reveal in my next post.