Monday, August 30, 2010

A Parade

About those two groups of people, shouting at each other, both believing the other is leading the country down a path to hell.

The reason it's difficult to see something from the point of view of someone who holds a diametrically opposite viewpoint is that you have to drop all your beliefs and assumptions and assume theirs. This by itself poses problems, such as acquiring the knowledge you'd have to acquire to be able to have those other beliefs and assumptions. It also entails sorting through the ways in which your ego justifies everything you say, and do, and believe, that is, what and how you think.

But if you can do all that, it puts you in a position to see the gaps and fallacies in your own position, which presents another set of problems. The closer you come to the opposing vantage point, the more likely it will be that fear begins to hinder you. The closer you get to the other viewpoint, the more you will sense what causes the fear, and it's not just the fear of being wrong or of not being so sure of yourself. It's knowing that you are in danger of ending up in a void, no man's land, someplace where you can see all the holes in all the viewpoints, not just yours but theirs and all the others. Where you lack the certainty of believing in anything. What you had before, though it was logically unsound, was a psychologically and emotionally secure, rationalized, home base, but now you can't be safe in any place.

And yet people switch viewpoints all the time, and both ways. Without doing an exhaustive study of it, it is my sense that roughly the same number of people go one way as the other, and they almost always end up being fine. They simply adopt all the assumptions and rationalizations they need to adopt in order to feel comfortable, assured, secure in the belief that they are correct. It's the agnostic, as it were, who worries me. The person who doesn't have the benefit of having a strong  conviction either way.

Baton Rouge

It's been a busy past few, what, I don't how much, how many, however many days it's been. When you get to running hard, as it's called, anything extra you do, like eating, showering, doing laundry, anything only takes time out of your sleeping time. You get food to go and eat it while you drive.

Just getting off the highway, parking the truck, walking from somewhere at the back of a big truck stop parking lot to the restaurant, can easily eat up half an hour. It's usually an hour 15 minutes to do whole thing and be back on the road, if I don't tarry at all, which is a lot of sleep lost if you are sleeping four hours a night. But if you just pull into the fuel island, run in and grab a couple hot dogs or whatever they have, you can cut it down to 15, 10 minutes, even five.

But yes, if you know how to keep a tight log book, and the freight is there, it's easy to get enough work so that you are driving 20 and sleeping four, and even in this day of super surveillance it's possible to log that tightly... in other words, to cheat on your log book.

Now you're racking up the pay, too, because we are paid per mile. No freight, no miles. Lots of freight, lots of money. But they pay you for a load about two weeks after you deliver it, so it's hard to keep track of whether or not they are paying you the right amount, and the busier you are and the more you make, the less time you have to keep an eye on them.

Its a simple matte of checking your paycheck against the notebook you write down your load information in, but doing that is just one more thing that takes time away from sleeping. And the way my mind works, checking my pay against my notebook is just not something that hovers close to the center of my consciousness. When I do think of it, I usually just spot check them and leave it at that. I just have Faith. Once in awhile I'll check an entire paycheck or two, but usually I just expect a big paycheck when I've been busy, and if my paycheck turns out to be big, I'm OK with it.

The faith I have is not in my company, of course, or the people in it. There all kinds of weasels and assholes in truck driving, and this company has way more than a fair share of them. It's like a huge low spot, a place where things drain to, where everything bad and foul accumulates.

The people who work on the inside actually get brownie points for shorting your pay, in the sense that they have budgets, and because the company keeps all kinds of statistics on them. They practically run the company with these reports. When I get a message from my dispatcher, it's usually in reference to some report. Your idle time is up, he'll say. Your fuel mileage is down. The truck actually reports these things to the company computer. Imagine all the gizmos, sensor, and indicators they put on the dashboard of your car. They can all be put on a semi and rigged into the truck's messaging system. When I am in a place where there's a weak signal to that satellite, I can go to a screen on my little on-board computer where it shows incoming and outgoing streams, and before it sends my message it's sending all that other information. Which is typical. What I want to say in my message is not nearly as important to them as my idle time and my mileage and what my percentage of out of route miles is.

Yep, the owner is obsessed with the computer. As a means of control. I imagine a massive mainframe sitting in a dank and dark dungeon under his house, taking in information from all the trucks and spitting out reports, which he grabs by the handful and reads as he runs screaming up the stairs to the offices.

The reports my dispatcher is worried about are his fleet reports, summaries of all his driver's trucks combined. And they also put out lists, most idle time, most out of route miles. Woe if one of his drivers gets on a list. He is a freaked out dude. He is judged by these reports, by things like total fuel mileage, how much freight we haul, bottom line things, how much we are costing the company.

