As Julie stated in what I consider my awesome bio, I’ve driven professionally for quite some time—actually going on 16 years. At one point I was dedicated on a route that took me from Mount Vernon, Indiana to a small town in Ontario, Canada. Cobourg is a small town located about 60 miles east of Toronto, Ontario. This “run” as we in the business call our trips, was a great run. The pay was very good and the fact I was dedicated made it comparable to what most people do who do not drive across the country for a profession. In other words it was like normal shift work; a 9 to 5 if you will.
I spent almost 10 years doing this run. Being the type of person I am, I loved the same ole, same ole. I knew exactly where I would be and what time I would be there. I could keep my life at home in motion without too much deviation from a schedule. I even managed to help with my son’s little league experience when he was young. Although if you ask him or most kids who have their parents actually involved, I’m not sure that was a plus—but that’s another story for another day.
As the years went on though, things started to wear on my mind. Anyone who has spent that much time doing the exact same thing over and over can understand what I’m saying. It got to where I would swear to anyone who would listen that I began seeing myself going the opposite direction. No, I wasn’t losing my mind. Well, that’s debatable.
I was getting bored. The beloved same ole, same ole became the same old blankety blank bulls**t. What didn’t help, was at this same time personally I was going through one of the relationships that I wrote about in my first post sent to Julie. (By the way, I must say, Julie is a wonderful person, and I’m not sure, but she may have started something with all this writing.) Going through the bad, ending a relationship and feeling the pressure of becoming a grandfather, again, and getting very, very, very, bored with my run, I went to my company and begged to be taken off and allowed to explore other avenues and lanes that they were working.
Of course with their bottom-line being the foremost important thing in mind, they said absolutely no. And I can’t blame them. My two loads a week meant a substantial amount of money and trouble for them to replace if I was removed from the contract. So with all this pressure and stress I actually quit. I cleaned out my truck, put all my belongings in my pick-up and left. I had saved enough cash so I could just take a break— take a much needed, 4 month break from the normal go to work, do the responsible thing, daily grind.
To this day and for the rest of my life I will swear it was the best thing I have ever done for myself. During those four months I began to improve myself in many ways. I started eating normal, healthy meals every day. I walked up to 4 miles a day—every day. I found a social life I had left behind many years before. I just became the person I had always wanted to be except (there’s always an exception, right?) for my mentality towards humanity.
Dealing with jerks and assholes on the road over the years had eroded my faith in man to near extinction. I have always thought of myself as a compassionate person, sometimes too sensitive. But because of my years of experience dealing with jerks and assholes on the road, I had become calloused to mankind.
I have always considered myself a compassionate person. I am sometimes sensitive to a fault, but nothing like I was about to become.
As I neared four months off the road, I figured it was time to try to find some gainful employment. But thanks to some close friends who have wonderful relatives, I secured a job with a bus company. I could have changed career paths, but I chose to drive. I love to drive. My “office” view changes minute-to-minute, day-to-day.
An event while with this company opened my eyes again to the humanity that is mankind—what is good with mankind.
The company I worked for was basically public transportation. I would take anybody, anywhere. The company was mainly government subsidized, but it was also a for profit company. The company contracted with several group homes for the handicapped and the places where these wonderful residents go to work every day.
I urge anyone to spend time with these very special people—make time to do so—volunteer, take a job with them or just go visit them at their homes or jobs. It will enlighten your life.
Although I was technically just their driver, I was also their friend, caregiver, security and a symbol of normalcy and regularity for them. And they were my friends too. I have hundreds of funny and sad stories I could tell, but this one will stay with me forever. This story changed me for the better.
One Friday afternoon I was on my route picking up clients (I always hated that term for them) from work, taking them home for the day. Normally quiet “Suzy” was bouncing around the bus with excitement. She was always cordial, saying “Hi” and “How was your day”, but today she was happier than a 6 year old walking thru the gates at Disney World.
I would guess Suzy to be in her mid-twenties, no physical disabilities, but was probably mentally equivalent to a 10-12 year old. I casually asked Suzy what all the excitement was about.
She told me today, Friday, was her payday and I jokingly asked her if she would be buying my dinner tonight. She very jovially stated that this week her paycheck was all hers. She continued to tell me how she had been saving for months to get $100 so she could start her very first checking account.
Suzy and her friends in these group homes go to work every day just like you and me, yet they make pennies on the dollar compared to our paychecks. Her joy at just $100 unnerved me. It made me think about my own checking account I have had since I was 16. It made me think about all the money I have spent over the years on useless, unnecessary things. Her simple joy about $100 helped me realize what is really important in my own life.
Through my own life I have had epic highs and heartbreaking lows. I have worried about things I could never change and other things that don’t ever pertain to me. Yet, I have always made an above average salary and been able to buy whatever I wanted (within reason.) I have put too much emphasis on the material things in life—we all have. The problems and joys of life should not be based on the almighty dollar, or lack of.
How many times have we all cried, worried and been distraught over just the material things (or lack of) in our lives? How many times have we been excited, elated, because we finally saved a simple $100 over many months? Perspective. Sigh.
-Michael Collard is one of my life-long friends. We cruised many back roads in his vintage ‘70 Mustang “back in the day.” Professionally, he has driven a truck over-the-road for as long as I can remember. Too many long roads have given him time to overthink everything and hone his outspoken, independent, hell-bent attitude. With a little coaxing I convinced him to share some of his writing with me to publish here. When not on the road he spends a lot of weekends spoiling his six grandkids and anxiously awaiting the arrival of the seventh.