Objects in the Mirror

Grand Junction Colorado, our standby HQ, is blanketed by smoke from a nearby fire.  Ashes coat the picnic tables outside the hotel.  We just returned from a fire near Globe, AZ, which proves the government isn’t great at connecting resources to incidents in an efficient way — our Idaho Falls unit is on this fire, because we were sent three states southwest.  God what a long drive.  We woke up at 5am on Friday, were in business til 8, had everything shut down and put away by 10, were on the road by 11, and didn’t get parked at the long term drop yard until after midnight, with the time change.  I was backing the 53’ trailer into the spot, in the dark, at the end of it all, and stopped for a second because my brain just stopped making sense of what it was seeing in the mirror.  That’s a pretty high level of fatigue.  

I realized, teaching at two different truck schools, that this adaptation of translating shapes and patterns in the mirror to objects with depth and perspective is a learned knack, specific to driving Class A vehicles over time.  I mean, everyone can back their car out of its spot at the grocery store using their rearview mirrors, but they don’t have to rely solely on those mirrors, and certainly not for long enough that they second guess what they’re seeing.  My teaching effectiveness came up about 1000% when I realized that my brain had made a translation, relative to translating data from the mirrors, that theirs had not yet, and that saying “just keep the corner of your trailer pointed towards that center reference cone” or something of that nature just wasn’t gonna cut it.  For people who’ve never driven (or more specifically, backed) tractor trailers, words really can’t describe how intense the sensation is, of looking into your mirrors for info — because that’s literally all you’ve got — and seeing a bunch of shapes and colors that might as well be chicken salad, for all the help it gives you.  I would tell students, “As soon as the mirrors stop making sense to you — as soon as you get disoriented about what you’re seeing and what that translates to in reality — stop, get out and look.”  It’s really hard to convince them to do that, but if they do, frequently, they begin to connect reality to mirror-view much more accurately and quickly.  

The other thing I would tell them is that it’s baby stuff to keep on backing until *I* have to tell them to stop — because they’re hopelessly screwed, or about to hit something, and they need to pull up.  I’d say, “Everyone’s trailer goes where they don’t want it to sometimes, but if you just keep backing with no idea what you’re doing or when to stop, you’re a truly dangerous person.”  Making sense of what you see in the mirror, and stopping when it doesn’t make sense anymore, is a big deal. 

Sigh.  I ripped off the bandaid of telling my supervisor I won’t be back (in full hazmat suit, gloves, mask, face shield, and sanitizer to wipe down everything each student touches) this Fall.  I tell you — even if I thought I could do it, and committed to it, you put me in all that shit for one hot day and I’d walk off the job.  She was bummed, you could tell from her very minimal reply.  She was trying to groom me for the Director position, and I was actively trying not to be groomed for that.  Ever since I stumbled across my current employment philosophy in around 2015 — “not my clowns, not my circus” — I’ve been a lot happier.  I like being an occupational mercenary.  

I miss teaching people though.  I was getting better and better at it.  I was part of a team of instructors that were, like, pretty insanely high quality.  I was the weakest link in some ways, having fewer years at it basically, but I still think I brought some super good stuff to the table.  I’d have driving shifts with students who were on their third or fourth driving shift, and still unable to really understand the unsynchronized transmission, and have them shifting like pros in just a couple hours, with some really straightforward basics.  They’d tell me no one had explained it like I did, and drilled them on it in this repetitive, simple way.  

I learned that from studying classical guitar, actually.  The way you smooth out a rough patch is by taking the very worst part and just drilling it, over and over, at all speeds on the metronome, from very fast to very slow and all points in between, and play very heavy and loudly, really get it in your fingers.  Then add some more real estate to the rough spot — add in the approach and the exit of the rough spot, and drill that.  Tiny baby steps that you just wale on.  I would do the same thing with their shifting and they benefitted a lot, in my experience.  

Oh well.  I’m kind of sad but excited for our Hawaii plans instead.  

Oh, but yeah the whole point of saying all that: I was actually so tired by the end of the drive, getting back from the AZ fire, that the mirror stopped making sense to my brain halfway through, for a second, and I had to stop and lean my head out the window to re-orient, and get the depth perception translation to come back.  

The next day, all we wanted to do was sleep, but we had this big interruption in the middle of the day where we had to switch hotels.  Our normal hotel, that costs the amount our company is happy to pay, wasn’t available the first night so we had to do a different one, then do errands for a couple hours in the middle of the day, then re-check in to the cheaper one.  Waking up in time to make all that happen was an agony, and waking Nick up was nearly impossible.  I actually got the room entirely vacated, with multiple attempts to wake him, and finally had to like forcefully make him drink water and wake up to put clothes on.  He’s normally very on top of schedule necessities.  Buffy was no help, just knocked out next to him like a rag doll.  She’s always exhausted by long days of driving as well, which is interesting because she sleeps the entire way in her fluffy doughnut bed.  

