“Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.” ~ George Washington
“Stupid self-destructive friends will sink you faster than concrete shoes” ~ 101 Centavos
DUIs and Speeding Tickets
Earlier this week, I did my spousal duty by escorting Mrs. 101C to traffic court. The Mrs. had been clocked doing a heinous seven miles over the speed limit in a school zone. Setting aside the fact that this was on a speed trap five-lane road outside a high school, where no youngsters *ever* walk or cross the street (they all drive, the spoiled brats), Mrs. 101C was in a bit of a state, having been informed by the
sadistic helpful officer that this traffic offense carried a potential 90 days in jail. Hence my presence as moral support at 8:30 on a weekday morning (more on that later).
Sitting on a hallway bench outside the courtroom (no relatives allowed inside), I made the acquaintance of a stout young man sitting next to me. To a casual observer, he might have been easily dismissed: somewhat overweight, scraggly beard, ballcap. As it was, let’s-call-him-Seth (because that was his name) was friendly and well-mannered, and present at municipal court for more or less the the same reason as I — driver to an old high-school friend who was facing a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charge. Seth was a little bit put out at being there. “The stupid idiot… he should know better,” was his comment.
Seth himself had it going on: independent contractor with his own rig (*) at the tender age of 25, driving hot-shot gigs within a thousand-mile radius. Got paid $1.68 a mile, and had more work than he could handle. Didn’t smoke or drink, devoted family man with a three year-old baby girl, played in a country gospel band on weekends. Plans to expand with another rig within this year.
Is $1.68 per mile a little or a lot? An 800-mile 12-hour round trip between Tulsa and St. Louis (not including stops), will gross little over $1,340, less the cost of fuel. Calculate the cost of diesel on an F450 pulling a loaded 25,000-lb drop trailer, and he might come away with a $1.35 to $1.45 a mile. That’s $1,080 for an 16-hour time commitment, or about $67 an hour. Presumably as an independent contractor he availed himself of various tax deductions specific to truckers. Trucking experts feel free to correct, but thanks to the wonders of the internet, this information is simple to fact-check.
Yes, these gigs might not present themselves on a regular basis, but remember that this was ‘hot-shot’ service. This means that whatever load Seth was hauling, it had to positively absolutely be there on time, if not *ahead* of time. No screwing around, no lengthy pit stops, and certainly no detours to bail out moron friends who get themselves in easily avoided trouble.
Lay Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas
After a pleasant half-hour chatting away about sports, work, family and whatnot, Seth’s idiot friend comes barreling out of the courtroom. This guy is a poster boy for a redneck stereotype: squat of stature, beer-belly, bright orange Harley-Davidson shirt over a white thermal long-sleeve, big billfold in back jeans pocket secured with a biker-style chain loop, steel-toed boots. Goateed and balding. Belligerent and aggressive. The kind of guy that winds up getting shot in self-defense.
After a few seconds spent huffing and puffing, waiting on the court clerk to come and give direction on the next step, he loudly proclaims that he “doesn’t have time for this shit”, and keep “waiting on these fools”. Peers into the courtroom through the door window pane. When advised by a passing bailiff to step back from the doors, makes a grand show of taking a great sliding step back and standing at attention. Maybe he’s drunk or high, or both. Seth is quiet during this show, obviously embarrassed.
More curses from Idiot. He walks into the bailiff’s and the clerk’s office (despite the “Private – Keep Out” sign), looking for the clerk. Seth smiles nervously, and cracks that he’s not bailing him out of *that* one.
Eventually, the court clerk comes out of the courtroom, and directs them to an arraignment office. Off Idiot goes, Seth in tow, random muttered expletives fading away.
Here’s the deal for Seth: he could have been working, making his $70 an hour (mileage may vary), instead of wasting time helping out a loser friend. Reputation for on-time delivery is everything when doing hot-shot work. You have to be available right here, right now.
A good bet that Stupid will ask to borrow the money for the DUI fine from his old school buddy.
Seth is on the way up, and Idiot’s on the way down. Eventually, there will have to be a decision point: dump this financial liability masquerading as an old friend, and move on.
What do you think, folks? I think most everyone has had a toxic former friend or two. Let’s hear about it.
* Postscript on our speeding ticket. While other shiftless, dirty and unshaven claimants with multiple offenses (no driver’s license, no insurance, busted tail lights, etc.) got off with fines ranging from $100 to $200, Mrs. 101C got hit with the full $400. She emerged from the courtroom spitting mad … and quite fetching, I might add, as she had dressed nicely for the occasion. Perhaps therein lay the rub. Accoutered as a bag lady, without much of an “ability to pay”, she most assuredly would have gotten a lighter charge. Your redistributive government in action, folks.
* This rig – an F450 Super Duty truck and mid-size goose-neck trailer – probably runs $50K to $60K used. About as much as a undergraduate psychology degree, but infinitely more productive. Seth had saved up most of his seed capital by working long hours as a general helper on a couple of pipeline projects.
Honorable mention by: Student Debt Survivor