Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Small Town Bullshit. Big City Nothing.

Last week, Ed read me this story about a trucker who came out to his truck to find a note taped to the windshield of the truck next to him.  Curiosity got the better of the trucker and after he read it, was so pissed he photographed it and published it on Facebook.  It has since gone as viral as it could go in the trucking world.

Our first load after coming back from Montreal went to Beulah, North Dakota.  Located in the western part of the state, equal distance from Dickinson and Bismarck, its community website bills it as a place with "Small Town Appeal.  Big City Looks."

We never go to North Dakota.  Not because we have anything against North Dakota, but because there's never any freight coming out of there.  Oh, you can get all kinds of stuff going there - especially up in the area of Williston and Watford City, where they're fracking the hell out of the earth - but in most situations, a load to North Dakota means being stranded for days while looking for something back to civilization.

We were supposed to deliver on Friday, then pick up a load out of there that same day.  That meant great money (it pays to go to North Dakota), and no waiting around for another load.  Then the agent called and pushed the load to Monday.  OK, we thought, at least we still have something out and won't be completely stranded.  We'd just ride bikes over the weekend.  How bad could it be?

To say there's nothing going on in Beulah, North Dakota would be an understatement.  One main drag, one grocery store, one department store and no national chain restaurants of any kind.  Unless you consider a Subway inside a gas station a restaurant. 

The Dakota Gasification Company is the town's largest employer and is listed under "Tourist Attractions" on the city website.  That should tell you something.

he weather was pleasant - warm but with a nice, constant, cool breeze - and we discovered they had a pool, which was great because Ed wanted to do laps.  And the charge for the lap pool was only $3.00.  Can't beat that, so we put it on our (very short) list of things to do.
That first night we parked in the Shopko parking lot after getting permission from the store manager to do so.  With the exception of some very strong semi-whistling winds, it was extremely quiet and our only neighbors were the cows in the field across the street.
The next morning we woke up, had breakfast, checked emails and got ready to head to the pool.  We swam laps for an hour, headed back to the truck and then drove into town to go bike riding.  The girl at the pool mentioned something about a bike trail.

It was Saturday and the town was deserted.  A few cars on the main drag, but most of the businesses (banks, law offices, etc.) were closed.  We found a spot at the end of town to accommodate the truck, tucked ourselves against the curb (making sure we were between the yellow lines) and proceeded to get the bikes out of the side box.

That's when we had a little run-in with local law enforcement. 

Ed was assembling the bikes when I came out of the sleeper and saw him talking to a police officer holding a ticket book.  Are you kidding me??  I walked up and said, "What's going on?"  That's when officer
Travis Watson said, "I'm going to have to give you a $50 citation." 

I know I didn't hear him correctly, because I'm sure I looked at him like he had three heads and most certainly said, "Are you fucking kidding me??" 

OK, I didn't really say that.  Because for once, I bit the front half of my tongue off, swallowed it, and instead of cursing at him, I took a breath.  I thought it was probably best not to get all bitch-ass crazy on one of the four cops in a town of 3,000 people.  Four cops, but fourteen churches.  Go figure.

What actually came out of my mouth, as calmly as I could muster, and with the sarcasm dialed down a few notches was, "Seriously??"

"Yep." he said.  "You can't park here."

He was serious.  He was honestly going to write us a ticket for being LEGALLY parked.  I was confused.

We had scoured the city for signs and even checked their website.  This wasn't our first rodeo in a small town.  Or in a truck.  Or in a truck in a small town.  We know the drill.  FIFTY dollars??  Can you say crooked revenue collection system?

I told him we didn't see any signs, that in fact, there were no parking signs of any kind let alone ones addressing commercial vehicles, and that there was nothing about parking ordinances on the town website.  That caused a look of confusion on his face, as if he didn't even know they had a town website.  He seemed flustered and again repeated that it was a city ordinance.  Yeah, okay.  I know you keep saying that, but where do I find that information??  Also, as if he was trying to show us he wasn't really the bad guy, he kept saying that it was his boss who told him he had to issue us a ticket.  Oh, reeealllly?

After talking to him for a while and explaining that we absolutely, positively could not get a ticket, that we have special clearances, that the company would frown upon it, he finally acquiesced and said he'd just give us a warning.  A written warning.  Oh no, no, no.  Hell, no.  I don't want anything written.  Not with our names, not with our truck number, not with our license plate or CDL information. 

Between Ed and I, we have 24 years driving experience and have logged over 2,400,000 miles.  That's TWO MILLION FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND miles.  No tickets, no accidents.  Our livelihood is directly tied to our driving record and we do everything in our power to protect it.

"If you want to warn us," I told him, "can't you just say you'll let it go this time?  I mean, we've never been here before.  Now we know we can't park on the street."  He didn't seem to like that idea.  He really wanted to write that ticket. 

