Sunday, November 2, 2008


I thought I was going to freeze early Thursday morning. I had two "reefer hour" deliveries in Durham and Raleigh, North Carolina. "Reefer hour" deliveries are those that take place late at night, or in the wee hours of the morning, for those of you who may be unfamiliar with my terminology. The time of night when only insomniacs are awake, and truck drivers -- especially the "meatheads" who drive the refrigerated freight. The ones who are perpetually cruising truckstop parking lots, and rest areas, which are all pretty much full at those hours, searching for anything that remotely resembles a parking space. They most often must get creative, to get a few hours of sleep, and have to endure endless abuse from other sleeping drivers who are awakened at 4 A.M. by a screaming refrigeration unit that is set to cut on and off every ten minutes. Those guys always have appointments at 2 A.M., or thereabouts, and last week, so did I.

My two stops went to two different bulk-quantity warehouse stores, owned by a huge national discount chain which I'm sure everyone is familar with, without me mentioning any names. Well, that Arkansas-based, Fortune 500 outfit is very socially conscious and very politically correct, buying into all the global warming nonsense, lock, stock, and barrel. You can't find a regular incandescent light bulb in their stores; only the Al Gore-approved CFL bulbs are sold. Who can blame them, really? What do you think they make the most profit from selling? A fifty-cent incandescent bulb, or a three-buck CFL? Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out.

Anyway, along with all the other PC environmental-friendly hoopla, they have instituted a "green" policy on all their property. That means, to cut to the chase, that trucks aren't allowed to sit on the property and idle their engines. That means, in turn, that when the weather's cold, a driver has to sit there and freeze their buns off, in the night chill. Running the engine is the only means I have to keep my truck warm. Ignore their policy? Nope. They will simply refuse to unload you until you shut it down and give them the keys. A truck that can't get unloaded can't pick up another load, thus greatly hindering a driver's ability to make a living. I greatly enjoy getting paid, so I reluctantly shut it down, in the 34 degree evening chill.

Now, 34 degrees may seem mild in the middle of January, in places like, oh, Iowa, for instance, where it routinely drops into the single digits and even negative numbers at night. But this ain't January; it's early November and I ain't USED to this cold crap yet!!! Plus, it was a danged damp cold -- the kind that penetrates and chills you to the bone. It wasn't so bad in Durham. I didn't drop a lot at that store, and they were done pretty quickly. At Raleigh, though, I was an hour early (where the hell else did I have to go at 3 A.M.?)

They are strict about their appointments, so I had to wait an hour before they would even let me dock. Then, they proceeded to take their time unloading me. One hour. Two hours. Going on three hours. I was shivering and I could see my breath in the cab. I put on my light jacket. Thirty minutes later, I swapped it for my heavy one. And my gloves. And I still shivered. My legs were like lumps of ice, and no relief for them at all. I couldn't feel my feet, after two hours. I finally went inside the driver's cubicle, used their toilet, and stood around in there, attempting to warm up a bit. I got away with that for twenty minutes before I was told to go back out to my truck and wait. Like a condemned man, I went.

Another thirty minutes before the light over the dock door changed to green, indicating that they had me all unloaded. Thank you, God! I went back inside, to get my signed bills and start that mother up, ready for some serious heat. But, as usual, there was a catch. They had to count everything they had unloaded, and I was told to go back to the truck again. The Eskimo Dawg trudged back to his 18-wheeled igloo once more. Finally, the guy who unloaded me brought my bills to me. I thanked him and twisted the key, cranking that diesel to life again. I slammed the trailer doors shut and tore out of there, blasting back to the interstate and running hard, trying to get my partly-cooled engine back up to operating temperature as fast as I could. Heater full-blast on "high," until it started to get warm in the cab again. About out of hours and no load right then, anyway (third-shift dispatch never has any loads at that hour -- you can count on it). I lucked out and found a space in a rest area a few miles east of Raleigh. My bunk had warmed up by the time I closed my eyes.

I sncerely hope I don't deliver another one of their stores this winter. Pretty crummy when businesses worry more about pollution killing a damned tree, than some driver getting frostbite in a freezing cab! Apparently, whatever your do in a truck, you pollute. You can't idle because you pollute and some counties in my own state think that truck speeds above 55 mph pollutes. Our illustrious state Supreme Court agreed with them and now lets the counties set the speed limits in their jurisdicitions, even on the interstate!

You just can't win, if you drive a truck, it seems.

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