60: Life & Times of a Boomer Doomer 4

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Published on The Doomstead Diner July 9, 2017

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Read Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3 at the Links

The OTR Trucking Years

I covered this period of my life in extensive detail in my 5 part Over the Road series back in the early years of the Diner.  I won't rehash that stuff here, although there are a few stories I left out.

http://static.wixstatic.com/media/69d8a0_481c7c21f5a64e539bcd3d26894c10f5.jpg_srz_260_158_85_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srz The first is that prior to going out in the truck, after years of headaches with Student Loans and Credit Card bills, I finally got out of debt.  I was completely broke with no assets at all they could take in a bankruptcy.  I only had my 10 year old Toyota, and they can't take your primary transportation.  Besides it was worth almost nothing.  The Student Loans were gone, over the years I had transfered them to the Credit Cards.  So I didn't have the problem of Student Loans not being disharchargeble in a bankruptcy.  If you get a big enough CC limit over the years to do this, I highly recommend the method! lol.  So at the time of the BK, all my debt was in unsecured CC loans, and it wasn't that huge either by today's standards.  Around $7000 at the time as I recall, which is probably around $12K in 2017 dollars.  This may not seem like much, but when you are totally broke and the interest charges and penalties keep piling up, it just gets worse all the time. The Banks did not even bother to show up for this piddling bankruptcy though, and I walked out of the courtroom in 15 minutes, free and clear of debt for the first time in my adult life!  What a load off my shoulders!  I had a clean slate and a new job lined up as an OTR Trucker for Schneider National!  I never went in debt again for anything, and never held a Credit Card since.

Next is how this period which lasted around 7 years changed me psychologically.  Up until that time I had been a fairly gregarious person, enjoyed hanging out with friends, going to parties, etc.  However, when you are trucking you spend all day driving or getting loaded or unloaded for weeks at a time and don't talk to anybody.  In the truckstops where all the truckers congregate, I had nothing in common with them other than the fact we all drove big rigs.  Even if I did have something in common with them, it's a different crew of people every night so it's not like hanging out with friends.  More like going to a bar and talking to whoever sits down next to you.  The only person you might have regular conversations with and get to know some is the Bartender.

http://www.truck-drivers-money-saving-tips.com/image-files/park-n-view-terminal-truck-stop-dsc02341.jpg I got used to being alone this way, and actually came to enjoy it over time.  I did have the internet, it was just getting into the Truckstops in the era, before Wi-Fi.  There was a company called Park n View which put little hubs into the asphalt you could get cable TV and a phone line.  It was dial-up modem era, and all text.  However, that was enough for me then, and I ran my Yahoo Groups and Forums in areas of interest to me at the time, primarily Gymnastics.  I maintained contact with coaches who were friends, and parents of some of the gymmies I had coached who kept me updated on their progress.  Three of them went on to become Elite Gymnasts and two made the National Team.

In addition, whenever I made it to Central California, I would take a few days off to go in and guest coach at a friend's tiny gym in the relatively poor Ag land area around Madera.  It was a small gym serving the mostly Mexican community, and she was persistently broke.  Not a super successful gym owner, she wasn't real good at bizness and she set up in the wrong neighborhood to make any money from the sport even as an owner.  She lived in a barn loft with 1 bedroom I think she paid around $300/mo for.  She also was a heavy smoker, and then shortly after I left trucking a couple of years later, she died from an embolism in her brain.  Around 45 years old at the time.

Of all the things I did not cover in the Over the Road series though was that this period featured the last real "relationship" I had with a female, as in something more than just a one night stand or one week stand.  After a year of slaving for Schneider at 21 cents a mile, I turned in my resignation a day after my anniversary, took a month off and then went to work for JB Hunt, first at 48 cents a mile as a company driver, then 2 years later as an Owner-Operator.  JB financed this if you were a clean driver who made his deliveries on time with no accidents, which was me.  In the first couple of years with JB I was already doing quite well and had virtually no expenses besides my truck expenses, and these were all tax deductable.  No rent, no mortgage, no utilities to pay on a McMansion.  No kids to buy clothes for, and the Med Insurance from JB was all paid for by them.  I was still pretty healthy at this time anyhow, and didn't need to see doctors except for my annual driving check up.  My Savings Account was piling up the FRNs.

