Thursday, October 8, 2009

Back in the Saddle Again

Well, I got the OK to go back to work next Monday after a nearly three week hiatus. Funny how a pretty minor illness can set you back for so long. I could learn to like this not having the phone ringing all the time. Trouble is; there's no income in it (no paid sick time in my world) and the bills keep coming.

For anyone who doesn't know, I run freight trains for a living and have been at it for a decade or so. Going back to the grind is a little easier because I happen to really like what I do even though I pretty much hate the baggage that goes with it. On the one hand, I'm away from home a lot and spend too much precious time when I am here listening for my cell to ring, trying to figure when it will and how to get some sleep before it does. The job demands constant attention and even though it pays pretty well, I often wonder if it's worth the cost.

On the other hand, the work in some ways 'suits me' as my wife terms it. I've always had a ball working on or around big, heavy machines going all the way back to my farm-kid days on tractors and combines when I was in high school. Those seemed pretty huge back then but unless I switch gears again and go into something in the maritime trades, this is about as big as it's going to get. I can't see me starting my seniority over again at this stage of the game so I'm thinking this is where I'll stay. The ships will have to sail on without me.
It's enough of a challenge for me to run the monsters I'm on now anyway. I'm not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer sometimes and I really have to think about what I'm doing. I guess that's why there's a great deal of personal satisfaction in handling a train over a tough run and getting it pretty close to right.

It's also a profession with a past and so it falls into my fascination with times gone by. The craft of Engineer carries much history, tradition and pride with it and I feel fortunate to have earned the right to hang the title after my name. There's a long line behind me and I sometimes wonder if they felt the same way.
Having that present-day link to something that extends 150 years to it's beginnings also has a certain appeal to it which helps keep me answering the phone at three in the morning. The money's good but it'd be tough for me to make a whole career out of nothing but a salary.
The railroads go back a long way and I know of quite a few guys who spend more time researching the heritage of the major carriers than they do their own genealogy. The books, films, websites and mass of information out there is pretty much beyond comprehension. I'm not that interested but the fact that it's there, following along like a long train is something to think about.

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