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Life After Retirement

Life After Retirement

Much to my surprise, he was wearing only cowboy boots.

Life After Retirement

You wake up one morning, the sun is shining and it looks like a beautiful day. What could possibly go wrong, your children are grown and your husband is retiring from the United States Army after 33 years. You're actually looking forward to living what's known as a normal life and boom, it just falls all around you like a pile of rocks.

Those first couple weeks of the hubby under foot, you say to yourself, “Cheryl, it takes time for someone to adjust. After all, he's been used to getting up at five o'clock in the morning, yelling at a bunch of young GI's and now he still feels like he has to be in control.”

Since it's been my responsibility for those 33 years to run the house myself, it is truly hard to change overnight and have someone in the house 24/7. Of course, being the loving, understanding wife that I was, I tried to keep from killing him.

As the days wore on though, it was very obvious that Sarge was having a lot of trouble adapting to civilian life, not being in command, and not run everything like his office. He couldn't understand why his wife would decide she had to go to the grocery store and leave the dirty laundry laying on the floor.

About six months down the road, Sarge's patient loving wife had just about endured all she could handle. For example, if I changed from my pajamas to my jeans, he would ask me where I was going. “Nowhere, I just thought I wouldn't live in my pajamas all day.”

I would get up out of my recliner, and he would ask, “Where are you going?”

I would grumble at him, “To the bathroom if that's okay,”

I sat Sarge down and informed him we needed to have a really important conversation. I personally felt that it would be a huge mistake to get a divorce after 34 years of marriage. I felt I had several solutions that might work, first one being that he could find a job. The second one, I could find a job and of course, the third option would be we go our separate ways as he was driving me insane.

As if giving his troops a command, he quickly barked,” I am retired, I have no intentions of going back to work.”

I may not be the smartest person on earth, but that statement certainly appeared to have no wiggle room in it. So I was left with the two options that I was not thrilled with. One, I had been a housewife and mother for 34 years, the job world really didn't appeal to me but neither did a divorce.

Okay then, sitting up straighter, with my head held high, I said, “I guess that leaves me finding a job.”

From the astonished look on my husband's face, I felt maybe he thought it was time for the men in white coats to come and take me away. He responded almost with a snarl, “Just for the sake of conversation, Cheryl, just exactly what type of work do you believe you're qualified to do?”

I hadn't done any research as yet but I was confident there was lots of things that an intelligent, middle-aged lady could find to do. Not that anything popped in my head immediately, but I would get right on it. I was sure I'd find just the thing that would keep me busy, and keep us married. I'd show him what a non-job is really all about, keeping up the house and making dinners while your other half is at work.

Just a few weeks later, I was talking to my half brother on the phone and he asked, “How is Mike enjoying his retirement?”

“Just fine, but he's driving me insane. But hey, that's a small consequence, after all, he is retired, he has done his job, so he gets paid to sit home. He gets his daily pleasure out of asking me stupid questions like, why do you put the dirty clothes into separate piles, they're all dirty aren't they?”

Bobby thought that was just too hilarious since he had spent 10 years in the Army himself. “Sis, I think you're right, you should find yourself a job. You could always drive a big rig. It would get you out of the house and as much as you like photography, think of the wonderful pictures you could get across the country.”

I was totally ecstatic and I replied, “That is a marvelous idea, I think I would truly love that.”

Now Bobby was laughing, “It was a joke sis, women can't drive big rigs, it's too much for them to handle.”

I disgustedly said to him,“Oh really, and the reasoning behind that is what? Maybe you think we're too frail, too dumb, too sensitive or that we were put on earth to just have babies and clean house? Of course, we still need to take care of men's needs as they arise.”

“It's just too hard of a job, and there's just don't see that many women out on the road. If you set your mind to it, I'm sure you could probably handle it especially since it's always been your goal in life to prove that you can handle anything, I was trying to be funny when I suggested driving a truck, so don't be mad, try something in a department store or along that line,” he patiently concluded.

I love challenges and the more I thought about it, the more that I decided that it was the perfect job for me. I could see the world free and get paid for doing it. I scrambled around, got the phone book and searched for people offering schooling to drive an 18 wheeler. As luck would have it, our community college that was just 15 miles from home and had such a program. I called and was told they were starting a class in four days. I could fill out the application online and pay by credit card. I was jubilant.

Monday morning found me in a line with a unsavory bunch of people, to put it bluntly. There were five women and eight guys enrolled in the class. To say I felt out of place would be putting it mildly, but I came this far and with me there was no backing down. Moving forward had always been my motto even if the circumstances proved to be unfavorable. I still always given it my best try.

To my great joy and surprise, my instructors informed me that I was born to be a trucker as I had a natural talent for backing and docking the trailers. I think the best part of taking the course was showing the guys up. They were all so cocky, after all, they were big strong men, and they felt that their masculinity was so overpowering around us five fragile women, we couldn't even stand it. Boy, were they in for a rude awakening!

