Thursday, February 1, 2018

I haven't had much time to post anything.  Work, find a hotel, go to sleep. Work, go home, get up early, go to work. I mean, my manager is dumping me with stuff as soon as I'm done with what I'm doing. Not a bad thing, not complaining - too much - but this morning, ugh.

See, I got home last night at 8pm.  I knew I should have gone to sleep earlier, but I had a ton of paperwork to fill out and I needed to do laundry.  I mean, in the last 8 days I've made over 4 grand.  I'm not boasting, I'm just saying that all this work is adding up to incredible paychecks - at least by my standards, dunno about anyone else. Such as that dude at the Marriott.  Can't imagine making millions of dollars a year to go to work and travel around all over the place. Yes I know there is more to it than that, a lot of headaches I'm sure, but still, the money would make up for it in my world.

So I stayed up til 10:30 getting everything done and spending time with doggies and finally going to sleep. But 4:45am came around and the alarm clock went off literally in my ear. Had it set up on my Iphone.  I bolted upright, looked around in the dark, dazed and confused. Wait, I"m supposed to have today off, aren't I?  I was in shock that I had to get up for the third time in a row in the last 7 days to get to the scales on time at the plant.  I didn't even take a shower - don't worry I took one the night before, lol - but I was totally OUT of it.

I was in the middle of a deep sleep and would have easily slept for 3 more hours.  What's funny right now is that it's almost 10:00 pm, a complete replay of last night except I don't have to be at the scales in the morning. That's because I"m stuck in Lufkin, Texas.  Not enough hours to get back to the yard.  No biggies, at a nice Comfort Inn. Not as nice as that Marriott - a rare treat - but it's not a dump.  It took the entire morning for me to fully wake up.  I was out of it. Now? I'm wide awake and waiting for sleep mode to kick in, but I can tell ya, I'm not getting up early in the morning. Probably get up around 7 and leave by 8, after having whatever version of breakfast and coffee they are serving here.

So, today marked a few hallmarks for me. First, the dreaded Cheneire run and second, unloading out of these small trailers. They are not set up the same as the big, long,  new ones. Not that I haven't pulled the small trailers, but this was the first time I had to operate everything on the truck side, they won't even touch the truck.  That's plant rules, probably insurance regulations, who knows, didn't ask, delved myself full into it.

But not without a call to the curmudgeon.  The grumpy old man I like to call him.   He goes around complaining about everything.  I swear I've seen him 5 times since I've started working here and all 5 times he was complaining. The worst was when he stormed into the manager's office  - I was sitting in the "break" room right there - and started complaining about new driver pay. This went on for fully 40 minutes.  He said "Take me off the call list!",  which is the short list Ann (manager) gave us new drivers to call people if we have questions. 

So when I saw Ann giving me the number for him last night -I was wanting to ask questions about these trailers, I'm not going into this without somebody filling me in on the nuances of how to operate everything,  I was like, huh?  I didn't say anything to Ann, she wouldn't have given me his number if he hadn't of agreed to it after the fact.  So I called, braced myself and - he's a really nice guy!  Knows  his shit too.  We talked until my phone battery ran out and I had to get off.  My main questions were about building pressure in the tank.

See, these places we go to, the truck tank has to be at a higher pressure than the facility's huge tanks - ranging in size from 40,000 gallons to a million so far.  You have to pump the product into  their tanks, not their tanks pumping product back into our tank.  On my way to the facility, I called him.  Umm, this is ben b, Ann gave me your number, do you have a moment to answer some questions? Is it cool that I called you?  Oh yes, he says, Ann told me you would be calling me today.  Alright, I thought, good start at least.  Not "don't call me" s***. lol People's attitudes amuse me, that's what I can say about that.  I watch people having hissy fits and melt downs and I find great entertainment in that.  Because, most of it is over petty bs.  I have to grant them that to them, it obviously isn't petty to them, but it is still entertaining to watch.  \

This is why I like going to malls on Christmas.  To watch the family meltdowns. Just sit on a bench, in a couple of minutes, you'll see and hear it lolol.  Well anyway, my main questions were about building pressure.  These coils are fickle about that.  If crank the valves around to many times, the ethylene will flood into the coils, freeze up and block the tubes.  What you want is a constant flow going throw there so the outside air can heat it up and turn the liquid into vapor, which goes into the tank (the coils are underneath the trailer), which pressurizes the tank.  I literally had no idea how many turns to turn both the vapor and the liquid valves feeding into and out of the coils. 

Well, this guy has been doing this for 20 years, he has some knowledge about it.  Like, expertise.  And he freely shared that expertise over the phone to the point that I was amazed that he was willing to go that far with it considering his words with Ann in that office.  But, his real issue was that he had been overlooked for the Safety Officer position that had opened up, but only because he didn't know about it, and only because he doesn't get on the internet.

How many people do you know that don't have smart phones or get on the internet? Well I can tell you there are at least half a dozen people working here that have never owned a smart phone or a computer in their entire lives.  They don't even have email accounts.  I don't really blame them. They aren't stupid people, they are down to earth people and hold very interesting conversations  I'm really not that sold on this internet stuff.  At least, not to the amount of time us humans are spending on it and taking away from the stuff we "used" to do to entertain, amuse, stimulate or otherwise console us, that was much more palpable, real life and had much more satisfaction at the end of the story.

