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And now for something completely different

February 25, 2010

Hi All,

It’s been a while since I’ve published anything, I’ve been a little busy you see. As you know, I had been looking for a job in my field for a few months and my particular industry is dryzabone so to speak. I’ve had some interviews here and there, but nothing came of them. It’s frustrating to say the least, that my full time job is looking for a job. It’s frustrating that a couple hundred or more of my colleagues in my industry have been laid off recently and are in a pickle. It’s frustrating that things do not seem to be getting better. I’m sure they will eventually and my message to my friends out there who are still employed – do what you have to do to keep that job, even if you’re miserable. Just tough it out.

I’ve been trying to balance the job search with trying to make the most out of the time I have available. Trying to balance being responsible with a little self indulgence. Even though I’ve been unemployed (by choice for the first few months) for over a year now, it’s been one of the most enjoyable and growth years ever. I’ve traveled, spent quality time with friends and developed those relationships and learned all sorts of new things.

I’ve relearned web site development, learned some new networking technologies and social media, discovered that I like to write, and started blogging. Because of a friend I learned all about dyslexia and attended a teaching workshop on the subject which was fascinating. I acquired an appreciation for the simpler things and I find particular satisfaction in just letting things happen around me rather than trying to control everything. I thrive on putting myself into unfamiliar surroundings and situations that lead to meeting new people, seeing new sights, and living new experiences, good or bad. That’s pretty neat.

I’ve realized that things don’t have to be the way they’ve always been. I don’t have to make gobs of money. I don’t have to work so much that I have no life. What’s the point?

Last summer, I was browsing the internet and I started to wonder what it would be like to get into something completely different. If I’m not an engineer/manager, then what am I?

When I left my last job, everyone asked what I was going to do after my European road trip. “Why, I’m gonna be a paramedic” I said to one. To another I said “I’m going to go skipper the ferry boats across the lagoon at Disney World”. Ice road trucker, professional black jack player, and border patrol agent were among the others that I mentioned. I really liked the ferry boat skipper at Disney World idea and even looked into it. I would have to get a 100 ton master’s license though and that’s an expensive and time consuming endeavor. Oh well.

As I browsed the internet that night, one click led to another and another and one thing kept begging my attention. I kept seeing help wanted adds for truck drivers. Well huh. Truck driver. I do so love the open road. The name of my blog is Wanderer. Duuuuhhhh! “Yeah, I can see that” I said to myself. So, I started researching it. It was a Friday night I remember because I wanted to call recruiters at some of the trucking companies, but they were closed and I’d have wait till Monday. So, I spent the weekend researching, checking out company web sites, trucker blogs and whatever else I could find.

After investigating companies including Schneider, Interstate, JB Hunt, Werner, and others, I had pretty much settled on CR England based out of Salt Lake City, they drive nationally and haul mostly refrigerated trailers (reefers). They have their own school that lasts for about nine weeks and then you go to work for them. It looked like a pretty neat deal. I found plenty of bad press about themthough, and other companies, but most of it was from obviously disgruntled and bitter individuals with poor grammar making ridiculous claims such as the company let them go when they discovered those three DUI convictions even though they were more than ten years ago. Jeez.

Anyway, I was all set to contact them first thing Monday morning and a friend mentioned that she knew a guy way back that drove for Swift Transport and was pretty happy with them. So, I started checking them out. I was surprised they had not shown up in my original searches, they’re only the largest trucking company in the country for crying out loud.

Good press and plenty of bad press too, mostly from those same losers described above. But something clicked and I liked what I saw. They have their own school that you attend and they will give you a 0% loan to cover the tuition. After you graduate from school, get your CDL and complete the six week over the road training program with a Swift driver, you become a solo company driver and they issue you a truck. The company will pay your school tuition over the next two years.

So I talked with the Swift recruiter on Monday and I had to fill out an app and they had to do a background check on me. The first step was to get my Commercial Driver Instruction Permit. So I went to the DMV and picked up the CDL book and started studying. Swift provided course materials and exams on their web site as well and a few days later, I went to the DMV and took the general knowledge, air brakes and combination vehicles exams and passed with flying colors.

Swift has five schools around the country and the closest one to me is Lewiston, ID, so off I went in early fall. School lasted three solid weeks, 5:00am – 4:00pm EVERY day with assignments and study at night. I passed the academy tests and the WA state tests and I had my CDL. It was an awesome experience and I made new friends.

Then came orientation at the Swift terminal in Sumner, WA, my home terminal. I was assigned my mentor/trainer and we went out over the road for the next six weeks, that too, was a fantastic experience and I learned lots.

So, now, I’m an over the road trucker; a long haul truck driver; I’m driving the big rig; an 18 wheeler; and I’m having a ball.

I’ll be publishing my truck driving school and six week OTR experiences in separate posts, so stay tuned. Special thanks to my friends and family, most of whom thought I was nuts at first, but who were still supportive and encouraging.

Cheers,
Maggie

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