The Old Man

"You get all talky and the next thing you know you got no money and you're driving a truck."--Moraline in conversation with Maximin, on the transition from trader big money to poverty

I learned a lot from the old man from New York when he visited and trained me to drive the dump truck. The little old guy had almost 50 years driving experience. He had driven everything. 

What I remember most was he was a funny pleasant guy out of the truck but the second he got behind the wheel he got angry and started cursing and yelling. With that thick Long Island accent he scared the hell out of the payloader and scale masters and jobsite laborers. Portland people didnt know what to make of it so they shut up. He was pissed off all the time behibd the wheel. One time this yahoo guy in downtown Portland says, "put it over there." Over there was backing blind around 3 corners with trenches on both sides. "Oh, fucking put it there, eh?" Says the old man. 


Halfway there the old man sees the labrorer looking annoyed he's taking so long. 

"Hey! C'mere you!" He yells at the laborer. "What do you fucking think this is, a bicycle?"

The guy looked at him sheepishly now and said he was sorry. The old man acted like that on every jobsite we went to. 

I learned quickly to do the same when I started driving the dump truck by myself. They were vultures who only wanted to see you fail on the jobsites. You had to mistreat them to get any respect, or at least just to be left alone to make your dump. 

But when I started driving long haul over the road I went back to being nice and relaxed. I didnt think I would need to mistreat anyone. There werent any jobsites to go on. But there were other vultures all around me. The other long haul drivers. Then there were the idiots at the destinations watching you back in. There were idiot company drivers who even offered to spot for you just to fuck you up on your backing. 

The old man was right. Be pissed off all the time behind the wheel. Yell at everyone. It was the only way to be left alone and respected. 


Exploitation, Part I

Before graduating from the Fontana, California Schneider Training Academy we were to have one final 2 hour presentation. It was to be a presentation against unions and the unionization of truck drivers. In length it rivaled the presentation against sexual harassment and was considerably longer than any presentation of driving technique and safety on the road. 

A young bearded guy wearing a Schneider polo entered the classroom. He had a big smile on his face.

"Welcome to Schneider! We're so glad you have joined the Schneider family! You are now a part of something really special! How is everyone doing today?!"

There was no answer.

He tried it again but louder. "How is everyone doing today?!"

"I guess its early and you guys have been in training for a long time. I know its tough. I'm not a driver, but I know its tough."

He became serious.

"Now, I want to get right to the point here. This is very important. You are going to be approached out on the road. A man will come to you and make you promises. He will want you to sign something. It will all appear to be in your best interests, to help you. This man works for a trucker's union. If you sign something, anything, it will mean that money comes out of your paycheck. Do not sign. I repeat, do not sign anything. When you sign something I can no longer help you. If you sign something they will take your money."

So this fat bearded clown was the company shill, I thought. Part hype man and part shill.

"Come to me if you are approached. Call me. We can discuss it. But do not sign anything. I am here to help you and to protect you. We do not need unions here at Schneider. We have an open door policy. We have respect and communication. With respect and communication a union can add nothing. A union can only cost you money. A union can do you no good."

He became cheerful again and said he had a video for us to watch.

"This video begins with an address from our CEO. I love this address. You are going to love this address. It gets me so excited and pumped up! Just to see and listen to our CEO fires me up and this address you're about to hear is just awesome!"

A pudgy middle aged man with a receding hairline appeared on the screen. He wore a sport jacket with an open collar and began to speak in a monotone voice about the values of respect and communication at Schneider. He went on to speak of the company's greatness, and it was then that I became distracted by his eyes which were slightly off from the center of the screen. They moved from right to left as he droned on and I realized he was reading off a teleprompter. I started to doze off. 

"Man that was great! How great was that!"

The company shill had awoken me.

I listened for awhile longer to his pro-Schneider and anti-union talk and I began to hate him. He had the sincere enthusiasm of a house nigger. He had betrayed each of us drivers for what he believed was a seat at the master's table. It was the worst sort of deficiency of character, and one he hoped to cover over to himself by getting us to agree with him and not join the union. I had only contempt for him.

"Does anyone have any questions?" asked the shill.

I raised my hand.

"How many times the average driver's salary is our CEO's annual income? Is this multiple increasing or decreasing?"

"I'm not sure I understand the question." The shill looked confused and uncertain. The others in the classroom turned around to look at me.

"How many times the average driver's salary is the CEO's salary? Over the last ten years is this multiple increasing or decreasing or staying steady? Its a question of income inequality."

"Oh, I think I understand your question. And that's a great question," the shill smiled, "And I can look that up for you. Come and see me after the presentation." He seemed to have regained his professional confidence. For a moment perhaps it had been in the balance.

But I did not approach him when the presentation ended and the shill made no attempt to stop me as I left the classroom. I hoped that the others had realized as I did, that whatever this bearded company clown shill was for, you, as a driver, had to be against. The message had not been wasted. Respect and communication be damned, the union was our only hope.


The Asphalt Scar

It began with animals. Perhaps the smallest. It was a way through the forests and brush to get to something to sustain them. It was perhaps the best way to reach the water. Or the best way to pass when the seasons changed. 

The way through for these animals drew other, larger animals. Some were predators who fed upon the smaller animals who used the way. Others used the way for the same reasons the smaller animals did. The grasses were worn and pushed aside where the animals passed through. Wood ticks hung from the stalks of grass along the way waiting for the warmth of a passing animal to attach themselves and to feed.

One day a man appeared and used the way of the animals. He was drawn to the way just as the animals were. He found it led to a lake. There were fine views of the mountains that surrounded the valley. He called the way down to the lake his own.

The man built his house upon the lake and the way of the animals that was now his own he named Lakeside Way. He had a family and they used the way and now the animals were scared off. It was a human way now. It was a path. 

Then, later, the way was laid over with cinders for horse and carriage, and later with pavement for automobiles for the families who now vacationed at the many homes upon the lake. 

Then the local planners dammed the river that fed into the lake and the valley was washed out. The damming was necessary for hydro-power for electricity in the city and the cost/benefit analysis made it right. The first man's home and the vacation homes were now under the waters of a much larger lake. 

But part of the old road remained. A much larger road that was being built by the federal government was paved over the old Lakeside Way that was not under the lake. The federal government called the new asphalt road an interstate highway. 

Animals were drawn to the highway for the food that sometimes was thrown from the vehicles. Other animals tried to pass over the highway and get to the waters of the lake but were run over by truck drivers who's company policy is not to avoid animals. 

Along the interstate highway were deer without heads; in one place there were hundreds of crushed jackrabbits who had attempted a group crossing. There were dead skunks and racoons and other smudges upon the road that were unidentifiable. Men in their automobiles crashed and maimed and killed one another. It became a place for scavenging and for death. The vehicles passed so quickly over it. The way of animals had become an asphalt scar upon the land. 
Copyright © Moraline Free