Well, I arrived at this plant in Cameron, Louisiana, though it's not really that far into LA.  You travel over a bridge from the Texas side and there you are.  This place was strange. I expected a guard house at the entrance - and there was an elaborate one there for sure - shut down and not being used.  This is a multi billion dollar plant - with dirt roads lolol. I cracked up driving in there, asphalt ended abruptly and there it was, lovely, dirt roads.  I just drove until a got to a guard shack.  Uh, you are going to have to turn around and go into that gate right there.  Okay.  I turned around, got there and they told me, you are going to have to turn around and go back to that dude that told you to come in here and get a visitor pass from him. Note: I informed the first person I had never been in there before.

So, I go through the process of turning around again.  He's like: see that brown building down there? You need to go in there to get a pass. Okay.  I drive down there, park in a lot 500 feet away because that was the only place a truck would fit, walk there and this lady is pulling out.  "Do you need a badge"? Yes.  Well I"m leaving for the day. You'll have to go over there and get one from the security checkpoint.  Really? I've been to 3 people already and they don't have this shit down? 

But hey, I walked clear over there got inside and found a Keurig coffee machine! With boxes and boxes of unopened containers of the pods you put inside them.  I laughed it up with the guards, they offered me coffee before I even asked.  I love that Keurig coffee.  So, that was a high point for me for the day there. The simple pleasures of life.  I waited for about 20 minutes - watching armed security guards - yes they had pistols on their sides and Kevlor body armor on - walking around. Didn't bother me, I wasn't there to start trouble. 

Okay, I finally get to the unload place, bypassing a lot cause it's getting late and who wants to read all of that anyway . It was at that point - having to hook up the hose - remember, they won't even touch that truck - that I realized I didn't know a few more things that I needed help with. These people are looking at me like, have you ever done this before? Well yes, not that much but never with these trailers.  They didn't care.  I called the dude up again, asked him several questions, got my mind oriented and got busy.  Built the pressure up to 84 pounds - which is alot for these trailers - but that's what they wanted.  It's the pressure the pushes the product out of the trailer and into their system. 

After getting everything hooked up - and sighing a big breath of relief that I had actually gotten this old thing to work - we all stood around and chit chatted. I mean, there were 5 of them out there for this, doing absolutely nothing. Only one dude, quiet, reserved, knew his stuff, was interested in making sure the process was right, the rest of them were young dudes, full of testosterone, talking shit and well, I kind of got out of that.  I'm not really into that kind of talk. The "my penis is bigger than yours" kind of thing. 

A couple of hours later, the trailer was empty, blew down the pressure, I was out of there.  I was proud of myself, really, for doing something like that without anyone supervising me and being successful at it. But I did text Ann and told her that Gary - the other driver - had been a very big help and very grateful for it.  I believe in giving credit where credit is due. He definitely deserved some credit. I would have ended up freezing up the coil lines and having to try to figure out where to set the valve on my own.  That might have taken hours, to be honest, of hit and miss.  He gave me a baseline and it worked perfectly  They guy has been there 20 years, I figure if he wants to have a new position - now it's driver training - I can at least give him a boost for the fact that he perfectly described what needed to be done. 

So now, I'm at a hotel in Lufkin Texas.  I drove out my hours to get here.  It's like another hour and a half or so back up to the yard.  These trucking companies are big on keeping your hours legal, which is why they are in love with the new electronic logs. But, these rental trucks? No electronic logs in them. Don't know how they are going to adapt when it's a forced situation.  I also have curiosity to the greatly hyped driver-less trucks that are coming.  I figure this job is fairly secure for the time being.  Maybe not forever, but they don't currently have robots that can operate the truck side of unloading.  And my willingness to spend to weeks in hell up in Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts gave me the new options for sending me wherever.  There are runs that go for thousands of miles out there. I don't ask for anything, I'm the newbie, I let Ann decide what and where. But, she's totally fair and I figure if I'm willing to take the shit runs along with the gravy runs without even saying anything about it, that should help my situation.

As it stands, I'm well ahead of the other new drivers because none of them have unloaded trucks yet.  Their day is coming.  I can say that first time is pretty stressful.  Highly flammable, explosive, 130 below zero and if a tank did rupture, you better get out of there if you can because that stuff will suffocate you. But the other driver today related a story to me about a driver that had had a truck overturn.  He tried to outrun it, this driver was on the scene, ran him down and told him: you can't our run this stuff. If it blows up, you can't run far enough to get away from it blowing you up with it.  That's kind of a chilling effect, I guess, but at this point in my life?  I care, but I"m not phased by it.  I'm more interested in still getting the feel for curves and turns in a tanker - really would like to not roll one over, thanks.  THAT is where the trouble begins  Well, accidents too. 

Okay, well, I can see another late  night for me.  I am not going to apologize for staying up late after a 14 hour day.  I don't have to get up early, if I go to bed at midnight, I'll get up at 8. I can tell ya I am not setting the alarm and I'm turning off the ringer on my phone.

Dang, I just remembered. Got caught up on the stuff that happened in my face today. The text came: I am giving them 60 day notice.  My friends are moving back from Georgia, reclaiming their home and my other friends - the ones living with me, will have to find new accomodations.  So, she gave them the notice, I think I am going to go home tomorrow to a sad house. They like it there, we have a good situation....but they knew it was a 2 year deal.  I'm going to help them get into a new place, hopefully close by. They don't want to move far away if they don't have to.  There are houses for rent in town, just have to find a 3 bedroom with at least 2 baths.  Not impossible to find - but the extra bath costs a lot more, I am finding. 

Okay done with this one. Other things I want to do and then go to sleep.

Well enough of that - the previous post that is. Excepting that I found out the hard way this morning that there is ammo hoarding going on, ...