Tattered Visions

Tattered Visions

Every parent desires their child to be great. Whether it’s in passing the family tradition on or invalidating the family curse, all decently humane fathers and mothers would be satisfied with a successful adult child when they look at the bag of drool and unspoken possibilities sticking their finger in that light socket.

One of the cursed blessings of being a long-haul driver is in the endless opportunities presented to ruminate and ponder pretty much everything. Since nobody told me that thinking is a dangerous hobby, I’ve done gone thinkin’, and it’s messing with my worldview.

Greatness, like repulsiveness, is rarely defined but at first blush seems to be universally agreed-upon. When you dig deeper into the intricacies of being great, it appears to be a mixture of a well-utilized personality and a fully-seized opportunity.

Unfortunately, the abstraction of an idea doesn’t do well to connect it to benefit the ones who are great. I’ve been observing a mystery that confounds me.

Greatness itself may be perceived by others, but nobody who seems to attain it ever really notices their transition into it. Was Einstein a “great man” when he discovered the theory of relativity, or when it was published? Was Henry Ford great when he developed a highly efficient company, or when his brand became a household name? Do presidents and kings become memorable as they do things, or when the consequences form?

The reality is that history has to write greatness, and it will only be written by the others who come after. C.S. Lewis did wonders expressing Christianity in a modern setting, but how many of his colleagues shared his thoughts and weren’t given credit for them?

In fact, how many ideas can we really attribute to Lewis in the first place? Or anyone else for that matter? Ideas have a funny tendency of not coming exclusively from ourselves, and any contribution we could ever make to humanity is merely stacking upon the body of pre-existing knowledge and creation that travels all the way back to Adam and travels all the way forward to the end of the earth.

No, nothing in this world is genuinely new, but it is new to each of us as we encounter it. Our own tragic fate, however, is to hold the messenger of the information in higher regard than the message, a bit like a tribal culture that worships the man who brings knowledge of carpentry and masonry.

When an idea is seen as new, it really isn’t. It is usually beyond the pale to express it, but the most in-depth pursuit of truth should drive us to squint into the distant haze of ancient history, philosophy, and storytelling to discover the most unadulterated version of the modern remix we see today.

If we want to understand ourselves and the world around us, we must see it from new perspectives. Many of those come from beyond where our comfort zone will send us.

With all of this said, this provokes a personal battle that verges on an existential crisis.

Finding room for greatness in the world of ideas and expression requires creating original and unexplored concepts and illustrations. However, with everything I said above it’s literally impossible to find something “new” that others haven’t tread upon. It seems that the more I read and discover, the smaller the box I have to work with to create something that I have no doubt will add to the incessant buzzing noise of the best digital publishing network this world has seen.

You’ll know if I come out of this existential mess. In the meantime, I’m cleaning up my 100,000 Tips and paying my bills with a good-paying mind-numbing job. This might be the logical consequence of the mental breakdown that invariably seems to come from absence from anything that looks like normal human interaction, or it could very well be something I ate.

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Copy/Paste: The Remix

Copy/Paste: The Remix

The need to outperform our prior successes is inherent to our existence as humans. Unfortunately, when it comes to publicizing a personal life with the intent to entertain and educate, some seasons can make that difficult to do.

The long-wise and long-dead Solomon, Ex-King of Jewish Folks, once said in his most ecclesiastical work, Ecclesiastes, that all things under the sun are futility. In the mix of all of that optimism, he also stated how there is a time and a place for all things: a season for everything.

Since I feel an unnatural compulsion to inform and educate everyone around me about all the dumbest mistakes I’ve made, this current season’s elements of “nothing much new” dramatically distresses me for no directly logical reason.

I mean, sure my Goober Smokers and Watermelon are moving to Iowa in the next month or two. I’ve started learning to play the banjo, and she’s started to play the guitar. I’m fixing my Philosopher Accountant’s 100,000 Tips to drastically improve grammar, flow, and formatting. I have big-ish plans for everything about my website, writing career, and bill-paying career. Watermelon can now start making noises that almost sound like English. Gummy Cheesers is working through psychological torments that have plagued her from an early age, as well as me learning how to mitigate my own unique brand of psychosis. But is that enough?

