It took everything I had to get to Fairview, Montana, 1,900 miles from home, and once I arrived it was not as promised. Some of it was good. Some of it was not so good.
The contracts needing fulfilling have not started. I was told they were not going start until the 8th, a full week later than I was told before coming up here. Two days later I’m told that they were pushed back to the 15th and when I spoke with the brokers myself on Monday I discovered they would not start until the 21st.
In the meantime my prospective employer does me a “favor” by lining up work with his relatives hauling beets for $18 an hour. I talk to one of them who says he’ll “keep it off the books.” That he and his three brothers would each cut me checks to keep the payments under $600, the legal limit for a 1099, and if I needed gas or tires or whatever I could charge it to his account downtown.
This may sound like a fair deal but it is outlaw trucking and it is one of the worst possible positions a legitimate driver can find themselves in. It is a trap. Money is often withheld on promise of payment. Gas and meals are charged back to your account at double the rate. There is no legal recourse in these situations because you are invisible and they most often end with the driver walking away.
It is modern slavery and it is more common than you’d think.
I’ve been doing this a long time. It’s not the first time I’ve had to deal with bait and switch and outlaw trucking and because of that I’m careful and always ready to bail within minutes because it can be dangerous. It is always stressful and rarely profitable.
Monday I talked with my employer. I was polite but firm and persuasive. I made it 100% clear that I would not be driving outlaw for his cousin or anyone else. I let him know I had already made some calls to the broker in charge of the contract he is on and was given the dates and rates. Then I told him I would continue to make calls to people and companies I know here to line up real work for his truck and suggested some sources for him to call as well.
An hour later he calls back with a fresh contract from one of my sources, a company that I’ve worked with before that knows and respects me. The contract pays $110 an hour. I’ll get 25% of that. Not the best money but not bad given the circumstances.
More than that it’s a good contract that will probably last until just before Christmas with people I trust. People that will see to it that I get paid.
Like I said, I’ve been doing this a long time. I know the rules. And I make a horrible victim.
This is not unusual. It’s business as usual and I’m used to it, as much as a person can get used to things like this.
It’s the world I am working so hard to leave behind. I think you can begin to see why.
Here’s the good parts:
Most importantly, I’ll leave here debt free and with enough banked to upgrade the Caravan and buy some time to focus on writing.
I have a home to return to. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that.
The camper I paid $560 dollars for is now in livable condition. It’s not complete yet but the majority of the work is done. Windows have been taped and sealed with plastic and boarded where needed. It’s air tight. Roof is sealed. Cushions are replaced. Wood oiled. New carpet. It’s small but solid and actually quite comfortable and easy to heat and I will make a decent profit from the sale when I’m done with it.
The truck I’ll be driving for work is in good condition and the trailer is excellent quality.
The new boss owns an RV Park outside of Fairview where I am parked for free. I won’t be signing any rental agreement. There is a very nice community building on site with laundry, showers, big screen, and more all in new condition.
The new boss is not a bad man. He does not have bad intentions. Its just the way things are done out here. There are too few of us who refuse those ways and that’s why they persist.
He drives the school bus for his young children. Is involved in the community. He spent the extra money to make a comfortable place for his employees to live. That’s a rare thing.
He was afraid of losing a driver because of the delays and thought he could help his relatives by putting me in a bind while he waited for his contracts to begin. I am certain his relatives can use the help but I’m a hard man to bind up.
There is no way he could know I am as resourceful and determined as I am until he did what he did and no way for me to know this would happen without coming here. It’s always a bit of a gamble because I can’t always fix a bad situation. I’m grateful that I did this time.
I’m feeling a little defeated right now. I’m bruised and bloody. But I’m not beaten.
I had a three day pity party with all the usual guests; disappointment, failure, rage, grief, depression. We all commiserated and growled and grumbled and shed tears in our rum and then I sent them packing. Each with a hug and a “Thank you for coming.”
Now it’s time for a victory.
That starts with me.
First, a long walking meditation to silence the remnants of that black balloon affair where I logged their complaints and handled them lovingly.
They are not me, just my thoughts, and they deserve my attention and compassion, but not my life.
