That Time In Iowa

In 2015, my husband and I were both exhausted with our jobs. I was doing marketing at a tech startup that claimed to be “changing the way consumers consumed content forever”. After working with them for 8 months, phrases like “fake it til we make it” and “we’re in it to win it, no matter the cost” we’re fluent in our daily pow-wows. One day, they asked me to do something extremely unethical, I said no. When I showed up to work the next day, my badge no longer worked. Guess I was no longer an employee? I tried to file unemployment, and they made it look like I had no called, no showed for a few days, so “had” to fire me. Needless to say, after a few strikes looking for another full-time gig, I was exhausted with multiple interviews and processes it took to work in the flawed fast-paced world of technology startups.

At the time, my husband was working in nursing and tired of working 12+ hour shifts on his feet. He had been a medic in the army, and tired of the changes in health and patient care. He was also exhausted with office politics. We started looking for something to do together and downsize our lives. He suggested trucking. He grew up riding in the truck with his grandfather during summers. I said why not? So, we started at a trucking school in Phoenix and put our house up for sale shortly after. Once we finished school, the truck would be our new home. Random hotels would be our refuge.

After the 4 week course, he went onto his externship with a company in Springfield, MO with a trainer. My experience wasn’t so good. Two weeks into the school, and two weeks too late to cancel, after we both got our permits, they called me into the office and told me I had to sign off on an expensive in-house loan to finish. They told me I had exhausted my student loans because of my Undergraduate and Graduate degrees, and couldn’t finish the course. I said no and walked out. I never told my husband why I had troubles my first day trying to back the truck up. He just thought I couldn’t handle it. He didn’t understand that I wasn’t just an emotional girl learning something new. He didn’t think that I had never been around a semi truck let alone outside an office for work. It was a whole new world for me. When really I just needed a hug because I just had this huge blowout with the school, was told I couldn’t finish classes past that day unless I signed a loan with a higher than normal percentage rate. I couldn’t cancel otherwise I’d pay for it. I couldn’t finish because I refused to sign the paperwork. I was expected to just go back and learn how to parallel park a tractor-trailer after being told this was the first bump in the road to a new way of life? All he could do at that time, was go on without me.

I stormed off campus that day without my husband and picked him up later. I didn’t go back to that school. My husband finished and went to Springfield without me. I stayed behind with nowhere to live because the house sold. I’m still surprised to this day, with the way I was treated by everyone around me, I didn’t walk away for good.  I took a few days off to mope around after he left, moved into my moms and decided to start at another trucking school and finally got my CDL. (I’d highly recommend Southwest Truck Driver Training if you’re in Phoenix or Vegas).

Once finished, and after a few more struggles, I met up with my husband and rode along with him after he finished his training. The company he worked with wouldn’t let husbands train wives, so we decided to go to work for a small trucking company near Davenport, Iowa. Their recruiter made all sorts of promises to us. One of the promises was a female trainer for me. Most other companies would require me to go out with a stranger for months to do my externship. This company claimed they required females to go out with other females for a two-week training, then my husband could finish my training. And then go back out with her for another few weeks to see how I was doing. Sounded like a great opportunity to us. So, we dropped everything and drove to Iowa.

After the two-day orientation, they gave my husband a load to San Francisco while I waited in the parking lot for my trainer to arrive. It was Friday afternoon, and the office people started to go home, while I sat in the parking lot. After sitting most of Friday in their parking lot, some guy in safety finally gave me keys to the truck we’d be riding in. I put all my belongings and sat there. Hours later, the trainer never showed. I was stuck all weekend in their yard sleeping in the truck. Just a vending machine for food that didn’t take cards and it was January in Iowa. I was completely unsure where the hell I was, and afraid to leave the truck in case she came. Late Sunday night, she finally got there. She immediately started to throw a fit with the truck they wanted us to share for two weeks while we were training.

That was only the beginning of her temper tantrum.

Everything was a fight with this lady. No professionalism at all. She kept telling me she had no shame in leaving me somewhere if I didn’t work out. She was talking a mile a minute and frankly, scaring the hell out of me. This was my firsthand experience with someone in the trucking industry other than school. Needless to say, she didn’t leave a good impression. Eventually, after hours of this girl complaining, she finally looked at me and said good luck to you, but I won’t be training you. She took off with the load we were supposed to do and left me in the parking lot. Once again, I was alone until Monday morning. I felt relieved and pissed at the same time.