Yes. Yes, it is. One of my most significant role models of late, the venerable and witty Mike Rowe, recently showcased a venerablier and slightly less famous fellow by the name of Keith. Keith artfully stated an excellent point: that happiness and satisfaction in a job well done is a greater good than any level of influence or fame or attainment.

It would be better to have a career that rewards with fulfillment than with money. A family filled with love is better than one filled with possessions. Satisfaction is better to attain than prominence.

I could go on with all of those Chicken-Soup-For-The-Soul-isms, but the reality is that the only two days worth living for are today and the day that God will ask what you’ve done with your life.

I guess I forgot about what I knew, which is ironic considering how much I’ve written on the subject, but that’s probably normal for being on this planet. Thankfully, I haven’t fallen off the deep end yet to join the crowd I have termed “Schizophrenics For Christ”. If my punctuation, HTML formatting, or logical cohesion starts to slip, please contact my wife so that she can take away my internet privileges.

Rough Road

Rough Road

If you recall what I had said previously, the lifestyle of OTR driving is somewhere between RV living and living out of your car, except that there are a few added elements to make the lifestyle even more scattered than your average hobo living.

For starters, OTR means the place you’re showering and the place you’re relaxing are nowhere near each other. The showers are inviting, sure, but there’s something cathartic about changing your clothes into extremely casual wear and then sauntering over to your bed. If you do that in OTR, you have no shame, since you’re walking past a driver’s lounge, convenience store, fuel island, and 50 trucks to do so.

Second, say goodbye to the convenience of free space. It’s a step up from living in your car, and you will have enough electricity to run anything you need, but you won’t be able to run everything you need at the same time. Checking up on the latest with your PC is going to have to wait until you’re done brewing your coffee, and that’ll be after you’ve cooked your breakfast and trimmed your nose hairs.

Third, don’t bother with work-life balance. Life comes in the form of using a computer, phone calls, exercise, sleeping, and any other hobbies you can think of that don’t take up too much space. They get smashed in the middle of waiting for shippers, waiting for the shop to fix something, waiting for the 10-hour reset to finish, waiting for a 34-hour to finish, and waiting because you don’t know what you’re waiting for.

Have I mentioned the waiting? Trucking is either rolling down the road or waiting, though flatbedders have the advantage of securing the load, tarping, untarping it, and finally unsecuring it. But it’s mostly waiting. Like right now for me. I’m waiting to get a shower because I am waiting for my truck to get out of the shop while I’m waiting for my 10-hour reset. It’s a bit hard to lose wait when I have so much of it!

On top of that, the community of truckers is made of a few broad groups:

  • 5% noble men of strong character with asphalt mixed into their blood
  • 30% antisocial people that might have too much of an obsession with knives
  • 20% rookies that are still trying to find out which way to turn the steering wheel when driving forward
  • 45% horrible human beings that are mentally incapable of being employees in any other profession

In case you’re wondering, I’m in that “antisocial” crowd.

The whole industry itself is a mess. When the weather, truck breakdowns, traffic, accidents and late shippers screw up the schedule, the truckers are at the bottom of a very tall totem pole that reaches up to the executives.

Most of the industry involves what I call “trickle-down abuse”: the CEO beats the VP’s to an inch of their life, the VP ravages the senior managers’ sense of self-respect, the senior manager calls the supervisor things that can’t be put into print, and then the laborer (trucker/forklifter/etc) is whipped by the supervisor.

Finally, if you have a family that you at least somewhat like, it can be difficult. I’m out on the road for 2-4 weeks at a time, and it can really be a strain on my Flowy Wiggles. It will later affect our Ninyos as well. The secret for a good OTR family is to like your family enough that you want to go home, but they can’t be so awesome that you miss them when you leave.

The job isn’t all bad, though. It pays well, and it’s rewarding. Flatbed work is especially rewarding, and there’s something cathartic about unsecuring the load at the receiver and being able to say “yeah, I just moved 45 tons of steel pipe across the country without it falling all over the place and killing everyone. That was me.”

But, like all other dirty jobs, the big reward for hard work is in yourself. It can’t be earned any other way than doing the thing you don’t feel like doing, but it also can’t be taken away without severe brain damage. Overall, worth the effort.

