The First Day Of Class

So it’s the first day of class. I’m looking around and feeling completely out of place. Not because I’m beautiful and everyone else looks like… well… truckers… but because I don’t feel like I fit the mold. I’m wondering if I’m doing the right thing, then remembering that I have very few options at this point in my life…Well, I have ONE option. As I have stated in a previous post, I have a monumental debt and no real way to earn enough money to cover it unless I drive long haul. Biting the bullet and swallowing what is left of my pride, I dive into the school work. I have been doing reading and practice tests since talking with the recruiter fourteen days before and feeling pretty good about my progress. We, myself and four other students, are locals, meaning that we came from the Salt Lake Valley and as such are not being put up by the school in housing like most of the other students. We were told to come two days later than virtually all of the rest, and we were not told to get our permits before coming to school. I feel very behind which is not a position I enjoy! I like to rise to the top in what ever I am doing. So, scrambling to rise, I try very hard, expending tremendous effort to accomplish and usually do rise, not always to the top but quite high. I like it there.

After filling out our paperwork, we are told that we need to go to the Clinic and get a “physical” which consists of questions asked by a Dr. and a general medical history. I fill out my “medical” paperwork as honestly as I can, stating all of the maladies I have had, surgeries etc. weird conditions etc. I go in for the Blood Pressure test; Outstanding, especially seeing how as I am about 100 lbs more than I should weigh. My eyesight is 20/15; way better than it needs to be to work here. My weight is excessive, but still within range of what I will need to be (ya… I’m scared too!) Now we address my maladies. “What are you taking this medication for?” asks the Dr.

“Meneire’s Disease,” I reply. Meneire’s is a condition of the inner ear where vertigo comes and goes randomly causing problems. It is unsafe drive a motor vehicle if you are experiencing vertigo. I haven’t had symptoms for more than a year so I feel quite justified in stating that I no longer have the condition.

“Awe, well, then I’m sorry to tell you that you will be disqualified then.” I’m dumbfounded! I quit my job! I have no other way to earn enough money to meet my obligations! I NEED this job! I am shown the door of the clinic given a disqualification paper and told to take it to Driver’s Services to be taken off of the school’s books. “Now what do I do?” I silently ask, hoping for an answer.

Shaking slightly with shock I hand the paper to the girl behind the desk who smiles knowingly at me and tells me that if I can get a Dr.’s note I can eventually be let back into the program. Hope springs eternal! “Oh, please help me!” I plead with the One upstairs! I’m on a mission! I drive immediately to the Dr. who gave me this diagnosis and demand to see him and have him write me a note stating that I no longer have this blasted malady!

“He’s in surgery for the day and won’t be in till tomorrow and his assistant is all booked up for the day.” I can’t believe it, but I WILL NOT GIVE UP!

“Isn’t there someone else who can see me?” Eventually we work out that a Dr. at one of the clinic’s other locations has a spot at 12:30 and can see me. Not entirely sure this will work I go see my Husband at work. Just being  around him gives me great comfort. I wait… and wait… Then we go gas up my car because I’m out of money, (Thank you Ken!) and I’m off to the Dr. He does an exam, stating as we are walking down the hall to the audiologist’s office that if I don’t pass the exam he can’t give me the note. I’m about ready to rip off his arm and beat him soundly about the head and shoulders with the bloody stump, but I refrain and follow the audiologist into the little sound booth. I’m busily clicking at what ever beep I detect, guessing at repeating what words the audiologist says and come out of the booth feeling like I have won the lottery, but haven’t received the check. The Dr. reviews the report and writes me a note which I grab and run out, and drive back to the school like a bat out of the preverbal hot place, being careful not to exceed the speed limit and incur the wrath of the speeding ticket Dudes.

As I hand the note back to the girl who previously had smiled knowingly at me, her eyes pop and she tells me to run this note over to the clinic and see if they’re still there. I literally run, bouncing all the way, I don’t care what the ogling truckers are thinking, I think someone even fox whistled at me. I hand the note to the nurse who blinks, opens the door for me to come in and go into the exam room to speak with the Dr. He acts very surprised and completes the exam we started, asking me to rewrite my information on a new medical card, omitting the medication I no longer take because I am cured of Meneire’s!

