By now, most of you will be wondering what Pati is referring to each time she posts a comment about days left until “vacation”.
Pati’s husband, Les, is having some difficulties at his work. He’s suffered through them for quite a long time but has pretty much felt trapped with no way out of it. They live in a small town in western Kansas where the economy problems we all have been dealt with has hit their area very hard.
The hospital Pati works at is being pinched right out of being open. There is fear of having to close the doors for good. Not a good spot to be in now that their children are grown and have gone off on their journeys.
When Pati began telling us of things happening in her town and how she and Les are becoming more and more fearful that their mature years are going to be rougher than their youthful years Joe and I had to toss an idea out to them.
This job, long hours and all, is a good job. Being self employed means you have to be a real “squeaky wheel” to get work and you have to be willing to take some work that doesn’t pay well in order to get in a better situation for jobs that will pay better.
We work for three driveaway companies. Two of them actively and the third is for backup. Sometimes we have to travel 700 miles or more for work but that is what has to be done.
The hard part about where Pati and Les live is they are so far from where the “normal” action is. Oklahoma City, Dallas, and Kansas City. They are going to have to drive 388 miles to Oklahoma City for the start of this job. Joe and I will take them in our vehicle to the work.
Pati has her CDL but has chosen to learn the ropes first before she actually signs on. Something I would do also.
This vacation time is just that. Vacation from the troubles of their work life and a time to get away and see a bit of what is out their beyond Tribune. They will find out, all too soon, that this job once entered can be like that song by the Eagles “Hotel California” You can check out anytime you like but you can never leave!
As much as I complain about being on the road constantly and want to be home, there is a part of me that wants to be back out. Standing at the kitchen sink washing pots or loading the dishwasher a fragment of a memory will pop in my head. The sights of some town will appear and I’ll start thinking about getting back on the road. This happens when I’m in the bathroom – temporarily indisposed – also. It only seems to happen when my mind is not occupied with bookkeeping, laundry, housework, or when I’m up to my elbows in my craft room. The road whispers to me, and at some point I heed the call.
This is a lonely life, and one that is not for everyone. It takes someone that is comfortable with themselves and can be “with themselves” for long periods of time and not go bonkers. This is not the job for someone that needs to have constant companionship, someone to talk with all the time. This is not a job for someone that suffers from depression and has low self esteem. The endless hours of quiet and solitude will soon cause them much trouble. I confess, there are times when I am confronted with my past. Something I’ve done or said that I’m not particularly proud of. I will be reminded of it and the old voices do begin wagging their tongues in my head. Make me doubt myself, and make my self esteem take a hit. I am learning how to deal with that and it is a struggle at times.
Paperwork in this job is varied. We have the forms to fill out called a Bill of Lading, which is really an inspection form for each truck. Every ding, scratch, bend, and dent has to be documented. Anything that is wrong with the truck has to be noted. Dead batteries, air won’t build, strange sound in the engine, transmission not working properly.
Receipts is another part of the paperwork that has to be handled meticulously. Permits, tolls, motel/hotels, restaurants, snacks, fuel, oil, windshield washer fluid, repairs. Everything has to be saved and accounted for. Joe and I have a system that I created and Joe has improved on. For each trip we have a 9×6 envelope that all of our receipts and copies of Bills of Lading go into. Every piece of paper for each load is held in its own place. When I’m home and doing my QuickBooks stuff then I have a way of tracking our expenses along with the pay to see if we have made money on the trip or lost money. Some trips we do take a loss and we know it going in because it is getting us in the right place for better work and more pay.
Since we are self employed there are no taxes withheld from our settlements. We are responsible for Federal and State taxes totally and that has to be considered in the beginning of this endeavor.
Les will get a 1099 Form at the end of 2010 to take to his tax person and Pati will have to have all the proper expenses documented for their accountant to know what is what.
