First Time Gate Guarding – Day 17 through 19

Day 17

Back to gate guarding.  The weather has been cold and overcast the last couple of days with lows in the night-time of 42.  It hasn’t been god awful though and using the truck as a sitting place helps me at least.  Lee doesn’t like sitting in the truck, he’d rather bundle up and sit outside, but either one works.  The night traffic has slowed down quite a bit, and I stay inside with the doors locked at night, but as soon as the sensors go off I hop out, open the gate, and check people in.  I will mention though that my face is incredibly dry from the wind and dust.  I am a huge fan of LUSH Celestial and my skin is soaking it up.  It must be working because Lee likes my “shiny face” and actually commented it made me look younger.  I don’t want to sound like face cream commercial here, but that exchange actually happened and it was a first time I can ever remember in our marriage him making a comment like that.  I’ll take it!

We haven’t heard anything from our gate guarding company at all these last few days, but our neighbor said generally no news was good news.  Still I like a little feedback and yesterday for some reason it started to come in.  One of the oil men stopped and asked me how everyone was treating me and said if anyone gave me any trouble to write down the license plate and let him know.  Since he was a pretty good guy and spoke with some intensity I thought he was serious about that, but reassured him everyone had been extremely nice to me.

Then a second company person stopped and asked me if we were following them to the next rig.  I said I didn’t know because we were new at this, but thought it was a good sign because following rigs can be a pretty lucrative gig and you get paid for travel time in between.  Then I stopped our lead contact at night and had my first conversation with him.  We aren’t supposed to check company men in, but at this point there are 5 different ones in multiple vehicles so I wanted to make sure that was ok.  He was very nice to me and assured me this was an unusual situation and it was fine if I inadvertently checked one of them in.  I try to just grab their license plates on the way in and out and not slow them down, but one guy in particular is in a white truck and we get so many of those I sometimes don’t wave him through.  It’s all good though and I was glad we at least got to exchange a few words with each other.

It must have made an impression on him though, because for the first time the next day he stopped, got out of his vehicles, and talked to Lee.  He explained that they tried to get in and out as quickly as possible because of the pressure of the schedule, but wanted to take a moment and let us know we were the best gate guards he had worked with.  Wow!  That was nice to hear.  Lee was a little dubious though and asked him why and he explained that most gate guards he had worked with out of their rigs often made people wait to get in the gates.  There were delays as people slowly came outside to the gate or sometimes they would even have to honk their horns to get their attention.  This has only happened to me once (when the sensor wasn’t working properly) so I knew this wasn’t a problem with us.  He said he appreciated that Lee was always outside and the fact that I came outside so quickly at night. I’m sure part of that was him being nice, but still it was great to hear.  Since these jobs are so low paying apparently some folks are a little lax, but we take the same work ethic and apply it to everything we do.  Plus our one job is to check people in and out.  The least we can do is do that well.

The pattern of traffic has shifted though and we have found that we can no longer watch TV together at night.  For right now that’s ok, since we have so many shows we have been wanting to watch without each other.  I really like sci-fi and Lee really likes scary shows and rarely are those shows both of us enjoy. I can see though that if this went on for an extended period of time that could become an issue.  The complete lack of a sex life is also a bit of a bummer.  The traffic patterns are so sporadic from day-to-day that their really isn’t a “safe” time.  I wish we could put a sign up that said come on in be back in 30 minutes, but that’s not really how this works.  I keep hoping it settles into a routine at some point and we could schedule something.  I know romantic right.

But despite these challenges we both really like it.  I’m getting lots of stuff done and really am enjoying the alone time.  We love each other very much, but we’ve been on top of each other nearly non stop for the last two years. A little down time is not the worst thing.  I can see though over time how this could be a problem.  I think that’s why people like to follow rigs, because they get a few travels days off in between assignments.