Then I go outside with another Dr. who does the physical agility testing. I am brought to a tractor trailer and told to walk under it, touch the fence and walk back. I do this, uncomfortably, my belly getting in the way of my fat legs, but I do it. Then we go to the back of the trailer and I am asked to climb unassisted (and that goes for stools, milk crates, rocks, knights in shining armor) up into the back of the trailer. I attempt and can’t. I try again, no dice. I just can’t pull my carcass up into the trailer. There is insufficient leverage. I look at the examiner for clues as to how to do this thing he has asked me to do. “They did tell you that this was part of the job, didn’t they? If  you can’t do this I can’t let you in the school.”

I CAN’T be disqualified at this point. I simply can’t go home! I want to hit him with a rock, but I assure him that I did know that this was part of it. I offer a small prayer for help. Then I notice smallish plates welded just inside the bed of the trailer. I grip them with my fingers, put my foot on the rail like thing that is attached to the behind of the trailer, give a little jump and HAUL my gargantuan butt up and into the trailer! I want to jump and scream “YA!” but I restrain myself and ask what’s next.

I had been told previously that I must lift 35 lb. up and over my head 3 times. I’m used to this. The bagel boxes at the grocery store weight 35 lb. exactly and they are kept on a shelf over my head. I got this. He points to a 15 lb. plate weight, tells me to grip it with both hands and touch it to the ground, then raise it up over my head three times. I look at him with a “You gotta be kidding me” look, and proceed to do it… 5 times before he stops me and says, “Now go over to the other side of the trailer and kneel down on that matt and stand up without using your hands.

Again, I go over and perform the task flawlessly. I may be fat, but I got me some muscle! Then he tells me to climb out of the trailer, and proceeds to attempt to tell me how. I turn around, kneel down, put my hands on the bed of the trailer, kick both feet out behind me and come to a standing position next to him. He blinks and tells me that the test is done. Again, I want to jump, punch the air and shout “YA!” but restrain myself and follow him back into the building. I’m in! I can’t believe my fortune.

I’m truly blessed. Twice in one day my final opportunity has been waived before my face and twice it has been snatched out of my grasp. But through determination, faith and listening to inspiration I reclaimed the prize. Don’t know what tomorrow holds, but today, I took the test for the permit and passed it with flying colors. Out of the 100 questions I missed only four. 96% isn’t bad. It isn’t 100% but 80% is passing. I’m proud to be holding in my hands the permission slip to driving an 18 wheeled vehicle and being able to meet my obligations! Yeehaw! Tomorrow we start learning how to back up a big rig! Awesome! I get to drive, but more importantly, I get to EARN!

Annie’s Adventures in Truckland!

So here I am, a 54 year old obese blonde woman, quitting my cushy job frying donuts at 2:00 am at a local grocery store and going to work for a trucking company. No pay for the first 17 days, but that’s ok. My finances have been bouncing for the past 6 months. One more won’t hurt them… too much. I am one of 3 white females in the room and the only one of the 13 other women who appeared to care what they looked like for the first day. I have no ball cap, I have sleeves on my shirt, NO tattoos, am wearing a blue polo, not skin tight, black slacks and black boat shoes and I curled my hair and put on makeup before I came.  I even brushed my teeth. Of the 70 or so male students in the room at least 20 are older than me and a few of them are even desperate enough to ogle me, poor souls. I guess they can only see from the shoulders up. My husband actually chuckled when I informed him of this wonderfully soulful experience.

Just a few days before the start of school I had a co-worker try to convince me to stay with the grocery store informing me that I would possibly be able to make upwards of $15 to $18 per hour if I applied to be a manager. That would still only get me in the neighborhood of $30K per year and NO private life. Not enough to pay for my monumental debt, nor the life I wish to live.