"That's just really not cool." I said.  "I can't believe you want to write us a fifty dollar ticket.  We're still with the vehicle.  We could leave right now."

He then looked at Ed and said, "Look, I'm not trying to be a dickhead here..."

He actually said that.  I must say though, he was nice, and polite, and he did utilize his Podunk manners and prefaced the dickhead comment with, "Excuse me for saying this in front of a lady."

If Ed weren't standing right there, I would have said, "But you ARE being a dickhead.  A HUGE one." 

My "lady" would have gone right out the window. 

And because he kept saying we were in violation parking a commercial vehicle on a city street, Ed wanted to leave right away.  'Ol Travis still had an itchy ticket-writing finger and it was only a matter of time before he was going to give in and start filling in the blanks like one of those of those Mad Libs books - "name of man on street", "noun", "criminal offense", "action word", "number", "favorite color", "verb ending with -ing".

At that moment, the cop saw one of his friends across the way, and ran into the middle of the street trying to catch up with him, "Keith!  Wait up.  Hey, Keith!" 

Um, hello??  Am I just supposed to stand here while you socialize with your buddies, or are you done with us?  As he was running, he yelled back to us over his shoulder, "You're free to go!"

Uh, yeah.  We kinda got that.  Ed got in the truck, started it up and left me standing there with the bikes.  I was pissed.

The thing that annoys me about this is that we, meaning Ed and I, make a supreme effort to be considerate about where we park.  We don't block driveways, we don't park in front of open businesses, we don't take up spots in the front of a store parking lot.  Our truck is neat and clean at all times and we don't ever leave any debris or garbage behind.  In this particular case, we wanted a paved area to unload the bikes rather than having to take everything out in the dirt lot we saw on the way in, the same one the cop told us about when Ed had to move the truck.

The whole truck parking situation, all over the country, is a real problem.  They're closing rest areas, they're utilizing space in truck stops to install natural gas pumps, and cities and towns all over America are banning trucks from parking on their streets.  Warner Robins, GA was the most recent city to deal with the backlash their ban unleashed, and even truck drivers getting killed don't seem to underscore the importance of safe parking.

Just last night I had to wake a guy in a rest area for him to move his truck because the place was so full, the way he was parked made it impossible for me to get out.  Walmart is notorious for not allowing truckers to park in their lots - even though they have plenty of room and they allow RVs and other large vehicles - and malls are typically a no-go.  For us, ramps and right-of-ways are off limits, a condition upon which our lease can be cancelled.

But when you come across a town like this, really in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but land and sky as far as the eye can see and less people than you'd find in a major city mall, you don't think parking would be such a big deal.  In fact, we get hassled less in crowded cities like Chicago, New Jersey, or Seattle than we do on the vacant city streets of a place like Beulah.

I don't appreciate, when bringing business to a city - in this case, delivering to a plant that employs over 24% of the town - being treated in a second-class manner, or what in the very least seems to be an insidious attempt to generate revenue from people unfamiliar with UNPOSTED laws and ordinances.  If it weren't for drivers like us bringing the materials and equipment needed for these plants and mines to function, there wouldn't be any employment for them.

Take a look at
this pageThe last sentence on the page says, "Be prepared to stay as you will see why our progressive merchants expand on Main Street and new business continues to look at relocating or expanding into the city."

I wonder if they mean businesses like the abandoned car dealership that anchors the east end of the 874 yards that makes up Main Street?

When we have downtime in a place like this, even though our truck is self-contained and we can eat all our meals in it, we like to check out a local eatery or coffee shop.  We also like to take care of whatever chores we can - grocery shopping, laundry, post office.

After our interaction with Officer Watson, we decided to put off doing all of those things.  I even had Ed return the items he purchased at the Shopko.  Besides the $3 they got for our laps at the pool, I wasn't inclined to give this town any more of our hard-earned money.

Ed likes to joke about me being an activist, trying to stick up for all the crap drivers in our industry have to deal with.  I'm not an activist, but I do think it's important to stick up for yourself, especially in a situation like this where every effort to follow the letter of the law had been made.

The right thing for the cop to do would have been to approach us and inform us of the ordinance, asking us to please move.  But instead, he came with ticket book flying, telling us he was dinging us for fifty bucks right off the bat. 

Uh-uh.  That just doesn’t fly with me. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2012: She’s Political Coming And Going And Doesn’t Even Know It
2011: Old As She Was, She Still Missed Her Daddy Sometimes
2010: Crafty Little Bugger
2009: Beauty For A Buck
2008: What My Thoughts Sound Like When Left Uncensored And Ultimately, Formed Into Words
2007: New York Style
2006: I.H.O.P.G.
2005: Sorry, no post on this day.


Gil said...

Abandoned Olds Dealer because no more Olsmobiles:

If you need a place to park up here you can park in my yard. If it is too wet I have a friend where you can park the trailer.