We, the drivers, never see the reports. We don't come to work every morning to find our mailbox laden with them and then have to shuffle over to our desk and read them and discover what our current, up to the second status with our supervisor is.

When we do come through our home terminal, he presents us with a stack of our individual weekly reports, and expects us to unquestioningly sign them, as verification that we have read and understand them. So apart from those, the regime we are under is quite different. Those on the inside live under the terror of reports.

And not just because it  might inflect negatively on them in economic terms. It's more than financial insecurity, the potential for not being advanced or for being fired. It's that their identity has become tied up with what is on the reports.

Now we're getting into the sickening, chilling state of affairs in late capitalist America, as it's playing out now in the trucking industry. All I can say is, Lord, let me never, ever, need a job. Never. Please. Neither out economic or emotional or spiritual need, but please.

I say their identities become entangled with the reports. That, and this two tiered system they have us under. They, top management, the owner, put them, the inside people, all of them, above us drivers, over us. Dispatchers, most all of those office people, actually are paid quite a bit less than drivers. But they are made to feel like they are superior to drivers. They are made to feel that way not by elevating them, but by downgrading us, and this company is the worst in that regard of any I have known. Anyone on the inside can treat a driver any way they want to and know that nothing will come of it. It plays to the worst in human nature and they have the system down pretty good.

The same system is used throughout trucking, and people move from place. You can tell that because the same language, the same terminology, the same logic, is in use any place you go. But as I say, this place is one big low spot in the human psyche.

A couple of examples of how this plays out in real life. At the terminals, we can't go where they can go. We speak to them through little windows. They even have their bathrooms, so that their butts don't have to touch the same toilet seats that our butts do. They have separate break rooms, machines, even the doors they come in and out of are segregated doors.

At some of the terminals now, when you walk up to the little window when you need some more blank forms or something like that, they have set up a little fan that blows in your face. In other words, the fan blows air from inside their space to the outside, to keep your odor from touching them. Recall what I said about driving 20 and sleeping four. That means that often drivers will arrive at a terminal not having showered in several days, and the inside people remind us of this fact by setting up a little fan that blows air in our faces. At the Laredo terminal someone has even made up a list and printed out copies on copier paper and posted them in different places in the driver's room, a list of things a driver needs to do, like inspect your truck, turn in your paperwork, and "take a shower once a day." This is what happens when the denigration of the driver, as a way to maintain your sense of who you are, is an intergal part of the company culture.

Oh well.. I was going to do some recapping, but I've used up too much energy. I've cut well into my sleep time. As I say I am in Baton Rouge. I delivered a few hours ago and they have another load lined up for me to pick up tomorrow morning. The delivery time for it is already set, which means any delay in loading will cause trouble. I'll have to hope I can get loaded early, and quickly, and then I will still have to haul ass over to South Carolina.

That's another thing they do. There is actually a 24 hour delivery window for this load. That is, as far as the customer who ordered the freight is concerned, I can show up any time during that window. But my company makes me get over there as fast as I can, ostensibly so I can be ready to get another load that much sooner.

But what this does is make you run out of log book hours. Which means you will have to sit there until you have log book hours again. Which occurs at midnight, when you should be sleeping, but they will actually find a load that you can pick up at might, then you have to start driving when you are dog tired.

Instead of letting you manage your time so that you are rested when you pick up your next load.

But it's this way all throughout this company, Anything they can find a way to control, they try to control it. And as I have said before, it's not so much that they don't think a driver has enough sense to figure out something  they can figure out. They just don't want to concede that you can. They don't want it on the record that they have acknowledged that you have anything of value to them.

Oh well well. On the good side, I'm in Louisiana, Baton Rouge. I enjoy Louisiana. At least when I am able to. Crawfish gumbo, zydeco music, Fats, Jerry Lee. Person for person, Louisiana has the best music in the country, in my view. All I'd put above them are the Indian nations. Native Americans, unbeknown to almost everyone, can kick ass, musically. They play their own music, which probably no one else could play even if they knew how, and they do everyone else's better than anyone else. Rock at its best, country, blues, gospel. I've heard great blues done by Natives.

I've actually heard one other person express a similar sentiment. It was the music critic for some newspaper out west somewhere and I can't  recall where. A woman described an evening at some little nearly deserted roadhouse where the band was a group of Native Americans, and she talked about this long rendition of some rock classic they did and it was the best thing she had ever heard. Yea, it was Free Bird. A roadhouse, a music critic, some Indians and Free Bird.

I never knew anything about it until I moved to New Mexico, when I'd driven through Indian territory a few times and came across one of their radio stations. But they can do some rocking and rolling, and anything else they feel like doing. And I've found a couple of podcasts, too, put out by Native guys, that sample a lot of their music.

As for why they do such excellent music, I have no idea. I need to ask sometime.