Truck Stopped

Since I’ve been stuck waiting for my next load for a bit more than 24 hours, I figured I’d debrief everyone on what has been happening.

I have to fight the temptation to say “not much.” The never-ending slew of new experiences makes all aspects of the truck driving career an opportunity to talk. However, I guess the best 4-word summation of “how’s it going?” would best be “A lot happening, yo.”

I guess in no particular order, I will proceed to list everything going on right now.

1: I’m Writing A Book

Books are apparently still trending, and they still serve more than a decorative function. Because I took so much time making my 100,000 Tips, I figured it would be a fun experiment to put pen to paper again finger to keyboard again and express the ideas in a more publishable format.

This project is very slow-moving since I refuse to write on it unless I am in a great mood. Nobody wants to read a self-help book with the following:

The secret to happiness is to learn to get over your stupid, petty lives. All we ever do is gripe about everything, and I’m sick of it. Why don’t you shape up and try to not be a drain on the world around you?

Also, make sure to brush your teeth before they rot out of your face.

I know there are books like that out there, but it seems like something that would take a long time to get through.

Also, I remember The Oatmeal writing about creativity being a bit like breathing, and I would be amiss if I didn’t practice what I’ve preached.

Thankfully, I don’t have a publisher, there are no hard deadlines, and I’m about 80% through Section 1 of 14 so far.

2: The Road Is Rounding Me Out

If you stay out on the road long enough, you will become part asphalt and part concrete.

The “culture” of the road is unrelenting. There is no room for uncertainty, there is no grace for failing, and any mistake can create severe difficulty ranging from being stuck in a ditch to having to drive another 20 miles.

A corrective action to fix a mistake doesn’t guarantee that that mistake will be resolved. Sometimes, if that correction is done incorrectly, you’ll be left with twice the headache as before!

I’ve finally started adapting the lifestyle of long-haul truck driving, and the reality is that I’ve lost most of my obsession with what others think in the process.

3: I Have Literally Nothing To Complain About

Sure, there are inconveniences that my Wummy Gumplers and I are struggling with, and yesterday was a lame second-year anniversary. However, when it’s time to do nothing but wait for future endeavors to start playing themselves out, it would be a crime to whine about it, especially when Mike Rowe has predicted the end of the world after this weekend.

Automatic Manual

I’ve been taking the Greyhound bus to get to Tulsa for my work. They have the crappiest form of transportation known to man the West. They employ the time-honored tradition of both under-maintaining their buses and not having a contingency plan when their buses break down. If you ever need to get somewhere cheap and 3 days later, take the Greyhound.

If you think I’m exaggerating, I am. The Greyhound has a reasonable likelihood of getting you there only 24-36 hours late from what their ticket says, depending on how far you’re going.

In light of this waiting, it’s been a great time to catch up on my reading. I ran across a LinkedIn article that referenced this book. To save you valuable seconds of reading time, the gist of the idea is that it helps yourself and others to create a personal user manual.

Since this is a fun angle to approach self-awareness, and since I created an entire series on the Philosopher Accountant about awareness and am working on a book version of it, I figured I’d try it out. Here’s my result.

Since my brain’s a bit soupy with the whole “writing a book” thing, I think I’ll take a break from that to make a “writing instructions” thing. Here’s how you can make your own instruction manual:

  1. Devote up to an hour to really think about these questions and answer them really honestly with the first things that come to mind:
    • What is your style?
    • When do you like people to approach you and how?
    • What do you value?
    • How do you like people to communicate with you?
    • How do you make decisions?
    • How can people help you?
    • What will you not tolerate in others?
  2. Go back and look at some of the assessments you’ve done in the past like Myers-Briggs (ESFJ or INTP or BARF or whatever), DISC assessment, psychiatric hospitalization reports, that sort of thing. If you need to, find a few more for the fun of it. I used to play around on Queendom when I was a wee lad, but the internet has gobs of these.
  3. Get your friends or coworkers, if you have any, to fill out Step 1’s questions. Bribe them with cookies if they refuse.
  4. Make a final edit to turn it into something cool-looking.
  5. Go back once in a while and revisit it to see if it’s still a valid way to describe yourself.

And you’re done! Share it if you want, or do what I do and archive it for some arbitrary future use that will never happen!

