By Joe Rector

I’m back in the workforce for a week now. Admittedly, adjusting to working as many as 10 hours a day is tough, but getting up isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, having a schedule by which to go is something I like…sort of.

This job is a perfect fit for me because I don’t have to think; instead, my duties are to drive a vehicle from Point A to Point B. My skill set includes the ability to do that. Some of the time is spent riding in a van with other co-workers as we travel to pick up cars or return to our home base. It’s in that van that I’ve realized and learned many things. First of all, this is an elite group of shuttle drivers, and certain characteristics are common in us all. I’m the newest worker, a rookie, and I’m also the youngest of the bunch. Someone said one employee was in his 80’s, although I can’t confirm that. I’ve heard the guys talking about high school during the early 1960’s, and that puts them at least several years ahead of me. Every individual, male and female, that I’ve met so far either has completely gray or white hair or is follicly challenged.

One man informed me that our crew has been dubbed the “Ol Farts.” It’s an appropriate moniker for several reasons. All of us wear glasses; we all have at least a bit of a hitch in our giddy-ups; and we sometimes struggle to get out of the lower-sitting cars. We drink plenty of coffee and carry snacks in our shirt pockets in case pangs of hunger hit.

The guys are big on pecking order. Some sit in the front seats of the van, and others file in according to seniority. That, of course, means I’m stuck in the back of a 12-passenger van and take the full brunt of the potholes and dips of the road to my back.

The guys talk in friendly conversations throughout the day. In fact, two or more of them can occur at one time, and to someone not involved, it sounds a great deal like a bunch of racket. Still, the guys can carry on conversations about any topic. I heard comments on such things as UT women’s basketball, healthcare, local politicians, the president, and the economy. However, most intense conversation concerned today’s youth.

The guys talked about how their children texted all the time and wanted them to do the same. Some of the men said their phones didn’t have that capability, and others commented that the buttons were too small to push. Others lamented the fact that children would rather text than talk, something over which they shook their heads and sighed. Some marveled at how savvy their young grandchildren mastered the use of smart phones without any fear of breaking one or irreversibly damaging it.

My co-workers have come from many different places and professions. A couple of things stand out about them. First, they are not afraid of work. The men come in at 8:00 a.m. and are ready to work. They take on assignments, complete them, and move on to the next ones. A driver told me that young people were hired at some point in the past, but they were all gone now. He indicated that they left because they didn’t want to work or they didn’t want a part-time job.

These guys also say exactly what they think. I suppose age does that to all of us, or maybe it’s the result of a lifetime’s worth of experiences. Whatever the cause, guys like us don’t have filters through which we send our thoughts. They just come out. Sometimes our words sound harsh, but that’s rarely our intent; it’s just that we say what we think and leave the nuances for others to add or subtract to our comments. No offense is intended…unless we make it clear that we are in offending moods.

I’m thankful to have been hired for this new job. The income from it helps us. As much as anything, I’m thankful to meet new people who are interesting, intelligent, and funny. My part-time job has few dull moments, and the new job training continues.