Your friends over at New York City Truckers have been writing about the crazy new rules too. I commented on one of her recent posts that the new rules for your profession recently made our local news. The reporter even mentioned that it was a problem as more parking spots are needed and parking spots are being closed down instead of being opened up.

Belledog said...

Is North Dakota in the rear view mirror yet?

RE the Landline (?) article re parking restrictions: can understand truckers grousing to each other, but think some well-reasoned trucker letters to the editors of local papers might work wonders. As many local papers as you and your road colleagues care to write to.

Spell out how much a trucker spends on gas, food, lodging, supplies.

Describe yourself as a hard-working independent small businessperson, family member, courteous driver, whatever.

Personalize yourselves beyond a creature who would leave a pee bottle in a parking lot or entertain a lot lizard. Or be a serial killer.

Cuz that's the public perception of OTR drivers. Employment of last resort.


Most people don't know a trucker, and the idea that a human, with human needs, drives that behemoth needs explaining.

You and Marlaina are doing a great job publicizing the lack of adequate rest areas.

The Daily Rant said...

GIL: On the other side of the building it said “Chevrolet”. The point I’m trying to make, is that Main Street isn’t “thriving”. Also, it’s not so much the parking issue in this particular situation as it was the intent to immediately issue a $50 ticket. Secondary to that was the fact that in a town with ample parking and hardly any people, we were still asked to move. It’s annoying.

BELLEDOG: Yes, we’re outta North Dakota! And you’re right about the letter writing. I want to do it all over the place. I actually drafted a letter to the mayor of this town. I wish more truckers WOULD write letters. But instead, they bitch on Facebook (or like me, on their blogs) and don’t actually send a letter EVERY SINGLE TIME something like this happens. Nowhere North Dakota isn’t as much of a problem as places where there is a ton of truck traffic and no parking. And while Walmart and Target and mall parking lots sit empty overnight, drivers are stressing over where to stop. It’s not so much a problem for us – because we’re self-contained, we can park absolutely anywhere we can get the truck into. But for Marlaina, and others like her, they need at least a restroom if not food and other amenities. Something has to be done.

Gil said...

Salena, I figured out that it was a "cow town" as my Bronx relatives called where I live. The parking restrictions are crazy. They should buy you a coffee to welcome you to town!

The Daily Rant said...

GIL: Yep, a "cow town" for sure! I'd take a coffee over a ticket any day!

Anonymous said...


I agree with your frustration regarding the lack of truck parking and specifically the lack of any posted information that would have directed you. However, the cop was only doing the job that he took a sworn oath to do. Your anger should be directed at the town managers and the citizens that elected them and not the young cop who is just doing his job like you and Ed do everyday. Remember, this is the same guy that WILL run towards gunshots to help protect you and your family if ever needed.

I'm not trying to be a jerk, but I've noticed over the years that you can be a little harsh on the LE types. As much as the public likes to stereotype Truckers, you sometimes do the same to law enforcement. Easy on them.

I'm glad you liked the Grace Potter. Have you tried Ruthie Foster? Drive safe!

The Daily Rant said...

I agree that a cop has a job to do, and many people are happy they're out there doing that job.

But, I'd also say the job of any cop involves making judgement calls based on the challenges they're presented with.

In this case, instead of approaching us with "I'm going to have to issue you a $50 citation." - for parking on a street in a town where there is ABSOLUTELY NO INFORMATION AVAILABLE regarding this "ordinance", if it even exists - he could have just said, "Hey, we don't let commercial vehicles park on the street, we offer parking down by the XYZ for trucks." and asked us to please move, we would have gladly done so. And which we ultimately did anyway.

But instead, he hid behind the power of "his boss" who he claimed was the one ordering him to issue a ticket, rather than being reasonable and asking us to move first.

I know you're not trying to be a jerk, and I'm not taking it that way, but I'd like to know where "over the years" I've been harsh on law enforcement? Can you be more specific?

PS: I don't know Ruthie Foster, but I'll look into it! Thanks for your comment and I'll definitely drive safe!

Ed said...

We both respect the police and the various authority figures around the USA. After all I am a former Marine and I know first hand how important it is to have people in place to prevent catastrophes. However, they are still people, uniform or not, and they have rules to follow just like the rest of us. In the few cases where Salena has complained about different authority figures, she has been pointing out the ridiculous regulations that even the police would agree are ridiculous and how unfortunate it is that the tax paying law abiding public are subjected to these regulations. We want fair law enforcement along with the ability to be free to travel OUR country. My hat is off to all law enforcement and military as they protect us every day from the ills in the world. Just don't write me a ticket to generate revenue which will possibly cost me my job just because I want to park on a street that isn't marked properly. That is just plain wrong.

Anonymous said...

Just watching the commercial I know the entire show is a load of bullshit. Seeing the dumbfuck pretending to swing a hammer like he knows what the fuck he is doing is so stupid.