The errands consisted of going to Tractor Supply and buying a new…I don’t know what you call it…ball and hitch trailer hydraulic foot-jack thing?  We were coming back across the reservation and the roads were just fucked, in some places, much more so that on the way there it seemed.  Difference between south-bound versus north-bound lanes I suppose.  There was a spot north of Lower Greasewood where I seriously almost lost control of the vehicle.  You couldn’t see the humps in the asphalt, somehow, but you’d just hit them and be, like, rocketed into space.  Bad enough for a car but for a combination vehicle, it was like half of my 18 tires left the road at once.  I was okay, but I guess when Nick hit that spot with the chase truck and trailer, it well and truly almost ran him off the road, and then later he noticed that the entire top crank handle had snapped off the foot jack (let’s call it that), and the foot was dragging on the ground.  I mean, it’s just a wonder the ball hitch held together.  I think those ball hitches are janky — I’m surprised there’s not a better system.  My truck and trailer is a fifth wheel coupling, of course, which is far superior.

Anyway, today we’ve got to install the new hydraulic foot deal because, needless to say, we haven’t been able to drop the trailer and just have our pickup truck to get around in, like we normally would.  It’s really hot here, and we’ll have to go out smoke and ashes to do it.  It’ll be fine, but I’m happy to be blogging with iced coffee, no flies landing on me for the first time in two weeks, and not dealing with that yet.  We ordered Thai food delivery last night and watched most of the first episode of HBO’s Watchmen, that my brother had recommended.  We didn’t like it, and we began to experience growing unrest and frustration as the plot unfolded, shoveling noodles into our mouths.  At one point this little hover ship thing crashed out of the sky, and it was obvious that at least one of its occupants was not strapped in, at all, and it flipped end over end before coming to rest in a cow pasture where a bunch of cows had just been shot up with a .50 cal, a scene I also profoundly did not need.  I mean, we kill cows all the time, and they were obviously very real carcasses getting hit by bullets, and industrially speaking, why not.  We’ve not even remotely approached cow lives mattering, versus anything at all.  

Anyway, Nick goes, “If they survived that crash, I’m done watching this show.”  Because, I mean, there’s no way that at least the one guy for sure could have survived.  

I giggled, “Look, he’s gonna come out with one nostril bleeding and his hair messed up,” and Nick laughed.  I mean, his brains should have been exploded all over the inside of the hover ship.  So sure as shit, the hatch pops open and he has the nerve to emerge, not even bleeding from one nostril!!  Just his hair messed up and maybe a smudge on his face.  He’s all, “Is everyone okay?”  

Nick just violently forked more noodles in and said, slurringly around his mouthful, “That’s it.  That’s it for me.”

Also, the themes were interesting because it felt almost like a grooming for what’s going on now.  It’s basically a world where white people are neutral or bad, black people are neutral or good, and the villain as such is a white supremacist organization called “Kavalry”, obviously a reference to Klan.  All the cops are black, for the most part, and they wear face masks for reasons somewhat implied, but also the pilot of the crashed hover craft was wearing a mask the whole time that was going down, which was very reminiscent of these people you see driving in their masks, all alone.  The white supremacist Kavalry members — the bad guys — are all wearing plaid flannels and jeans and workboots, and we noticed one had an American Flag hat on, in the big .50 cal cow carcass blasting showdown.  An interrogation of one of their members consisted of asking him how he’d feel if he were to see someone shit on the American Flag, and then conversely there’s a big drama where all the black cops are given free access to their own firearms, which are otherwise locked remotely even when they’re out in the field doing traffic stops etcetera.  The “guns = bad” theme was heavy.  So, maybe I’m just reading into it, but you know — cops, guns, white supremacist/nationalist, face masks worn by virtuous people, all of that — it was a lot, for me.  

I’m tired, too, of white supremacy being held up as a problem, as if it even exists.  I’ve never in my life met a white supremacist.  I saw a documentary on the KKK, years ago, which consisted of people so illiterate and and low functioning that they couldn’t even articulate their own ideas.    Conversely, I’ve enjoyed a YouTube channel called Fleccas where the guy goes to left leaning rallies and campus protests of “hate speech” and interviews anyone who’ll talk to him — and most won’t — about their beliefs — and most can’t.  Candace Owens was coming to a campus on behalf of Turning Point USA and a bunch of students were chanting and protesting.  One very nice black girl did agree to answer some questions, like “why are you hear, what do you disagree with specifically,” and she was pretty hazy on it but for sure did not like that Candace Owens was, you know, a white supremacist (she used that phrase as an anchor whenever she got verbally lost, which was often).  She had no idea that Candace Owens was black, clearly.  For a bunch of kids who stay glued to their smart phones all day, you’d think they could Google up at least some basics.  They don’t, though, they just say things in lieu of any cohesive thought.  “White supremacist” and “fascist” and “nazi”.  They don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.  