The Closest Thing to an Apology They’ll Ever Get

Shame is a useless feeling. It makes you want to kill yourself, but in a way that you premeditate it to make sure you don’t leave a stain. However, even in the most shame-based cultures, there is a streak of rational behavior that can be adhered to and honored.

Recently, my Hummy Singers and I have been dealing with a particular individual’s obsession with image. As much as it is my practice to publicly express the vapid and silly things that this person in question was doing, we did what most couples probably do and had a long philosophical discussion about it.

Upon analyzing the essence of privacy, we have discovered a few truths:

  1. Privacy is a boundary, though 99% of the time it’s a boundary that is only expressed when crossed. It is technically a form of power, and it is also a form of distrust.
  2. Privacy is a relative cultural boundary. Go to Africa and they’ll tell you how much money they make and how many people depend on it, but Asians have a hard time telling you that they have a job or make money from it.
  3. There are 3 ways to reconcile who should move on a cultural boundary: the one with less power to stay in their ways, the one who asked first or more emphatically, or the one who has more power or patience to carry out the honoring.
  4. Everyone has unspoken boundaries, and it is the responsibility of the other sensitive and aware individuals to honor that boundary.
  5. Therefore, it is our moral duty to honor any unclarified boundaries that we come across.

When I was younger, I had believed that open and honest full disclosure was vitally important in all aspects of living. I have now come to realize that although this is a freaking awesome way to live and love, it is also an egregiously offensive cultural norm for anyone who regards privacy as an important value.

As a barely-professed writer, I tend to talk about people. Many writers have learned the art of using fiction to obscure what they really think about the morons they encounter in their day-to-day life, but I’ve been a bit slow to learn that particular trick, and my parents have suffered tremendously from it. Read the previous blogs all the way to the beginning for proof of that.

In light of this, I offer my direct apology. I screwed up a bit. The direct reason why is because of an over-application of David Allen’s Get Things Done System to all my doings. The dialogue has consistently gone like this:

Them: You did something wrong.

Me: What can I do to change it?

Them: You really hurt our feelings and hurt our reputation.

Me: What actionables can I do to ensure I don’t do it again?

Them: We were really hurt by what you did.

Me: What did I specifically do to hurt you?

Them: You published something about us.

Me: Should I never publish about you again?

Them: Only publish good things.

Me: That’s not going to happen if you want to be part of our personal life.

(long, awkward silence for 3 months)

(again from the top, but with more feeling)

From here on out, I’m no longer posting anything about them. Whatever problems they have can decompose inside their own minds without my desire to help them being part of it.

My theory is that this won’t change anything. At this point, the only desire they seem to express is to regret things really hard instead of the more popular flavors of revenge or reconciliation. However, my family and I would rather be on the up-and-up with the world around us than spiral downward into self-imposed adequacy or forced obscurity. If we’re going to fail, it would serve the world to know better for themselves!

Home Slice

After six very, very, very long weeks of me hearing absolutely everything with the sound of a truck idling in the background, I have finally meandered my way back home for a bit.

Like anyone with a brain that learns things, I’ve come back to my Hoomy Schwoobers and Melon with quite a few changes from when I left.

For one, I now possess about as much dead tissue on my face as on top of it. Possible light hypothyroidism doesn’t do the dome many favors, but it thankfully leaves the face-warmer alone. All I now need is to lose 150 lbs and get a latte to complete the look for a trip to Portland.

Another change is that I’ve developed a new level of self-respect. The first self-respect I ever earned came three years ago when a tirade of uncalled-for verbal abuse led me to think, “I didn’t earn you yelling at me and threatening to strike me, I’m a human being!” The second level came after I ended the contract with UPS and thought “I didn’t do anything to earn being yelled at, I did a good job!” My move from Swift is inspired by the thought “I have proven myself to be a professional driver, so I shouldn’t be treated like a number of the other steering wheel holders hired here.”

For those of you that aren’t in the know, here’s the know. Truck driving is composed of 3 major categories: Over the Road (OTR), Regional, and Local. Local zips back and forth in town with a day cab, and you’ll go home every night. Regional is a bit like Diet OTR, where you travel for a week or so and only a certain number of miles out before reintegrating with the rest of humanity. OTR puts you in a sleeper cab where you’re wandering across the entire country in what appears to be no determinate pattern until they honor your Home Time and you stagger back home after a few weeks, months or years.

