This foreword was written by an angry contributor who tracked down Mark Stairwalt last Friday at the loading dock of Thelma and Louise’s farm in Stink Creek, Kentucky. A heated conversation followed, while two migrant workers, who paid pirates to smuggle them into the United States last year after they got laid off from a Chinese Wal-Mart, loaded chicken crates into Mark’s 53-foot trailer.
The conversation, or at least the printable part of it, went like this:
“Whaddaya MEAN, you haven’t had time to post? Shift Journal is a valuable community resource—you have to do SOMETHING! And just think about how much you’ve unexpectedly disrupted the routine of autistic readers, suddenly deprived of new Shift posts with their morning coffee and anxiously rocking in their desk chairs while awaiting your return. Now get your act together, and give us our fix of regular Shift Journal posts before things get ugly!”
Mark responded with a description of truckers’ work hours, which appears below. The contributor, still unhappy with the situation, especially after stepping in some chicken byproducts, then decided to give you—Shift’s readers—an opportunity to express sympathy, righteous outrage, or anything in between, in the comments. Readers, do you think that:
(1) Mark is a jerk for leaving his readers and contributors hanging, and he deserves to be thrown into the tar-polluted waters of Stink Creek and then rolled in the feathers from his chicken crates.
(2) Quit picking on Mark already, you cruel, hard-hearted monster—can’t you see that the poor overworked guy is doing the best he can?
(3) Other comments more thoughtful, nuanced, and in line with Shift’s oft-expressed view that the autistic cognitive style is one of deep and complex reflection, as well as with the high intellectual caliber of our readers.
Dear (name of angry contributor redacted)
Mostly I’m just rolling with the punches. Not anxious to return to relentless posting in part because I’m no longer sure it’s necessary, but to be honest all my ponderings are still pretty much moot right now. I’ve worked this hard before, but only when the employer was in panic-response to a seasonal or other unplanned shift in the balance of drivers and freight. So, it generally hasn’t lasted more than a few or occasionally several weeks at a time. This situation looks much more like a plan I’ve watched unfold for a year and a half finally having come together. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about logistics just watching it happen, but the thing is, it’s uncharted territory. It could be the new normal, or it could still be just a fever. Me, I’ve always been content to take the money when it was there, and the free time when it wasn’t, but there are plenty of drivers who don’t even like to work for a company that isn’t making this efficient use of their time. And to be a business owner, making this efficient use of your equipment, is what it’s all about.
In the spirit of “trucking is an alien culture to most Americans,” let me tell you about my weekends right now. This one will start when I get home tomorrow a little before noon. It will end at 4 am Monday when I’ll need to be back on the road. That’s 40 hours; the aim from the company’s perspective is for it to be 34 hours, as that’s enough to reset the counter on the number of hours I can work next week. No two weekends are the same though; next week I will request to be home Saturday morning in order to get our taxes done. Typically I do get home around midnight on Friday, however if I’m still home when the sun sets a week from Sunday it will be a gift; I will more likely be driving again. I never learn how any of this is going to shake out though until late afternoon on Friday, because that’s when the load planners hash it all out.
image via flickr