A synopsis of the driving school is basically, you learn to inspect your tractor, the trailers, your air lines for your brakes, your tires, and finish with making sure that all your lights are working. When they test you on this, they give you 118 things to check from the front of the tractor (cab) to the end of the trailer. You're allowed nine mistakes. When I started my inspection I carefully watched everything. I had my tire iron in my hand, walking along the side the trailer, doing my inspection as I went along. I was under a lot of pressure because the other four ladies had dropped like flies and I was the only woman to finish the class. Much to the horror of the five guys that had survived, I felt that I had to prove beyond a doubt that it was not only conceivable but a proven fact that a woman could drive with the big boys.

When I got to the back of the trailer I had to get on my knees and check the brakes on the back wheels and check the ICC bumper for lights and tags. The very moment I laid the tire iron down, I realized that I had messed up big time. The purpose of the tire iron is to check the air in all sixteen tires, excluding the front two as you would have certainly noticed if they were flat. As I pushed myself up from the ground, I grabbed hold of the tire iron and started walking back up the side of the trailer, hitting each tire. I wasn't sure that this would suffice, but I had to try. The state trooper looked at me with a smile on his face and commented, “I don't care in what order you do the inspection as long as you do everything. I was truly hoping that I wouldn't have to fail you because of those 18 points.”

It seemed like a very long walk, but when arriving at the front of the rig, he showed me my test scores, and I had missed two things. Now I had to pass the written test and I don't do well on tests, I always felt like they were trying to confuse me, especially if the answer was really simple.

The state trooper was sitting at the front desk and going over the instructions for the written part. There was three parts, and a total of 200 questions. About that time, my instructor Bill, came through the door. He looked me straight in the face and said, “Cheryl, just answer the questions, don't think about them, your first gut reaction, use it.”

The trooper giving the test said, “Bill, get out of here, she's on her on now.

He explained as he backed out the door, “I know, but she always tries to make a mountain out of a molehill, she knows all of it but she over thinks everything.”

As I sat there reading the questions, trying to go with that first reaction, wanting so bad to aces this test, I truly felt that things had gone well.

I stopped, I read, trying to picture this in my head. I thought, “How can this question be answered by the multiple choice that they have given me? There's is no way, let's work it out Cheryl. A trailer has two sides, top and bottom, front and back. The question is, if you have chemicals in your van, and you have to placard your trailer, where are they placed?”

Placards are public notices of hazardous material. They gave me four choices.

A. All four sides

B. Two sides

C. Back and front

D. None of the Above

It had happened, they are trying to trick us. None of these were totally correct. You placard both sides of the trailer as well as the front and back. Being the conscientious person than I am, I felt that it was my place to show them their mistake.

I wrote my answer in this manner, B plus C is the correct answer.

The trooper called me up to his desk, he looked at me and said, “I guess I see what Bill was talking about. Why do you have this question answered with two different answers and written that they total four?”

“Because your question is wrong, it asks if you placard all four sides? Although you use four placard symbols, they are displayed on the front, back and both sides. Since the trailer doesn't have four sides you're choice of A can't be right.”

The officer curtly said, “I have given this test to thousands of people and not one person has ever questioned the choices.

“I guess the only thing I have to say is that, you must have tested an awful lot of people that weren't too bright, because your answer is wrong.”

After a moments hesitation, he looked up and informed me that I was absolutely right. “I can't even believe I am saying this, do you have any idea how much it would cost to change this test?” He reached down, marked the answer correct and said, “You should be very proud of yourself.”

I had just aced the test.

I thanked him profusely and took my seat. Of course, I think my head was about three times larger than when I walked up there. I so wanted to turn around and say, “How many of you asses aced it?”

After we got our diplomas, we met with the companies that wanted to offer us jobs. I chose to go with Schneider International, best known by other trucking companies as the pumpkin drivers because our trucks and trailers were all painted bright orange with black lettering.

When I got to Charlotte, NC, I found out I had another two weeks of training. I had to learn to do their paperwork and use their computers on their trucks to their satisfaction. One of the major things to be tested on would be driving in icy/snowy conditions. Since we were in North Carolina, and it very rarely has those conditions. They use this huge field covered in blacktop and oiled it down. They put you in one of the older tractor-trailers with the instructor. The trailer had a strap on it so that if you lose control, it would only swing 15° and there was no possibility of you jack knifing and rolling the rig.

Even though I can't positively say the instructor did it on purpose, I felt he took all the men first and left his star pupil for last, who just happened to be the only woman.

I climbed into the cab and saw that he was holding a box like contraption. He explained, “Any time during the course of your driving, I can lock up one, two or all four brakes and see how well you control the truck.”

I politely stated, “You didn't lock up any of the guys with all four. Are you planning on doing it to me?”

“No way, why would I do that to you?”

“I can think of several reasons, one of them being that the guys want you to and to see what my reaction would be. They have tried all week to make me mad enough to curse and they have been solely disappointed that they couldn't push me that far.”

“Sorry to disappoint you, Cheryl, but I have no plans to do that. So shall we get started?”

I was instructed to bring the rig up to 35 miles an hour, which I did. It didn't take very long for him to lock up one of my brakes. My reaction time was great, I felt that I had disappointed him. As soon as my speed was back up to 35, he locked all four. Since the cab was very old, we only used lap straps and my shoulder slammed into the door of the truck. The pain was unbelievable, and I let go with the F word.