Almost everyone in truck driving has to start in OTR. It’s a bit like how every doctor has to do their internship, all military personnel must endure basic, every plumber starts with scrubbing septic tanks, every board member has to get the paddle gauntlet, every MLMer has to lose all their real friends, and so on.

With that said, OTR isn’t all that bad. It’s been a great opportunity for me to write the 25 or so books I want to author, and it is the pathway to a way to keep my family from being dead.

OTR is a lifestyle along with a job, but the good OTR assignments bring you home every 2-3 weeks. Unfortunately, my driver manager was a few steps removed from the ideal definition of “good”.

I had a thriving relationship with her, assuming we redefine the word “thriving”. She and I had quite an impersonal work relationship going on. It helped that the coordinator decided that El Paso would be a good terminal for me to be based out of when I’m near Los Angeles, and the relationship has moved the same way ever since. I didn’t know what she looked like and she knew me by my truck number. It was a match made in purgatory.

There were many tiny slights I endured, most of which I don’t want to share on the basis that people are paid to scour social media for the sake of image management. I will share the final blow that drove me to disgruntlement, though.

I had delivered at La Mirada. I was about 40 miles away from the Jurupa Valley terminal I was getting off at. I was about to head home when I received a load sent to me on the Qualcomm device with an ultimatum of 2 options. I could either pick up 33,000 lbs of freight in Wilmington in downtown Los Angeles at midday and drop off something in Perris, or I could pick up 40,000 lbs of freight in Wilmington in downtown Los Angeles at midday and drop off something in Perris.

Let’s make a tangent here about expectations. In my mind, I treat an expectation as a type of calculation people make, most of the time subconsciously. Low expectations are key to happiness, but what happens when the lowest expectation you can imagine is boldly disregarded? Either lower it even harder or take a stand.

I took a stand, and I can proudly say that I’m leaving next Friday morning to start working at Melton Truck Lines after restraining myself long enough to finish the load and get the truck back to my terminal.

Melton is a much, much smaller company. I’ll be getting a significant pay increase, the company is small enough that I should have an actual relationship with my driver leader, and I had a chance to speak to one of the Melton family directly!

The company does nothing but OTR flatbed, which is far more interesting and far less fat-inducing to me, and they promise Home Time every 3 weeks, and every 2 weeks if we move. We were already planning on moving, but this pretty much seals it.

My Honey Sucklers and I have been debating what state to move to for at least a year, but we have been indecisive due to a lack of money and an uncertainty of whether we prefer hurricanes or tornadoes.

We stumbled onto this US News report amidst the other non-news the “news” seems to dispense these days. After getting all nerded up on it, spreadsheeting it, then cross-referencing it with the other sentiments we had about the racist states Super Deep South and the liberal pansies Northeast, we’ve finally settled on one: Iowa.

Interestingly, Melton’s policy sets their 2/3 week policy splits right down the 35 Interstate, which splits Iowa in half. Therefore, living on the west half of Iowa would give me 3 weeks out at a time OTR and the east half would give me 2 weeks.

This obviously means we are going to move to east Iowa, but it will take a few months of saving to get there. Logistics have a tricky tendency to be invalidated when other things like “facts” and “reality” get in the way, so I’ll spare you the 8,734 details for now.

Though we had been considering moving, we had had one minor reason to stick around: my extended family. That story has come to a resounding end when my Jumpy Cablers and I realized that we can have no relationship with my mother as long as my mother refuses to tell us what her problem is with us.

If you’re confused about this, so are we. My mom has a “problem” with us, but she refuses to talk about this “problem” and does a great job talking about everything but what she feels about us. The reason why she does this is she’s lonely she secretly hates us she’s an alien she secretly longs to be a Walmart greeter we don’t really know at all.

In California, the cost of a house is a bit more than the lifetime cost of raising a child to 18 years old ($250,000-$500,000 depending on how crappy a part of town you’re in). If you’re thinking we’re crazy, I’ll just leave this link here for all the houses you can afford in Iowa with a shopping cart wrangler job.