Port St Lucie, Florida
America is a month away from mid-term elections.
Questions, issues, opinions swirl. Billboards have sprouted – take back America. On satellite radio’s Road Dog Trucking, the mantra is “remember November.” Truckers, who by and large seem to have no real health insurance coverage – especially if they have no spouse with employer-offered heath insurance – overwhelmingly want to “stop Obamacare.”
Will the Democrats lose ground? Will the Tea Party gain ground? What is really happening to the economy? Is the Happy Talk true? Is there a disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street? Can the middle-class make a comeback? Why are real people avoiding the stock market? What is the true State of the Nation?
We’ve come to the conclusion that air freight has sheltered us from the wild, wide world of trucking. We pick up and deliver near airports, when waiting on loads we stay mostly at company terminals. The warehouses load the trailers, we usually hook them up sealed. There are no truck stop lunch stops.
When we drove for Schneider we rarely saw the same shipper and receiver twice in the same year. I talked to people at the guard shacks, employees and managers on the docks, drivers in the waiting rooms. We waited to deliver and pick up and showered at truck stops. We traveled back roads and had time on loads to stop for an hour to eat in a local restaurant.
Are my fellow airfreight drivers a microcosm of the feelings in America today? Have the Democrats managed one success, spreading disenchantment evenly across the country.
The parking lot is jammed with rumbling tractors, drivers are waiting.
Here are some of the conversations swirling around me.
Conversation 1: A husband and wife team have been running hard for almost three months, avoiding downtime because they owe the company money. They’ve had debilitating equipment problems, drained their savings and were forced to borrow from the company to make repairs. They are in their early 60s and need income. Their son-in-law died a few months ago, leaving small children.
Wife: I’m so tired. I haven’t seen my grand girls in weeks. I don’t feel like we can turn down any load. We’re repaying $1,250 a week.
Me: How are you doing on expenses?
Wife: I can’t afford to buy the things they say you’re supposed to eat, fruit and vegetables. It’s too much money. We eat cheap.
Conversation 2: Driver comments that he’s in favor of Arizona’s new law to fight illegal immigration.
1st Driver: I was in construction and now I’m a driver because I need a job. It was the housing, it got overbuilt because the Mexicans work for cheap.
2nd Driver: They’re taking American jobs.
1st Driver: They work for almost nothing so people kept building houses. We need to get rid of the cheap labor.
Conversation 3: A driver, who tells me later that 12 years is enough and he’s tired of being away from home, is both praising Warren Buffett and slamming him. He’s in awe of the man’s money making ability but saddened by the fact that Buffett is a “commie.”
Me: He’s not a communist. He’s a Democrat.
Him: Same thing.
Me: It’s not. Are conservatives Fascists?
Him: (After a moment of silence, thinking about the word fascist) He’s got all that money but he’s not helping America.
Me: He gave most of his fortune away a few years ago.
Him: No he didn’t. That’s a different Buffett. It’s not the same person.
Me: Yes he did. He donated much of it to Bill Gates’s foundation.
Him: Gates does that kind of thing, but it’s not the same Buffett.
I did not pursue this. Had I had my iPad with me I could have said, which source would you like, we can Google it right now!
Conversation 4: Later with my iPad.
Driver: Can you look up the United Communist Party of America?
Driver: Obama’s picture is there.
Conversation 5: A group of drivers are discussing a fellow driver who died recently in his van in the parking lot, on his birthday at 63 of a heart attack, leaving a family, which included a teenager.
Male Driver 1: I want to die at home or close to home.
Male Driver 2: Our time’s our time, there’s little choice in where.
Female Driver 1: I don’t want to be a burden to anyone. If I can’t look after myself I want to be able to do something about it. I don’t want to hang on.
Female Driver 2: I don’t worry about that, I’ve taken care of it. When it’s my time, I’m going to do everything that everyone told me all my life that I shouldn’t do. One of them will take care of it.
Conversation 6: Two late 60-ish, long-time truckers talking about cellphones.
Driver 1: As soon as that iPhone comes out on Verizon, I’m getting me one.