He casually asked me, “What did you just say?”

“Nothing,” I hissed, trying desperately to cope with the pain and not turning around and knocking the crap out of him. The only satisfaction that he truly enjoyed was me commenting on the fact my arm was really hurting. I added, “Is the test over?”

He said he was sorry that I had hurt my arm, and I should write up a report when I got inside.

I asked him if he was planning on sharing with the group what happened during the test?

“Of course not, it's just between me and you.”

I told him, “That is a smart decision on your part because I would bring you up on harassment charges if you repeated it. I don't mind the fact that you trained me in all phases of what could happen if I was in challenging weather. But to share with those goons so they could just laugh at me. I wouldn't stand still for it.”

He snickered, “Cheryl, calm down and don't get all uptight.”

The next morning we were all assembled in the conference room, where we had a daily meeting. We went over the plans for the day and what teams would drive with the individual instructors. While we were waiting, the instructors came in and went to a separate room. They left the door open about an inch, and I heard my instructor from the previous day tell the group, “You wouldn't believe what she....” At that point, someone closed the door. At this time after hearing his remarks I decided maybe I wasn't cut out to be a truck driver after all. If you had to be a loud mouth jerk, cuss and chew tobacco, I was just in the wrong job.

After we divided up into groups and started out, he turned to me and said, “Are you coming?”

“I heard what you said in your meeting. I decided that I'm not truck driver material, I obviously don't fit in trying to be a nice person, so therefore I 'm calling it quits.”

“Come on, Cheryl, don't be ridiculous. I knew you were listening. I was just yanking your chain. I knew you could handle it and I didn't say anything except how amazed I was at the way you handled yourself when I locked the four brakes. You are a terrific driver and you will thoroughly enjoy cross-country driving, so come on, let's go.”

The same afternoon my instructor told the boss man I was ready to go. Needless to say I was thrilled and was assigned a driving instructor to go on the open road with me. She was mainly there to help me drive and if I got hung up with any deliveries or pickups.

It didn't take but two days for me to realize the only reason that she became a driving instructor was so she could sit on her fat buns and brag about the fact she had an intern. Three days into my week with her, we pulled into a truck stop to fuel, shower, catch up with the log books and eat a hot meal. We had just sat down and ordered our meal, and I was working on my log. She had been chitchatting with some other drivers, when all of a sudden turns to me and tells me in no uncertain terms that I was to run out to the truck and retrieve her log book.

I looked up at her like she had three heads, and with great authority I told her, “Do I really look like your slave? I have no intentions of going after your log book.”

Of course I had embarrassed her, as she had just been sharing all her tales about other interns she had and every one was having a good laugh about people they didn't even know.

“It would not be smart of you to take that stance, Cheryl.”

“Of course, you have your own opinion. I'm here to tell you that when I get through talking to Charlotte and the powers that be, you will be very lucky to still have a job. I'm calling in now. If you have anything to say to them, I suggest that you follow me to the phones.” Which she did.

After I gave my version of what happened the last three days and had given the company no option except to bring me in, they asked me to let her speak. I handed her the phone. She informed them that I was doing a excellent job and was ready to be cut loose. They ordered us back to the Operation Center in Charlotte.

After receiving my own truck, it was truly awesome to be out of the road with no one in the truck with me. I had a computer keyboard that they could contact me with information concerning the shipments and pickups. They would tell me the date the company wanted the truck there. I would tell them if it was possible for me to do it. I never drove illegally, and my company knew that was my policy and I wouldn't break it.

The first few months on the road, I learned a lot of new things. I was driving through Denver, Colorado one afternoon right at five o'clock. I was stopped at a traffic light, and something caught my eye. I looked down to see what was happening. Much to my surprise, a man was sitting there in his pickup truck with nothing on but his cowboy boots. I was very concerned for him, not because he was pleasuring himself so well but the fact that he was so well-endowed. It was sort of wrapped around and in the steering wheel. I was truly afraid that something might happen, and he would break it off.

I quickly put my eyes forward, and patiently waited for the green light, without looking down again.

I was to find out over the coming years that this is not a strange encounter, that it occurs quite often and sitting so high up in the cab was like having a front row seat at a sporting event.

I think my favorite one was when I was traveling on Interstate 10 in Arizona, where there is absolutely nothing out there but desert. On my CB radio I heard all the truckers talking about it fixing to be the next trucker's turn. This continued until all of a sudden I heard, “Schneider, it's your turn.” referring to my company's name on the trailer.

Just about that time a huge black rig pulled up next to me in the fast lane. Of course I looked up to see what everyone was talking about. This lady was on her knees in the passenger seat and just as she got to my driver's window, she yanked her blouse open, to show me her boobs. The look on her face was priceless when she saw it was another woman. She quickly shut her blouse.

Since I truly believed it wasn't a Kodak moment, I picked up by mike and responded with, “If I didn't have any more than that, I certainly wouldn't be showing them to the world.” Of course that just got me in more trouble as the truckers behind me all wanted to catch up and see what they were missing.

I totally enjoyed being a trucker.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

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