Monday, March 3, 2014

THE SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS TRUCK DRIVER


 
Tractor-trailer driving was a compromise.  I had wanted to do something that was contributive to the overall welfare of humanity – and oh how I tried!  I spent months looking for the right writing/editing job, the right law or teaching job (if such things really exist) – I even looked at various and sundry oddball opportunities like bar tending and some crazy-but-respectable whatever-it-was overseas.  Nothing panned out.  As my unemployment benefits ran dry, my wife was relentlessly chanting, “truck driver! truck driver!”  Quite frankly, I thought she was off her rocker – how completely absurd!  Here I was, a fellow with a law degree and a Ph.D. who might be working as a lawyer or a professor – and I was opting instead to be a “road scholar.”

Well, as time slogged on and the poorhouse loomed larger, truck driving started to make sense to me.  For sure it appealed to my wander-lust of wanting to see what’s over the next hill; of moving, ever and always, moving.  And I wouldn’t have to work around any knuckleheads – just me, myself and I, rolling down the road.  At bed-time, wherever I might be, I’d be tucked away in my sleeper, gypsy-like, King of the Road.  Yes sir, and it paid tolerably well – that is, once you established yourself as a safe and responsible driver.  After two years of playing your cards right, and with luck, a driver could pull in $150K/yr.  So, suddenly, in the end it seemed like the right thing to do.

I went to a clinic for my DoT-required medical exam.  I studied for the written portion, passed that, and got my learner’s permit.  Then I signed up with a training facility to learn the pre-trip and driving skills that are necessary to pass the MVA test to get my Class A Commercial Driver License (CDL).

Halfway through my training to drive a tractor trailer I started to think about the nature of the freight I would soon be hauling.   Freight is material stuff, and all stuff is not equal.  Most stuff is complete and absolute crap – like the canned or packaged, processed glop that passes for the food commonly found in industrial grocery stores; like the second-rate junk that comes from China and is sold at WalMart; like the cheap, limited-life building products that are used to build the next, ugly tract housing project; like the knick-knacks, brickety-brac, fric-a-frac, and doo-dads that are sold in dollar shops; or the multitude of spare parts and other stuff that is needed to keep the whole shitaree, consumer society afloat. 

For whatever reason, trucks and interstate highways replaced the railroads.  This was a post-war commercial conspiracy among the oil and tire companies, truck manufacturers and the roads lobby.  In short, the overwhelming majority of what trucks haul is whatever corporations buy, import, produce, and sell – or simply transport.  Trucks are the corporate delivery cog in the corporate wheel.  And today, the truck driver is closely monitored by in-cab electronic equipment and continually hassled by the feds (DoT) and the state police. Why oh why did I not think about all of this before deciding to become a truck driver?  Pretty soon, the generalist/humanist/anarcho-primitivist-populist in me was in open revolt.  But oh, what to do!?

I wondered whether any truck drivers or truck companies out there cared about what they hauled.  I looked around at the other trainees and wondered the same thing.  At first I thought it would be best not to even raise the issue.  But toward the end of our training, I thought, “what the hell,” and chirped up about it.  There was a complete and uncomprehending silence.  I wasn’t about to elaborate and immediately wished I had not opened my mouth.  Thankfully, someone changed the subject and that was the end of it.

I did do an internet search or two and found nothing.  I thought about what freight I might prefer to haul.  All I could think of was organic vegetables and fruit, or perhaps cases of vintage wine.  However, now that I have had some more time to cogitate on the matter, I have come up with additional options: quality garden tools, wood-working tools, metal-working tools – uncomplicated hand tools, mostly – ceramic supplies, art supplies, or maybe musical instruments.  My criteria were simple: something passed muster as long as it was not stuff that is generally used by the seven main cartels that seek to position themselves at the top of the control hierarchy.  These are the government, military, intelligence community, energy, money, media and medical cartels.  To this we could readily add the law cartel; and we can certainly add the “hi-tech” sector and all other commodity fetish-type markets.  I might add “books” to the list – but only certain books, like vintage wines, would be worthy of getting to their destinations.  (These days, most of what is published is determined by the dictates of the media cartel and the mostly idiot demands of a dumbed-down populace. So books are out.)  Perhaps we could add organic seeds and fertilizer to the list of good stuff. 

But finally, the moment of truth arrives: what trucking company would limit itself to such a short and select but varied list of “good stuff”?  Even if such a trucking company exists, it would likely not pay very well.

So, it certainly looks as though the existential angst being suffered by the socially conscious truck driver will never be assuaged.  Yes, he appears to be doomed – destined to a fate of forever hauling crap, and more crap, and more crap.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRL0-JQk-Qg    Palm Apodaca's (Helena Kallianiotes) timeless nagging attack on modern society in the film Five Easy Pieces (1970), starring Jack Nicholson as a talented pianist recently fired from his job as an oil field roustabout, who eschews both the bourgeois values of the upper middle class (with its “pompous celibate” intellectuals) and those of the petty, rule-abiding working class.  He finds temporary refuge with his simple-but-real girlfriend (Karen Black).  Lost and restless, at the end of the movie Nicholson escapes his life by nabbing a ride in, of all things, a tractor-trailer.
  





 

2 comments:

Kenny Wright said...

Those are some great thoughts to ponder on. Just think of it as this way: What you hauled could give happiness to, or even extend the life of, another person. Being socially-conscious is already hard by itself, you'd have to compromise whether you're a trucker, a cop, or a lawyer. Indeed, there are a myriad of ways in which one's principles are challenged, and the best way to deal with it is to be act professional on whatever you do.

Kenny Wright @ Trucker Grand Central

Anonymous said...

can't tell if you got a job or not, what about whole foods?