Day 18 

I haven’t been sleeping well the last couple of days and I think I might actually be getting sick.  Going in and out of the cold night air is not the greatest and temps have been in the low forties the last few days.  During the day time I haven’t been able to turn on the air confitioning fan because it’s too cold so I am not getting the enough white noise to drown out the sound of the pumps.  So I woke up slow and took my time this morning, although I did sit in the truck for an hour and watched the gate when the sun was high and that warmed me up.  I don’t get sick much thankfully, but it’s not surprising everything didn’t catch up with me eventually.

I did feel better later in the evening and started doing a little work.  I’ve gone through all the pictures and now I can start “cleaning them up.”  The pictures are all ones I took, but at the time I wasn’t really thinking recipe book, so many of them need cropped or zoomed in to make them work.   I was also pleased to see today that I am only 12 recipes shy of being finished.  I am planning on having ten recipes per section, which has been harder than you would think, but my sense of order calls out for even numbers lol.  Most of the ones I am missing are in the crock pot/pressure cooker section (amazingly I have 9 out of 10 in deserts done, so looks like Lee is going to eating lots of crock pot stuff.  He really doesn’t like “mushy” or “bland” food much, so that section has been a challenge since Day I am hoping all the extra features in my Instantpot  make good recipes easier though.

Lee’s been working on a project as well.  He brought tons of video footage with us on DVD’s and he’s been going through it and discarding duplicates and cataloging what remains.  Needless to say being married to a videographer lends itself to lots of documentation, and at the end, before we moved, he threw much of it in a box to sort out later.  Hasn’t been much of a chance for that before now, but this job is perfect for a project like that as our computer in our front living room looks out on the gate.  What’s been fun is trying to date some of these videos.  It’s like being a detective and he has been texting people all day for help.  I got into the act when I woke up on Sunday and my favorites were when we dated things by a purse I was wearing, a news story playing on the TV in the background. and finding the corresponding picture and looking at the date stamps.  Once he is all done gathering the footage he wants to start working on videos he was making for the kids.  He finished several years (one DVD per year) awhile back, but then didn’t get the rest done.  Since poor Kasey was only 4 when he stopped making them, she hasn’t got to see quite a bit of her childhood yet.

Lee working on his spreadsheet. The window looks out on the gate

Lee working on his spreadsheet. The window looks out on the gate

This doesn't look like much, but it's thousands of hours of footage

This doesn’t look like much, but it’s thousands of hours of footage

Day 19

The weather was much nicer today and since I dosed myself with some Nyquil  last nightI felt much better. Our company man stopped by and asked us if we were going to continue doing this and we said yes we thought we would do it next winter.  He asked for our card, because he likes our work so much, and said he would give our names to another gate guarding company they work frequently with so they could have it on file.  Awesome!

It was a slow truck day and not much to report, except I did want to mention the bats.  The spotlights behind our rig draw bugs and the bugs draw bats.  They are actually pretty cool as we can see them flying in and out of the light, and since every bug they eat is one less than I have to deal with I am a fan.  They always are flying above our rig  and since we sit outside right beside it no worries about them swooping down on us.  Like I said it’s really pretty neat.

Since nothing else came up I thought I would take a moment and answer a couple of good questions I received in the last posts comments.  It’s nice that people are interested and on slow days it gives me something to talk about, so thanks for that.

First off Dineen asked “Do either you or Lee have experience in filling prescriptions on the road? If that’s too personal, I completely understand. Just wondered how that works and if it’s as much of a challenge as I think it might be without having Medicare.”  I brought a prescription with me on the road and had great success with Walgreen’s online prescriptions.  Your prescription is associated with your home pharmacy, but when it comes up for renewal I get an email and then I can select any Walgreen’s to have it filled.  Super easy and I love the reminder email feature.  I had friends who tried to use Walmart and they had all kinds of issues, because the Walmarts didn’t share the prescription information between stores.  Don’t know if that has changed or not, but I am a huge Walgreen’s fan, even if they aren’t the cheapest around.  I will say though that last year I went to Mexico and bought 2 years supply of my medication at much reduced prices.   This required no prescription and since I went my friend Ellen ,who is a pharmaceutical rep and fluent in Spanish, I felt very comfortable.   I also have a friend who used her prescription in Canada and got her drugs at a much reduced rate.  There are lots of options out there for reduced prices on medication.  None of these medicines were narcotics though.  That is a whole different ball game and I really couldn’t speak to that.