Joe and I work hard when we work. We don’t let much grass grow under our feet while we are working. When we decide that we want to take time off we do, and we have a job that allows us to do just that. For example, if we have trucks we pick up in, say Nashville/La Verne, Tennessee going to Baltimore. We get the trucks on Thursday and they have to be delivered on Monday then we can Gag Lolly….okay a bit of digression here – where did the term “Lolly Gagging” come from? Anyway…we have arrived in Baltimore on Saturday and had the weekend to explore. We’ve been to Baltimore Harbor and walked through the ship museums. We have even taken a drive into Baltimore and I have pictures of Duff Goldman’s “Charm City Cakes” building – you know the guy from “Ace of Cakes”. We’ve been to Fort McHenry and toured all the historical buildings. We’ve been to Colonial Willimasburg, Sea World – Orlando, Kennedy Space Center, and many other places.
We take off from the week of Thanksgiving until about the second week of January. Joe has Prostate Cancer and has had two winters being treated for it. 2007/2008 he had surgery and 2008/2009 he went through radiation therapy for it. We take a week or two off at a few times during the year. Weddings, graduations, births, and all kinds of other things we figure out how to make our “work” work for us. We plan trips that will get us to the events and have time to spend with family.
Les and Joe will be talking about the engine sizes, the transmission stuff – guy junk. Pati and I will be talking about the really important stuff. Like how to do the work efficiently and use the body in a manner that is less likely to be hurt while working. Both she and Les will learn how to sling chains, climb on and off the backs of the trucks safely, how to get in and out of them without injury. Sounds silly but I’ve taken a fall from the top step of the trucks while I was getting out. Man…that is a fast way to get down let me tell you. Hurts a bit and some limping is later involved.
Les will have to learn some new terminology. He thinks he knows the name of every part of a truck. I mean he is a GUY anyway. But he doesn’t know MY names for truck parts or the tools we use.
There is Thing-a-ma-bob, doo hickey, what-cha-ma-callit, whozit, whammy diddle, and just plain old thingy. I do a lot of pointing. Joe, being “hip” to my ways knows exactly what I’m referring to at all times and he goes with the flow. Today, for example. We were taking my trucks apart to deliver. There are some chains that attach to the frame of the back truck on both sides. The chain is shortened with a set of two huge hooks. When my back truck is on the ground, to get this chain off one side needs to be loosened by removing the huge hooks for slack. I could not think of the word “slack” so I told Joe “I need more loose” and he gave me more loose. Along with the comment that “A guy would call it slack, while you call it loose”. Better make sure that Les knows about the loose”.
Les will be driving a set of trucks. Joe will be driving another set of trucks. I will be taking a single, bobtail, and Pati will be riding with either Joe or I for a while so Les can concentrate on his driving. This is not something you jump into with tons of distractions. There is a truck behind you that rocks and rolls the opposite way you are rocking and rolling. There is some of the “crack the whip” action going on behind you and you have to be able to make corrections in an instant. Going around close corners is not easy in this get up. It is not like having a normal trailer behind you. There are fuel tanks and oil pans exposed. If a trailer falls off in the ditch there is some damage. If one of these back trucks fall off in a ditch there is Major damage and the Hazardous Chemicals people have to make a show. Not a good thing to happen.
Joe will lead, and I will be at the tail end. Les will be safely sandwiched between us so we can help him if he needs it. We will not leave him to flounder around and find his own way around. Joe and Les can do the guy talk stuff and Pati and I can spend the time getting to know each other. This time on an adult and friend level instead of two warring sisters as children.
She will be able to hear what he has to say with some two way radios we have purchased that all four of us will be using. She will have him when we stop to eat and she will have him all to herself when we stop at hotels for the night.
By the time their “vacation” is over with they will need to go home to rest up from it. I’m hoping that while we are out together that Pati will be able to see and do things she has not had the chance to do before. I’m hoping this time together will be a healing and bonding time for us. We have a chance for a “do over” and I’m going to do my best to do this time right.
Should Les decide that he wants to do this job full time then he already has an in at Coldiron and he can come do this with Joe from October through late spring while I’m home. Pati can choose to go with them or she can stay home and figure out what she wants to do.
I did tell you some time back that she wanted to be a Master Gardener. The winter time here will not be the time to do that. But she had a chance to be a judge at the Greeley County Fair. She had the category of children’s ceramics and she had a great time doing that. Les can make some pretty good money for them and she can choose whether she wants to go back to work again for something to do, do volunteer work in her area, or just be with Les. I think she will choose to be with Les. At some point she will want to explore other things. This constant traveling is very wearing on a body.
So, now the “cat’s out of the bag” so to speak.