Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Lol - Highway trouble and tornadoes

Now who had the worst time?  You pick. 

Yesterday, I arrive at the plant to find FOUR trucks waiting in line in front of me.  Note that I showed up 15 minutes early, as mandated by our company.  I parked the truck looking at all of this and thought about it for a few minutes.  Get upset because the driver that is getting loaded didn't bother to text and let me know that there would be a 3 or 4 hour wait?  Or, be happy that I was getting some detention time? 

I'll be honest, it took me a few to figure out how I felt about that one, because I had to process it first.  The fact of the matter is, this run is the only one that's going to be on this week's paycheck since I sat - not by choice - for 3 full days.  Couple that with finally getting a Brownsville run and getting a late load - meaning not possible to get there the same day unless you want to drive until 5am  Literally, it would be 4:30 to 5:00 am before getting there.  I opted to take the brighter view of things and figure I would get 4 hours of detention time, as long as I could make it south of Houston, I would be okay with it. 

I didn't get out of the plant until 6:00 - by the time I got to Houston, it was a breeze. Just flew on through there.  Nightfall, I'm well south of Houston and on open highway out in the middle of nowhere.  Little towns here and there, a lot of dark highway.  And so it happened, kablaaaaaaam!!!!! Nearly pee'd my pants.  Looked out the side rear view mirror and saw sparks flying everywhere, including up at the trailer. Hey, what a great thing! Sparks flying at a trailer filled with 8,000 gallons of product that is more flammable and explosive than gasoline! WooooHOOOOOOO!!!!!

I knew instantly what it was, but you just aren't ever prepared for that noise - it literally sounds like a small bomb going off.  Tire blowout.  It blew out alright.  Steel cords dragging on the highway causing all those sparks.  Pulled over to examine the situation.  No fires, shouldn't be when you catch it right away. You usually only see fires on duallys when the truck has been driven so long that the lone tire left starts heating up and the two start rubbing together.  I've seen plenty of burned down trailers because of that - hence - every time I get out of the truck, I'm looking at all the tires on it.  You can't have fires and a tank full of Ethylene, the 2 don't mix.  Well, actually, they mix quite well if you want an explosion taking out at least a couple of city block's worth. 

I looked at my trucking app that shows where the nearest truck stops are.  Just down the road, a Love's.  I knew it was down there somewhere, but in the dark I couldn't tell where I was at.  Hardly any traffic out there, I drove the minimum speed limit - which eliminated the sparking - and got there hoping I could get the tire replaced there. We have some account through Michelin Tires - those are the only tires the company allows on the trucks - so, the Loves had to have the right tire in stock. Which they didn't.  This ordeal on the phone with this dude from the call center to get the tire replaced was ridiculous, but I won't go into that excepting to say it took well over an hour on the phone, then waiting for a call, another phone call, another phone call, until he finally got this figured out. 

Okay, I guess it doesn't help that by the time I called him, it was 11:30 pm.  I mean, I got to the Love's and I needed fuel, so I did that first before doing anything else.  Then I had to find a parking spot- of which there was none so I illegally parked next to a curb with a red line - meaning fire department restriction, no parking there - didn't care, sure as HELL wasn't going anywhere.  There was  nowhere else to go in that vicinity, the next nearest truck stop heading south was 15 miles away!  NO thanks.  Or ANY kind of parking area, just not happening.  Well, the dude finally gets it done - Love's doesn't have the correct tire and the dude that would bring one and install it would be there in 90 minutes.

90 minutes? Dang! Where is he coming from? Named some obscure town of which I don't recall the name. Well give him my phone number, cause honey, I'm going to sleep for a while if it's going to be that long.  OH, we already did,

I got into my sleeper and drifted off into a very deep sleep.  150 minutes later - I dunno why the guy said 90 minutes, why not say an hour and a half?  Maybe they way they talk from wherever he was located at - 2-1/2 hours later, the phone rings.  I mean, I was in dreamland, out for the night type of thing.  I reached in the dark for the phone, it was the tire dude.  I'm here, where do I go? I'm near the front of the tire shop, parked next to the red line, you can't miss me.  I'm not even trying to wake up, to be honest. I was out of it.  He came rolling up, parked in front of the truck - got out and said huh? 