So one day I hit the Petro in Joplin MO, one of the nicest truckstops out there and a favorite of mine to stop at whenever driving the I-44, which I did often because my terminal was in Kansas City and this route was one of their biggest.  On this day when I rolled in, I went in to hit the Buffet for dinner, and a REALLY cute young waitress came to take my order.  The Old RE came back from the dead and I made some jokes and flirted with her.  She laughed and made some jokes of her own.  I decided not to order the Buffet, but instead order a dish off the menu so that I would see her again.  More flirting when she brought the meal, more when she refilled my water glass and more when she brought me desert which I usually never order but it gave another opportunity to chat.  By this time I had found out she was attending the local community college and had grown up on a small farm outside Joplin.  She was half my age, but when she brought the check I asked her for her phone number and she gave it to me.  Thus began the last romance of my life, which lasted around a year and a half.

To her, I was a successful Trucker, I took her out to nice places and took her on the road with me a few times when she was off from school.  After a few months of this, she started talking about the Big M, Marriage.  I put it off, I said we should be dating at least a year before tying the knot.  I didn't want to dash her hopes entirely, I really enjoyed being with her and talking, she was a great listener although kind of quiet herself most of the time.  The sex also was quite good. lol.  She accepted this idea in her own quiet way and the talk of getting married stopped, until I had almost forgotten about it.  But then almost to the day I first met her the next time I rolled into Joplin up the topic came up again.

"So, it's been a year.  Don't you think we should set a date?"

I almost said "Date for what?", but I knew what she meant.  So I said, "Yes, I suppose we should.  How about when school lets out in May?"

A HUGE smile broke out on her face and she gave me the biggest hug EVAH!  It was only around 4 months away!  We would drive to Vegas and get hitched there.  She was happy, I was happy…for me for about a month.

Then all the old memories came back to me of my first marriage, while I was alone in the truck driving the endless miles of the Eisenhower Interstate.  On top of all those issues I thought about the new ones with this marriage.  As a trucker, I would be away from home most of the time, with a young and attractive wife at home, unless I took her with me on the road, and did I really want to be living inside a Freightliner 24/7 365 with ANYONE?  We would need a McMansion, and there would go all the savings I was piling up.  What if she got Pregnant!?!?  Just like wanting to get married, she surely would start talking about having kids inside a year or two.  These questions all floated through my brain every day, even as we chatted on the cell phone making plans for the Big Trip to Vegas .  The Butterflies in my stomach flapped their wings harder every day.

The fateful day finally arrived, and as I approached the Joplin Exit on the I-44, I realized I just could not do this, and I drove right by it.  We spoke on the phone and I made an excuse I got delayed and would be there in a couple of days.  I called her a couple of days later and told her the truth.  There were a lot of tears.  We spoke a few more times in the months after that, but the phone calls finally drifted into history.

Athough I often wonder how my life would have gone had I taken that exit off the interstate and it breaks my heart every time I think about it, in the end I think I made the right choice on this one, for her and for me as painful as it was and still is for me at least every time I let myself think about it.  About a year or so later 9-11 went down, and freight dropped off the map for a while.  Income dropped precipitously.  Not as bad a situation as when my Union had gone on strike financially for me during my first marriage since my expenses were so low, but had I been married that would not have been the case.  Besides that, I was quite sick of driving by this time, it's just an endless grind and doing it for the rest of my life was not something I wanted to do anymore than I had wanted to do battle with administrators and recalcitrant, unprepared and unruly students as a teacher for my whole life either.

So out of the Truck I got, and moved on to the next and last period of my Working life, a return to the World of Gymnastics as a Full Time Coach.  It also coincides with the years where I metamorphosed into a Doomer.

The Gymnastics Rerun & Early Doomer Years

After getting out of the truck, I had a nice buffer of savings and took a nice two month break from work while I figured out what to do with the rest of my life.  I finally settled on returning to gymnastics, as even though the pay wasn't great, at least I enjoyed the job and with money in the bank as long as it was enough for my bills, it would be fine.  So once again I called up old coaching friends and lined up a job in WI as Asst Head Coach for Optionals with the Team Director there, who was a friend of my friend.  It was a community owned gym, so she wasn't the Owner, just another employee except she had the right to hire and fire other coaches, with the approval of another employee, the overall Gym Director.  We came to a salary agreement I felt I could make ends meet on, which was hourly but guaranteed me a minimum of 30 hours a week of coaching time.  No medical bennies or retirement account or sick days, no pay for when the gym was closed for holidays, but generally enough to get by on.

This went fairly well for a couple of years, although there was the usual Gym Drama between coaches who all do not usually agree on the best means and methods for developing the gymmies. lol.  Still, our gymmies did pretty well, we took a couple to Nationals at Level 10 and we had a strong Compulsory level program in the younger age groups.

