Off the Keyboard of RE
Read Over the Road Part I HERE
When I arrived at the gate of the Chicago Rail Yard, I was as Usual both Wiped Out and Pissed Off at the WORLD. Just about everything seemed to be Conspiring Against Me to lead a nice happy life on the Road delivering all the Shit everybody needs every day to make a go of life in this culture. My Dispatchers were Assholes, Shipping Clerks were assholes, receivers and lumpers (guys who hang out on docks to Unload trucks for a fee) were Assholes, hell even MOST Truckstop Waitresses were Assholes! I was Swimming in a SEA OF ASSHOLES!
It did not start off any better in the CRY when I arrived there either. I park my truck in the lot and I get in line behind some Rastafarian ASSHOLE who is engaged in a heated argument with the Receiving Clerk ASSHOLE over his Paperwork, which is apparently full of innumerable errors and quasi-legal problems. Over about 15 minutes listening to these two ASSHOLES hashing out why he is delivering on the wrong day, why they can’t accept the load because its a Hazmat (Hazardous Material) without the right Authorizations etc, I just get REALLY PISSED OFF. This is PAPERWORK ERRORS, IT’S OBVIOUS and I haven’t even LOOKED at the paperwork yet!
Now, RE can’t Back Up a Trailer worth a DAMN at this point and is so Fucking STUPID he drives 10 Miles up a Logging Road instead of just driving a few extra miles on the Interstate to a point he could turn around easily, but he is NOT so STUPID he can’t read shipping papers and scan for errors. So after cooling my heels for 15 minutes listening to these two ASSHOLES arguing with each other, I get REALLY PISSED and I go right up next to the Rastaman and I GRAB the Paperwork and say “Lemme see this!” The Receiving Clerk’s EYES Bug Out of his HEAD and the Rastaman himself looks ready to Cold Cock me for Jumping in on this one. It takes me about 2 minutes going through the paperwork to see 3 Hazmat Codes that are WRONG, and the fact the Delivery Date to the final Receiver and the Railyard were transposed.
I tell Rastaman at this point, “Call your Dispatcher and tell them these Paperwork Errors. Have them Fax you Corrected Paperwork to the Railyard Office here”. Rastaman and Receiver both look at me like I am from Planet X, but Rastaman DOES go over to the Phone to call his Dispatcher. At the time, most Drivers did NOT have Cell Phones.
Anyhow, this gets Rastaman out from in front of me so I can hand MY paperwork over to the Receiving Clerk ASSHOLE so I can drop my trailer in the CRY. This goes pretty smoothly since RE always checks his Paperwork BEFORE pulling a load out of a Shipper and scans for errors. Shipping Paperwork is always just CHOCK FULL of Errors,the people whopound this stuff out are paid minimum wage and generallyare thinking about their impending Divorce or their kid’s school problems much more than doing accurate work on Shipping Papers.
So I head out after this from the Parking Lot to try and find a spot in the yard I can SQUEEZE my 53′ Trailer into, but every “available” spot has like 2″ of room on either side to squeeze the trailer into. I spend a thoroughly frustrating hour or so trying unsuccesfully to back my trailer into one of these spots when who appears in the same Lane of parked trailers but the RASTAMAN! In the Hour I had spent trying to get rid of myTrailer, he had got his paperwork corrected. He proceeds to pick out a spot I ditched as Unparkable since MAYBE there is 1/2″ of room on either side of the trailer to SQUEEZE into. Rastaman NAILS this in ONE TRY, I swear it took him less than a minute to drop the trailer. Touches neither trailer on either side.
He sits and watches me STRUGGLE a couple more times, then he gets out of his Tractor Waving his Arms and YELLING at me to STOP.
“Maaan, what Da Fuck you DOING! You gots to TINK BACKWARDS! You Tinking FORWARDS Maaan!”
Rastaman then proceeds to direct me into the spot circling one arm to indicate which way to turn the wheel and when and using the other arm to tell me to move forward or backward. Trailer goes in the Spot CLEAN, takes about 5 minutes time. I am RELEIVED! Rastaman is NOT finished with me though. He makes me pull the trailer out of the spot and do it OVER and Over again with his directions probably 5 more times, and then EUREKA, it CLICKS for me in my head! I GET IT! Trial 6 or so, I back the sucker in there without his arm circles!
Of course, this did not make me instantaneously into the kind of Backing Expert the Rastaman was immediately, I still had a long way to go there. This occassion was not Blind Side Backing which is MUCH harder than that. In Blind Side backing, your obstacles are on the side of the trailer you cannot see because the Tractor is cocked off to the other side of the trailer. However, the lessons I gotfrom Rastaman taught me the PRINCIPLES of Backing well enough that thereafter I was NEVER AFRAID again to go into a Truckstop late in the evening to find a spot to Park so I could go inside for a “decent” meal and a Shower in the morning. It changed my life Over the Road IMMENSELY. Rather than the Road and Circumstance controlling ME, I was in control.
I doubt I would have lasted for my years driving OTR if it was not for the day I met the Rastaman. I have MANY stories of trying to maneuver around a Big Rig that came after that day, plenty of Hairy Shit no matter how good I got at it,and by the end I was pretty much as good as the Rastaman was. I nearly made 1M Accident Free Miles before I left the life of the OTR Trucker. I can put a 53′ trailer into the garage of your McMansion if the doorway is 13’6″ high now. If you have not driven one, you simply cannot IMAGINE all the problems you get trying to move that BIG A BEAST around typical roadways. The Interstate is more or less designed for them and long as you are on thoes roads you are pretty OK usually. Problem of course is that at the end of the line on MANY occassions, you will end up on the tiny streets of Chinatown in NY Shity, which were laid out LONG before there were Tractor Trailers running 70’long. Man, just driving an SUV down some of those alleys you are squished. Put a Freightliner with 53′ of trailer behind it on said stretch of road, you are in a World of Shit before you know it. Perhaps I will tell the Chinatown stories at a later date in another Episode of Over the Road. Not today though, today is my Homage to the Rastaman.
Alas of course, merely understanding how to Back a Trailer well or even understanding the Paperwork issues or how to Trip Plan and defend yourself from Time Abuse by Dispatchers do not end the many Trials the OTR Driver faces all the time. Loneliness is one of them, and that will be the Theme the next installment of Over the Road, when/if I get to it.
Meanwhile, I sure hope I run into the Rastaman again when I cross into the Great Beyond. I owe THANKS to that man beyond measure. No Woman, No Cry. Thank You Rastaman, wherever you are now. You Saved Me.
SAVE AS MANY AS YOU CAN!