Then I sent out feelers to a few companies up north. Yes, back in the oilfield. It’s not where I want to be but it’s the one place I know, without a doubt, that I can get a job pretty much on demand with pay that is considerably more than I can make here. Maybe I mentioned this before, Mobile has some of the lowest driver rates in the nation. Barely enough to live on. Not nearly enough to pursue my goals. Right now I’m looking for companies that just need someone to finish up the season because I don’t want to make a commitment and I really don’t want to starve through another season of frozen roads, frozen trucks, frozen flesh.
Get in. Get out. Get back to what I’m trying to accomplish.
I am working on two backups:
The first, converting all my adjuster training to work with FEMA, will take more time than I have right now but it’s a viable option down the road. I have started taking the training they provide but to get myself on top of the list of potential hires I want to have a long list of their certifications under my belt. So, for now, it’s something that I will take my time with.
The second is a lead I received less than an hour ago. A company that is looking for adjusters to work from home and pays extremely well.
This second option is a strong contender to replace driving, and I’ll talk with them before making the decision, but heading north for a couple months has a distinct benefit: I still have things in storage in ND that I can simply bring with when I return to Mobile.
Yes, I plan on coming back to Mobile. Fate brought me here for a reason and though I really don’t know what that reason is I have no intention of working against such a powerful force. So I’ve made arrangements to leave most of what I brought with me in storage while I’m gone.
I’ll know more within a couple days.
Here’s the thing:
Shit happens and there isn’t a damn thing anyone can do about it but I am not defined by those things, I am defined by how I respond to them.
Yes, it sucks that I spent a year of my life working intensely to create change only to have it all implode but it’s only a failure if I allow it to be, and it’s not an end, it’s a beginning.
In a way, it’s a gift. I am being forced to start again.
In a few days I will be loading up my car once again and heading North for a short while. The decision isn’t an easy one, there are many reasons for me to stay put; this is my home, my heart belongs here, I belong here.
But it is something I need to do if I am to continue forward on my chosen path.
I wasn’t aware of the Astrology involved when I made the decision to briefly return to North Dakota, but I am not at all surprised to see such strong energies in play.
May 29 the moon falls in Sagittarius and will rest between the Heart of Scorpio (Antares) and the Eye of the Bull, Aldebaran, which rises under the influence of Gemini.
It is the Flower Moon. A time of growth when the flowers bloom. A time to expand your thinking and extend your will, to learn new things, explore new places, take steps to improve yourself, and be open to opportunity. If you want a different life, a better life, then this is the perfect time to do something about it.
Truly, I could not have chosen a better time.
I have loose ends to tie up. Most of what I own was left in storage there, including my camper van and boat, and those things are dividing me, delaying my progression, holding me back. In order to move forward they, and the past that the situation represents, must be dealt with.
I have given myself a budget to work with and schedule in which to achieve attainable goals and when I return I will be fully present. Undivided. That will make my next steps easier and more meaningful.
It feels a little like I’m going backwards, and in a way I am, but sometimes in order to go forward one must take a couple steps back to settle the past.
I often hear the voice of the Divine and find wisdom in unexpected sources. An overheard conversation between a couple in passing. A single line of something I’m reading or a song I’m listening to. The way someone might shoo a mosquito off the shoulder of a complete stranger without their knowing.
Or the old black man with the foul mouth and the fixed smile who writes my load tickets on the dock where I load my truck. He is a lifetime docker, worn and broken. His hard life shows on his face.
We are talking about the long haul I am about to make. The rate I make on this haul is minimal. I am enthusiastic about neither prospect.
Okay, I’m bitching about it.
He just laughs, stops what he is doing, looks me in the eyes and says “Take your time, enjoy the scenery, look at those azaleas, watch the birds and the trees, it pays the same either way, you might as well enjoy it.”
That’s my advice. Those are my words coming from his mouth. I am stopped cold. My frustration dissipates. The Universe has spoken directly to me through this man and I am grateful.
The message received, I take a deep breath and smile with this gift and continue on my way. Taking my time. Enjoying the scenery. The day passes peacefully.
The Universe is always talking to us. Telling us to be patient. To breathe. Telling us it cares. That we are loved.