Unfortunately, the area was not doing well economically, it was in the lead-up to the Financial Crisis in 2008, in the years 2005-2007 or so.  Enrollment in the rec & preschool programs were low, and the Gym Director called me in one day and told me she had to cut my hours back to 20/week, just Team.  I told her I couldn't live on that, and she told me there was nothing she could do, they just weren't making enough money.  So I started checking the Ads in USA Gymnastics Magazine (still not fully digital job seeking yet on the internet), and found one for a gym in Alaska looking for a Head Coach.  A week or so later after sending out the resume via Snail Mail I got a call from the owner, and we had several more long phone calls after that discussing philosophy and how to build a good high level gymnastics program.  He then invited me to fly up for a test week, paying for my plane ticket and expenses.  The test week overall went well, he offered me a Salaried Position with bennies and I immediately quit the job in WI on returning and made plans to move to Alaska the following month.

I moved up here with no car, no furniture, just the 5 bags of personal stuff I usually carried with me during my years as an OTR trucker.  It was just before they started dropping charges on checked baggage on the airlines, so the 3 bags that went in the baggage compartment did not cost me any money on that trip.  It was in February of 2007 that I made my migration as a refugee from the lower 48. lol.

Things were not precisely as the owner had made them out to be when I arrived, as I soon found out.  He indicated the old Head Coach who had been with him from the early days of the gym wanted to step back to spend more time with her family, but in fact she did not want to at all and was very resentful of me.   We had a kind of shared Head Coaching responsibility, and we battled often the first year.  We reached a raproachment of sorts in the second year, and the gym began to turn around from perennial loser to State Champion at several levels.  Things were looking OK, but then I got my first real medical issue, Peripheral Artery Disease in my legs.  I had to take time off for a rotor rooter job on the femoral arteries, and in the meantime the Owners Daughter (again!) took over responsibility as Head Coach.  The original HC had by this time quit and gone into teaching PE in the Pulic Schools.  Once I had recuperrated and came back in, things were way worse than they ever were with the original HC, me and the Owner's Daughter were like Oil and Water and just could not mix.

My gymnastics responsibilities were reduced, and my job was redefined to help grow the Private-Homeschool Academic program the Owner had dreams of building, as addition to the Day Care program he already ran that went from Infancy to Pre-K.  I lasted an additional 2 years this way, spending part of the day teaching the Homeschoolers through 3rd through 6th Grade, and the other half teaching developmental gymanstics to pre-team level gymmies.  This kept me and Owner's Daughter from butting heads much over team, although it was distressing for me to watch her eviscerate the program I had been building.

It might have persisted a while longer, except the Homeschool program was losing money. Not enough parents wanted to pay for this service that was supposed to bridge the gap in cost between Public & Private School.  So at the end of the second academic year of this, the Owner gave me my walking papers.

So, now I am past 55, and the likelihood I can find anyone down in the lower 48 to hire me at a decent paying position with bad legs and overall diminished mobility necessary for spotting in gymnastics is quite small.   However, there was a recently opened gym by another former employee, which had grown some and moved into a new facility.  I went over there and talked to the fellow who opened it, a New Owner.  We came to an agreement of my old hourly, but only 20 hours/week to start.  Not enough to cover my bills, but not draining my savings too fast either, so I figured in a couple of years we would grow the program and I would get more hours.

Grow the program we did, and once again the gym went from perrenial loser to State Champion in the 3 years I was there.  Team Doubled in size.  That's a LOT of additional income over that time period.  Did I see any raises or any more hours?  Nope.   Instead in year 3 said owner invested his additional income in expanding the gym and buying tons of expensive new equipment.

In the same year, I took a fall while spotting on the Uneven Bars and injured my neck.  Consequences from this began to crop up, extreme pain for a while, then my right arm became semi-paralyzed, then walking started getting difficult, etc.  I was trying to hang on long enough to take my last bunch of gymmies to State Championships, but then just a couple of weeks before that me and the owner had one more big argument and my career as a gmynastics coach was over.  It would have been over anyhow in a couple of weeks, the doctors told me it was too dangerous to continue, but there was just no way I could go into work the next day after that argument.  Fortunately, the gymmies were well prepped and they all went on to win the State Championships at all 3 levels I had been coaching.

During this whole decade of time, simultaneously I became a Doomer, and that began right after I moved up here.  Even though it occured at the same time, I'll give it a separate category, the Beginning Doomer Years.

The Beginning Doomer Years Coming to a Laptop near you in August, my Birthday Month.

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