Monday morning, the office people listened to my story. Half a day later, there were no other female trainers, so they gave me a check for $50 and told me to go home. They also told me I might be able to ride on the truck with my husband after their 3 month winter driving policy was over, until then, I had to go home. But we didn’t have a home to go to.

I left, got a hotel room for a few nights with the help of my mom, and waited until my husband got back from his load. Then he quit. I’ve never seen him so mad. They made all these promises and knew we lived on the truck full-time. Yet didn’t care one way or another. It was one of the worst weekends of my life.

We took a big chance leaving one company for another to get me trained, we never thought it would be such an issue. We went through several companies after that too. All different stories, promises, and lies from recruiters. I got the impression they wanted my husband as a driver and would say anything to get him to orientation. But didn’t want the hassle of training me. At that point, I was tired of fighting just to finish being trained for a new career in a industry I didn’t even like. I was starting to resent selling our house, leaving my home state, and leaving the marketing world. I was beginning to resent my husband for doing something new that he was  obviously so good at and enjoyed. It was a test to our strength as a couple we’re still together today. I never wanted to be a quitter, but I’ve never hated an industry as much as trucking. Marketing had betrayed me, but trucking was giving me a fast introduction to how difficult things would be from now on. I’ve never had it easy in life, but I’ve never had so many road blocks either. It took me everything not to get in the car and drive back to Phoenix.

At the end of the day, huge lesson learned. Don’t trust what the trucking recruiter tells you, they lie. Always have at least a months worth of money in your pocket when you go to a new company, and don’t let anyone give you shit. My introduction to trucking taught me how to fight. It taught me to fight for my relationship, that nothing is wrong with being a smart, educated, female. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to be a part of this industry, one that continuously made me feel like I didn’t belong. Strangely enough, it showed me just how strong I am. To say fuck you to anyone who wouldn’t take the time to listen or thought I was just acting like an emotional girl. I thought fighting with women playing mind games in an office was tough, I didn’t realize what fighting for a place in an industry that doesn’t exactly welcome newcomers and known for chewing people up and spitting them out was like.

Eventually, my husband trained me and we ran as a team for a few years. Looking back, I’m still not sure why women have to have such negative experiences in this industry, but some do. I’ve met several women along the way and most have had a similar experience or worse. I’ve also met women that think women like me don’t belong in trucking. I think there is a piece of this industry for everyone as long as you’re willing. I laugh at women who try to make other women feel inferior. We should all be working together, not against. We should be willing to raise the bar in an industry that doesn’t give a shit if you live or die delivering a load. Life is hard enough without that bullshit.

The last year or so, we run more like a super solo truck, and I’ve also taken a few weeks off the road here and there while my husband is still out there. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and have arthritis in my knees from a past career in cosmetology early this year, so driving long distances is harder on my body than it needs to be. Changes in sleep and stress also play a role in my wellbeing which anyone in trucking knows these are just a part of the job. I’m willing to admit I’m not strong enough to be out there anymore. I have nothing left to prove. I don’t want to fight anymore.

I thought I’d share my experience so others can learn from my struggles, to prepare in case of a fight. I’ve always moved forward even if I don’t feel comfortable in a field or industry, I’ve always finished the job. Even if the circumstances were less than ideal. I’m currently re-evaluating my role in the trucking industry. My husband wants me out there with him, some weeks he doesn’t. It’s a fun dance packing and unpacking. I play with idea of going back to marketing daily and welcome freelance work whenever the opportunity arises. I’ve never felt as if trucking was 100% fit for me, but I have a new respect for those who do it. I needed a break from the real world and trucking allowed me to forgive those people in that office that did me dirty. It taught me its okay to sacrifice my career and not do something unethical. It also taught me I will not sacrifice my relationship for a job, how far people will go for each other, and how to rely on the one person that’s sitting next to you during all of it. Years later, I’m still learning about the two industries. But also about myself. Writing helps. Always has. So thank you for reading and keep sharing your stories with me, even if in private. I appreciate your stories and want to hear more of them.

Tell me, have you ever given up everything and learned a huge lesson on the other end? Tell me your story in the comments or in a private message. I want to learn from your struggles too.

Categories Personal, Trucking tips

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