But beyond the Natives, Louisiana has the best music in the country, flat out. It's just very dense with good musicians and good music. There's the whole New Orleans scene, of course, but here along I-10 there's Cajun music and Zydeco, and Gospel, of course, and country and all manner of hybridization among all of  those. Baton Rouge is where Jimmy Swaggert, Jerry Lee's first cousin, holds forth, and he can get to rocking at times himself, Jimmy can. They have another musical cousin who's fairly well known, too, Mickey Gilley.

Being in Louisiana usually gets me thinking about old Jerry Lee. I was looking around the internet for that live album of his from 1964, that a lot of music critics say is one of the, if not the best live rock and roll recordings ever made. It's called Live From The Star Club In Hamburg, or something like that. Jerry Lee's career was in the dumps, due to his habit of marrying 13 year old cousins of his, and he was over there and played some of the dates with The Nashville Teens, who aren't from Nashville let alone America but came out of that whole Liverpool scene, and the album is of him with them in Hamburg.

But I was looking for that album and went to CD Universe, where I usually look first for albums, and lo and take hold, right there on the front page, the banner ad was for a brand new Jerry Lee album. It's due out Sept 7, it says, and is called Mean Old Man. Hmmm.

But yes, I just may put the idea about raising class consciousness on hold. That was an impulsive, anger driven, frustration induced little rant, and the place things are headed to right now is not one where that kind of idea will have much currency. It will have currency when we get to the place after the next one. Because right now we are two people at either end of a balance beam. We are divided, and the only way they know to proceed from here is to keep dividing us further, and to do that they have to become more and more shrill and expect people to accept more and more outlandish premises.There's no place we can end up except down in a pit together, after the big one.

Like this big tea bagger rally in Washington, DC yesterday. It was without substance except for the message that "we" need  to save America from "them," those ones over there. And those ones need to save America from the other ones, and they are both accusing the other ones of "selling America down the river." Which hackneyed phrase I use because I just did a Google search for "selling America down the river." It comes back with lots of results, and they are pretty well mixed, a conservative, a liberal, two conservatives, two liberals....

Hang on folks.

Oh yea. One more thing. A few nights ago I came across that sex offender web site. I don't know why but I've come across that thing a couple of times now when I was searching for something. But I looked up my hometown out of curiosity. There was no one I recognized. I tried the neighboring little town, where I know a lot of people, and a friend of mine, from my hometown, is on that registry.

They don't list the details of what he did. They just put a link to the law he violated, and it appears he was trying to set up an encounter, over the internet, with an underage girl, who, I suppose, was not really a underage girl but a cop pretending to be an underage girl.

This guy was a year behind me, but be we circled in the same circles now and then. We were in band before I quit band. The last time I saw him was back then, and I recall that he had gotten himself a hot little girlfriend and seemed pretty pleased with himself, a little too pleased with himself, I remember thinking, haughty even. When he was with her he took a bit of an attitude with me. He kind of spoke down to me, it seemed to me. Not that I would wish anything like this on him. No.

The picture they had of him on the sex offender web site looked like it might have been a mug shot. He's become very fat, at least in his face. He has a buzz haircut, he even looks kind of weird and creepy. He was very clean cut back then, with horn rim glasses. I hardly recognized him, but his eyes are the same eyes. He wears a different kind of eyeglasses and those effect his look as much as anything, but it's him. He looks more annoyed, in the picture, than like someone whose life has just been ruined. Like haughty come crashing  down, perhaps.

Coincidentally, Alexander Cockburn has a blurb on his Counterpunch web site advertising a big article in the subscriber-only newsletter, which I don't take any more. It's about that sex offender registry. According to his blurb, it's a barbaric way of doing things, and the article is about some women who are trying to change it.

I don't really have an opinion, at this point. That subject is fraught. I have read a couple of things by women, feminists, both of whom had had their first sexual encounter with an older man, when they were teenagers, and both said it wasn't a bad experience. Even at that, it still, I would think, depends on how the experience is for the woman. Was she a victim, was it harmful, traumatizing, exploitative?

But it's not up to the victim. Politicians have made the decisions, and police and prosecutors decide what happens once a girl does report something, and what comes with that can be traumatic for the girl, too. The thing that I wonder about is the arbitrariness of setting up something like this, especially considering the utter hypocrisy you see in lawmakers. You can take a lot of the arbitrary part out by being as well informed as you can be, but not all. You have to draw a line, and say that on this day it's legal, and the day before it's not. Some girls will fall on either side that line depending on their makeup, their experience. The two feminists seemed to fall outside of some arbitrary line, that had been there in my mind already. Now there isn't one. I'm of a mental state about it that is unstable, or at least unsettling, and I can see all the holes in every position.

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