Fleccas interviewed a fair number of conservative students who were, in sharp contrast, willing to talk into a microphone and explain their beliefs and how they’d arrived at them.  Those students were, in this particular video, overwhelmingly immigrants, who’d come from other countries and appreciated their freedoms here.

I have one black friend and we text sometimes.  She was a CDL student who got kind of screwed by the New Mexico examination run around and I took her with me to AZ at one point and helped her get her permit there and test out, rather than having to wait an entire year in NM.  She’s driving commercially now, and we keep in touch.  She’s so sick of BLM and the white woke liberals and the whole ordeal.  She’s considering moving to an island and I invited her to move to Hawaii once I figure out the commercial driving situation there, which seems good at first glance.  She’s great, I would love to have a gal friend that I see more often.  I’m in touch with a number of Spell gals (we like a particular brand of pretty dresses) who already live in Hawaii and I’m excited to connect with them IRL.    

I have some stuff to say, I think, about college and default ideologies and pressure to conform, but I’ll save it for another time.  For now, I’ll just say that the question of urban versus rural mindset isn’t racial at all, but seems to me closer to the actual issue, right now.  Like, I always say this about the Question of eating meat: ethics aside, it’s more about whole foods and less about meat.  A person eating largely whole foods will thrive, and a person eating largely processed foods will not.  Processed foods fast track us to the chronic disease processes of our time, which kill more of us than terrorism, Coronavirus, corrupt cops, anything, all of it it put together.  Paleo is so transformative for people because it gets them eating whole foods.  Conversely, junk food vegetarianism is not transformative, because it’s good to drop meat but it’s not enough.  That’s a parallel, in my opinion, for what’s being portrayed as racial tension.  It’s not as simple as “black people are from the city and white people are from the country”, obviously.  It’s like, people from the country are pretty bemused about the masks, the riots, the drama, whereas people from the city are pretty impacted by all of it, one way or the other.  We were buying some Palisade peaches from a farm stand outside the Tractor Supply yesterday, and the young gal who sold them to us had an old bruise on her leg.  She said there were some riots here that she stumbled into, and she was wearing her American Flag shirt, and a guy yelled, “That flag is dead to me!,” and threw a rock at her!  It hit her in the leg, and obviously could have been worse.  That’s just — amazing, but sadly the tone of it.  Essentially he felt her American Flag shirt was violence, to which he responded by violently hurting her, with no sense that this was ironic.  She seemed to take it in stride, at least in hindsight — she was a country girl through and through.  

Nick and I were wearing MAGA hats, which she had complimented and which started the conversation to begin with.  We’d owned them for about fifteen minutes by that time, because we’d stopped at another roadside stand and bought them.  We’d made a survey of good things Trump did for America in his first three years in office, which you can read about here, and decided that there’s nothing like a MAGA hat to sort out the interactions we do want to have from the ones we don’t.  It’s amazing — it’s like on the one side, these people who are crying wolf about violence, racism, and hate speech, while themselves calling people names, espousing violence, in some cases attacking other people and being generally hateful, while on the other hand people, people who are just kind of chill and laid back and basically respectful but markedly devoid of Kool Aid drinking.  

My fabulous gay friend from Air Force Cardiopulmonary School, Robbie, just posted a “Gays for Trump 2020” banner on his Facebook and there were 182 comments by the time I saw it.  It was 90% the most hateful, vile, personally attacking filth imaginable, and about 10% calm, clear-minded stability.  Robbie is not only fabulous at being gay but fabulous at not giving a damn, and he chimed in at one point, “None of y’all are feeding me, fucking me, or paying my bills so think whatever you want, Gays for Trump 2020” which was just hilarious.  I mean, it was a frothing pit of snapping vipers of a thread.  

I’ve never really pulled for a presidential candidate in my life, to the extent of wearing some gear, but I actually have been needing a hat and I just recognize — even for those of us who don’t really want to choose, the circumstances of this social pressure cooker are forcing us to choose, and I’m very clear about which way I’m choosing.  To me, being locked in a room with these people who are supposedly so loving, so conscious, so caring, so representative of liberal values, so utterly unable to articulate why violence is the answer, who blame others for what they themselves do — that would be a fate worse than death.  The hypocrisy is intense.  I love where my head is at, the influences and information that’s pointing me towards, the perspectives I’m gathering from others in the neighborhood, and the clarity I’m achieving in what I’m willing to entertain versus what I’m not, and at the end of the day that’s all you’ve got.  That, and a MAGA hat, and in that peach girl’s case, a yellow fading bruise.  

Good enough for now.  Lots more I want to blog about if/when there’s time.                

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