It is my last day on the job with Northern Tier Transportation and, appropriately enough, I’m stuck at Mt Pocono waiting on a load. This week has been a proper end to eight years of hauling commodities. It ended where it began.
For the first few months driving I had been making a regular run of ‘midds’ (wheat middlings) down from a flour mill in Mt Pocono to Cooperative Milling in Gettysburg.
That regular trek up and down the foggy interstate 81 through Harrisburg, sometimes stopping at Cracker Barrel or Perkins, abruptly stopped. It had been steady work for months and then circumstances forced a change.
That has been the pattern. We establish a regular ritual, rates change, and it is on to something else. Nothing lasts forever in the trucking industry.
But the past couple weeks I’ve been to Gettysburg again for the first time in years.
This week I had two runs to Gettysburg.
A trip down memory lane.
The quirky guy with a mustache who once unloaded me has since retired. However, there are some things that have remained unchanged, like the driver ahead of me and his complaints about the lack of urgency. Hourly mill workers and truck drivers have a different time perspective. We need to get unloaded or else we might get stuck waiting overnight if delayed. They clock out go home at the end of their day regardless.
I also said goodbye to Brenda. I will miss my hour long chats with her while getting loaded with poultry meal in Moorefield West Virginia—I have been been there twice a week with consistency over the past year. She took over (after the prior load out guy left his wife and ran off with a female truck driver) and knew how to get things done. I was impressed by her management compared to her predecessor. I hardly ever had to wait. We quickly became good friends and her encouragement has meant so much for my confidence.
Anyhow, last night I had anticipated this. Mt Pocono is unpredictable and there was inclement weather on the way. However, it was already late when I unloaded, I was out of hours, and so I left for my last load into the snow early this morning instead.
It was not too bad on the road besides other drivers. I was impatient because a minute too long could mean getting to the mill after rather than before another truck and add an extra hour or two added to my work day.
It is Mt Pocono where I learned “hurry up and wait” or a phrase truckers use to describe the contradictions too common to the industry. In other words, the times when your dispatcher tells you to be there yesterday and then (after moving heaven and earth to get there) you arrive ahead of schedule only to end up waiting hours. I call it “Camp Pocono” because I’ve spent many hours here waiting on product.
The wait also means that I will need to find a way to clear my tarp (at a place that prohibits any reasonable way of accomplishing that task) and that is not something that I’m looking forward to. Had there not been a line, with hours to wait as they make feed, I would not have to imperil myself by crawling across the canvas with a broom. I will not miss that.
Overall my experience has been good. I appreciate my boss, Ernie, for his putting up with my high expectations. I respect him for what he has built over the time I’ve been driving for him. He went from one truck and trailer when I started to a decent sized company today. I am glad to have contributed to his success and appreciate all he has done for me.
Well, I’m probably going to be here until 5:00pm. There’s a restaurant at the top of the hill and I’m a frequent customer. It is good exercise. I don’t get to choose where I am and would rather be home (a little over an hour away) than here, but I plan to make the most of my time. It is time for some lunch. Into the snow I go.