The first time I was offered a senior discount, it was 1997. I was in my forties. The first time I ever asked for one in 2017, they thought I was in my forties. Recently at the Golden Arches, I asked what age qualified for a senior discount, and the high schooler behind the counter said anyone over forty. Then she asked me what was so funny.
Cursed with good looks, I’m blessed with a youthful appearance I don’t deserve. Just ask my jealous siblings, napping grandchildren, loving wife, or angry neighbors. Lately they’ve all been waking up when I leave for work at 1:30 in the morning. But don’t blame me, it’s Harley Davidson’s fault.
My current employer is the merge of four different carriers, and the result three years later is unrelenting chaos. Headquarters is in the Iowa shadow of Omaha, Nebraska. Operations is in Chicago. The Recruiting Department is in Virginia. Payroll is based in St. Paul, and Dispatch is now back in Kansas City, where they’ve been short-handed since April.
I’ve had 17 Driver Managers in 48 months, and the turnover rate is higher than it is for drivers. Some have been good. Others not so much, but I’ve had a single bit of advice for each one. Whatever you do, I’ve said, don’t unpack the whole U-Haul! They all laughed. Until they didn’t.
In four years, I’ve racked up 500,000 miles, and no accidents or tickets. But it hasn’t been without some controversy. A few logbook violations, here and there, and a prison sentence for getting caught with a phone in my hand, but nothing more serious than that. Well, okay, I didn’t really go to jail, but they did say a repeat offense would land me in the unemployment line.
The good news was, I learned all about a girl named Siri, and now use her more religiously than the government uses our money. The bad news is, if I have to listen to the ‘hold’ music from dispatch more than fifteen minutes, I think about driving off a cliff. Luckily for me, Kansas doesn’t have any.
Which brings me to the subject at hand. Whenever a new route becomes available, current employees get first crack at the job, and that’s what happened. I put in a bid, and was summarily rejected, because I lacked any seniority. But wait, I countered, I AM the senior driver in our division. How could I be rejected?
When their explanation sounded insincere and hollow, I got mad, and wrote a nastygram to company executives. I also applied for a new job. Several, in fact. Every one of them were impressed with my background, and each had to communicate with my current employer, which in turn set off alarms near the water coolers in Homewood. One thing every manager in trucking knows is it’s way cheaper to keep a driver than replace them. And one thing veteran drivers know, it’s way easier to keep a job than it is to go find one. Especially a good one, so my seniority was restored, and the bid was acknowledged without further conflict.
I’ll never be Driver Of The Year. I’ll never be recognized until my picture is on the wall at your local post office. I won’t even get a senior discount at the company store because I’m as crazy as the people running this outfit, and we ride for the brand together. It’s not always fun. It’s rarely ever easy. It’s not even profitable, some days, but this is how we succeed together.