As to the debt… Ah yes…The DEBT! I am under a crushing debt. When I married my current husband, he was deeply in debt. About as much as I am in now. However, his debt was brought on by the necessity of providing for a family he was no longer married to. Never fear. His youngest graduated from High School this year and he no longer pays Child Support (PHEW!) and he is scheduled to be done with his debt within one year of this post.

Well… We agreed that he would continue to pay child support and try earnestly to pay off his debt at the same time if I would agree to pay for housing and food and some of the bills. At first it was working, sort of. I was working in the food industry which is notoriously low wage, so I needed to take an extra job. I worked at a bakery from 2:00 am to 10:00 am and as a cook in a deli from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. After a very long day there was nothing more I could do but go home and crash! This went on for some time until I decided that I wasn’t seeing my husband or children at all. I quit that job and went to work at a call center. Eventually, I had only one daughter left at home and my husband’s mother needed in home caring for so we sold my house and moved in with her. In time she needed 24/7 care so I used the equity I had from the sale of my house to pay off my car and begin going to school to get a degree that I can’t use in the state of Utah without frequenting bars, which is not my personality type AT ALL! My degree? Music Production and Sound Design. Well, ya, I’m a Mormon and ya, I live in Utah, but just in case you were thinking I could work for the church, bear in mind that there are a TON of LDS people who have the same exact degree as I do and are all trying to work for the church. I don’t have a Holy Ghost of a chance. Mean time, I racked up quite a debt, approaching $100K. And my youngest daughter moved out of the home we were living in and in with her sister where she got a job of her own and lived quite happily there for quite a while. But that’s her story. I’ll let her tell it if she chooses to.

Eventually we wound up moving in with my Husband’s sister because his mom needed way more care than we could give her alone and her house was not really safe. She passed a couple of years after we moved there and thus necessitating a job for me, seeing how as the money from my house was gone and we still needed to pay rent and buy food and pay utilities… etc. I got a few food jobs that didn’t last long (I really hate working in food) then a friend from school started up a business again and asked me to join him, which I did happily! I was using my degree, not making what I knew I could, but using my degree! I was happy. Then the project came to an end. I needed a new job and found one in a start up company as an office coordinator. Meanwhile, my only Son began working for a trucking company and kept telling me, “Mom, ya gotta do this!” A year and a half later the company I was working for folded. And again, I was left with food jobs. First as a baker in a bistro, lasted only a couple of months, then as a donut fryer, lasting about the same amount of time.

Then one morning early, I get this feeling like someone is about an inch from my face, tapping on my shoulder saying, “LISTEN! This time you HAVE to pay attention!” Ok! I’m awake and paying attention! “Drive! Do it now!” My finances had begun bouncing when the company I had been working for folded and the grim situation had been getting worse because of medical conditions I had gotten care for but had no way of paying for. I briefly considered waiting till the beginning of the year, but realized that the bad would be worse by then and possibly not reconsileable. I didn’t really want to deal with bankruptcy at my age.

The thought of driving had been playing with the fringes of my consciousness for some time. My daughter reminded me just today that when she was a teenager I had told her that I’d someday be driving a long haul truck. I remember telling her that. De Ja vu? Possibly.

Well, long story short… (I know, it’s way too late for that!) The point of this blog is to catalog my experiences being a woman trucker in her mid to late 50’s when starting the journey. We’ll see where we wind up. Hopefully a whole lot less in debt and even more hopefully in a home. We’re apartment dwellers at the present time. I had loved to play in the dirt and garden, growing beautiful flowers and nutritious vegetables, but for now, I’m content to drive and loose debt. Who knows, maybe I’ll even loose weight along the way! I sincerely hope what ever happens, I’ll still be around for another couple of decades.

I really feel like I’d like to thank my wonderful Husband for being such a great sport about all of this. I don’t think he was too happy about my decision to drive when I first told him but he’s never been a sniff in the negative about it. Supportive and loving to the last! I am one lucky woman! And yes, he too is looking forward to OUR being out of debt and getting into a home. Here’s to dreams! I’m reachin’ for the stars, one road trip at a time!