Huh what? was my reply.  I thought you had a blown out steering tire.  I was trying to be nice to the guy, but being awakened like that out of that deep a sleep? It's a real struggle. I wanted to say duhhhh, do you SEE either of the steer tires blown out? But I pointed to the trailer - see that tire?  I clearly told this "Michelin" dude on the phone that it was a TRAILER TIRE. not a steering tire.  The guy looked at me funny, said I "brought a steer tire, it took me an hour to get here, I am not going back there to get another tire!!".  I don't blame you, I said, put that thing on there and let's get it done.  I wasn't even about to argue what kind of tire it was, even tho that steering tire costs twice as much as a trailer tire. 

I sat there dazed, just can't describe my state of mind being zonked out that hard and the phone ringing. It's why I turn the ringer off at night.  There isn't much that can happen that I would want to be awakened out of that kind of sleep for. I can think of a few things, yes, but those types of things would be life altering events that I'm really not hoping will ever happen.  One of them will, for sure.  But I don't dwell on such things as life is here in the present, someone's death is not, that's a bridge you cross when it happens.  Anyway, it took him and hour and 22 minutes to change out that tire.  I have no idea why it took him that long.  Maybe he was having a bad night, maybe he didn't want to come out at midnight, I dunno, but I was nice to him. 

It was 3:17 am when he finally got done. I know the times to the minute because I get paid for waiting and I want it exact. I don't want paid more time than it took and I don't want to get paid less time. I want the exact amount of time it took to get paid for it.  10:23 the previous day to 3:17 the following morning.  That's almost 5 hours.  That's going to add a nice chunk to the pay for this trip. 

So, I went to bed.  I woke up at 9:00 am.  An hour before I could leave legally via the ELD. See, I had done my pretrip before  I had gone to sleep for the guy to bring the tire. There was no reason to stay on the clock and I wanted to get down to Brownsville as fast as possible, there might not be a trailer down there and I will get even more detention pay. 

Well, I got out, went to the Love's, got a nice McDonalld's coffee, got a Egg McMuffin - took the McMuffin part off of it and ate the internals of it. Walked back to the truck and - noticed another tire half flat.  My gosh, what happened last night? A blown out tire on the trailer and a flat tire on the truck?  I got the tire gauge to confirm what my eyes were telling me. The tire was at 75 pounds of air pressure.  It should be at 120 pounds.  That's close to half flat.  DOT will call that a flat tire regardless.  But I don't need DOT to tell me there is a problem and it needs fixing.

Ugh. So here we go again.  I call this 800 number and the Michelin lady gets on the phone.  I envision things related to Michelin commercials lmao, I have to entertain myself, this stuff otherwise would be nauseating.  After all the rigarmoroo, I say "Look I'm parked right here next to the Love's in Hungerford shop, I'm pretty sure this tire just has a leak, nothing serious.  Can we do this here without having to call some dude from Netherlands here to fix it?".  It never works that way with large trucking companies.  They have protocols and the call center people will stick to it regardless. 

Well, I wasn't on the clock yet so I didn't care as much.  Get this nonsense fixed and get on the road, but don't take my hours away trying to get the damned thing fixed!  After a lot of shit, and going into the shop itself, showing them the numbers and such, this lady I was speaking to called them, the dude put it on speakerphone.  What do I need to do to make this happen?, she said.  Good start.  They read off everything that they needed to authorize the work that I had already given them. 

Turns out, it was just a nail.  Nothing serious, tire didn't need to be replaced, but that took an hour and 22 minutes from time initiated to get it fixed - until it was fixed. 

It's 11:22 am.  I know this out of memory because, as last night, I have to keep track of actual time spent.  Nooooooo, it was 11:23 am when it finished, 10:02 am when I got this ball rolling.  It all pays, is the point.  I contact my interim manager.  yada yada yada.  Okay, well I may need you to go to Baytown to pick up a trailer.  Huh?  We need one for tomorrow load. I didn't laugh at her, but the fact of the matter is, I had enough hours to make it to Brownsville, drop the trailer and maaaaaybe make it TO Baytown, but not even thinking about making it back to the yard. 

