There Goes Another Fantasy
Now and then, a fantasy pops into my mind about a new place to go, a new career to explore, or a new way of spending my time.
It's been a curse and a blessing my whole life; no sooner do I start a new project or move to a new city, then I begin to fantasize about other projects, cities, or careers. It's a psychological coping mechanism that I learned at an early age, and it has both helped and hindered me ever since.
One of my favorite pastimes is driving across America. There is something about the American West in particular that makes me feel like anything is possible. On the road - especially on back roads - I feel like I could meet someone fascinating at any moment, discover a wonderful town, or have some kind of incredible experience. A new and more rewarding life is always just around the corner.
During COVID, I drove across country twice, once with my son, who accompanied me to Yellowstone park, and once on my own, for a ridiculously quick winter getaway to an Airbnb in Santa Fe. I had a great time.
On one of those trips, I spent a lot of time sleeping in truck stops. It was too cold to sleep outside, and I was worried about getting COVID in a motel.
Looking at those huge transportation machines parked for the night, I began to fantasize about a new life as a trucker. I'd recently quit my job in academia after 21 years, and was trying to reimagine life at 55. Perhaps I could get a commercial license and spend at least part of my working life on the open road? Listening to podcasts, singing along with music from the 80s, and spending long hours chatting on the phone with friends?
I even went so far as to search online and write a few emails to trucking schools near Minneapolis, asking for the details of obtaining a commercial license. (I didn't act on anything, of course - that's the whole point of this kind of daydreaming).
Today, I read a New York Times article that killed my trucking fantasy for good, "How Life as a Trucker Devolved into a Dystopian Nightmare." Life as a trucker in America, it seems, has become nasty, even abusive. The turnover rate in the profession is a whopping 91%; few people stay in trucking for very long. Why? The unions have been busted, the pay is low, waiting times are not reimbursed, the hours are too long, and there is so much electronic surveillance that drivers feel they are living in a science-fiction nightmare.
Misery in the trucking profession helps explains the protests in Canada, as well as many of the supply chain issues the US has been experiencing this year. It also explains why there were so many commercial driving schools near Minneapolis offering great deals and "guaranteed" work when I went searching online.
To survive, I guess, most fantasies should remain unexplored.