It's then she informed me that as far as she knew, there are no trailers available in Brownsville.  Yayyy!  I drove the 302 miles down here and sure enough, no trailers. The man that runs the place - speaks very broken English but intelligible enough to understand - tell me no trailers today, there will be one coming tomorrow. It will arrive in Matamoros - the town on the Mexican side of the border at Brownsville - but it will take alllllllll day for it to cross. As I have said before, the mess that is going on at the border with the unprecedented numbers of illegals trying to cross has strained the manpower down there. Works to our advantage if we want detention pay - which I do.  I am guessing I won't be leaving here until 3 or 4 pm at the earliest tomorrow afternoon. I got here at 4:25 pm, which means somewhere close to 24 hours worth of detention pay.

Yes - this, again, is the only run going on this paycheck. As long as I get it turned in sometime Friday, I have it next week.

So, that was MY day today. What about THEIR day? Where I live? My friends in Marshall?

Taylor had texted me via FB Messenger "what a day!".  I had no idea what she was talking about, agreed with her tho considering what I had been through with a night ending at 3:30 am.  She sent me pics. Tornadoes.  I mean, these were TORNADOES touching down!  WTH!!!  In OUR little tiny town!  She said those sirens went off and they ALL went into my bathroom and got into the shower stall. 

It's the safest place in the house.  Actually, they don't really need to get into the stall, just get into that room and shut the door.  It's a small bathroom, the structure is built tight around it, it's got more strength to it than anywhere else in the house and less vulnerability to a roof caving in. There are no windows in that bathroom, another plus. The tornadoes did some damage too and there are wicked cool photos that were taken of it- I posted them in a post about my tire ordeal on my FB.  Probably should just put a separate post up cause those photos are crazy! 

I can tell you,  whatever my tire ordeals were? I would far rather endure that than tornadoes.  The power was out 13 hours.  13 hours of all my frozen food in the freezer - starting to thaw  But, they never opened the doors on either freezer after the power went out so I"m hopeful the food is still good.  Those things powered back up an hour ago, I suspect they're still running now trying to get the temp back down. At 5 degrees, I don't really think they got up above 32.  Not considering how full both of them are - more food in a freezer means less time the compressor has to work keeping it cold in there - and in this case - a lot longer time for the freezer to get up to less than freezing temp. 

Which - for as often as the power goes out there - validates my need to get a generator.  3,000 watts should do it.  Run one freezer, unplug it, run another, unplug it, plug in the refrigerator.  Meanwhile, run the AC in my room - there is enough room for everyone to hang out.  If it came down to it, we could all sleep in there.  My AC runs off of 110 and keeps it quite cool in there.  James and Taylor could have the bed, the boys could have the couch and I would just sleep on an air mattress.  It isn't ideal, but I can't have my food being threatened by this nonsense again.  There must be at least a thousand dollars worth of meat in those freezers, not to mention everything in the refrigerator. 

I take having-enough-food-in-case-of-emergency seriously. Hence freezers full of meat. But weather, jeopardizing that? No more. 13 hours, even with them full and no one opening the doors was enough for me. Several recent incidences of the power going out, not for that long, but I've had enough of debating in my mind whether it would be worth it.  It's also quite humid out, my room could serve as a relief from that. I was talking with my cop neighbor - I don't say that in a disrespectful way, btw, I really like this guy, he's cool as heck - who was lamenting about the electricity being out all day, his wife not happy and noting that it wouldn't come back on until 10:00 pm.

Look, tornadoes.  I get it. Mother Nature.  Sure - and there are ways to defend yourself against this.  We live in an area where tornadoes hit a lot.  Got it.  Time to do more to minimize the effects.  I'll be looking for generator pricing as soon as I get done with this post, actually.  I"m sitting in the yard at Brownsville. They changed the hotel policy - now you can't get a hotel room until you've been here a second day.  Pretty much eliminated hotel stays down here.  Now, if I would have been able to get down here last night - no way possible - but if I could have - I would be in a nice hotel room right now. 

Oh well. I thought about getting my own room, but didn't want to waste the money. 

It's been an interesting 24 hours. 

Decatur, Alabama. Got there last night - decided I didn't have enough hours to offload - about an hour and 15 minutes on the clock, tak...