Then Allen asked. “I have been following your blog for a while and I really enjoy reading about your adventure. I have a lot of respect for you guys, making such a big decision to change your life and become full-time RV’rs. However your story about health care costs and using the Affordable Care Act prompted me to leave a comment. Before you went full-time you were earning enough money to support yourselves. Now you are taking taxpayer subsidies for your health care. So as a result of your decision to go full-time, you are not-self supporting, instead now I am paying part of your health care. Why do you think that is right? Please don’t get me wrong. I ask this with respect. I know many people can’t make enough money to support themselves for many reasons. But you could.”  

First off you can ask me pretty much anything and I VERY much appreciate the way in which you asked this.  My answer is a pretty long one (shocking right) and it is something I thought seriously about when making this decision.  First of all, I should say is if there was a reasonably priced un-subsidized insurance plan I would buy it.  I was paying around $361 a month when I had a full-time job and that is roughly what I am paying now.  I have less benefits now and a higher deductible, but I do have wellness care, which is a big deal for me.  My company plan total cost was around $1K a month and the company subsidized $667 a month.  I think that’s pretty common.  And it’s an important point, because I believe that the only way insurance companies can charge those high rates is because employers subsidize our health insurance.  If they didn’t everyone would be paying $1K a month in insurance and frankly how many people could afford that.  More people would drop coverage, the market share would shrink, and prices would eventually go down as demand decreased.  The normal free market price pressure doesn’t happen though because companies subsidize.  Those subsidies don’t come for free though. Labor costs are always calculated to include fringe benefit costs and those burdened labor costs are what drive prices.  Higher benefit costs equal higher priced goods and services to the consumer. So basically your health insurance is subsidized by every purchase one of your customers makes.

Fair enough you might say, but that is our system and by working outside of it you are a drain on the remaining workers and taxpayers.  That may be true, but it turns out I am totally fine with that and here’s why.   I have worked since I was 16 years old, but when I was 25 and had a two-year old and an infant I tried to take a year off work.  It wasn’t only the relative huge cost of childcare, it was also not having anyone I could trust to watch two young children who couldn’t communicate.  Even though Lee was working two jobs we couldn’t make ends meet so for the first and only time we got on WIC ( a program for people with young children providing milk, formula, and baby food) and food stamps.  I felt humiliated.  I was so embarrassed, but it was the only way we could make it work and back then they made you go down to the office once a month (kids in tow) and pick up your food stamps.  Awful.  A few months in I remember calling my mom and crying on the phone to her and she said the most amazing thing to me.  She said she paid plenty of taxes and she would rather have her money go to me than to a war somewhere. Since she came of age during the Vietnam war and worked her entire life, I felt she had earned the right to say that.  Plus as a mom it was a great teaching moment for her and one I’ve never forgotten.  At the end of one year (when my oldest was three and I felt comfortable she could communicate with me if something was wrong) we found a part-time babysitter and Lee and I started working opposite shifts to keep costs down.  We did that for 5 years and were never were on assistance again.

How does that relate to now?  When I started thinking about this lifestyle, the exact same thoughts came into my head.  I want to pay my way, I have always paid my way.  And then I remembered what my mom said.  I have also always paid my taxes.  I have never gotten creative or taken one deduction I didn’t absolutely deserve.  I have never filed a workers comp claim, taken a social security benefit, or taken much in the way of state of federal assistance at all.  So let’s do the math.  Taking a VERY conservative 18% taxes on an average of $50K for the last 20 years and we’ve paid around $180,000 in taxes.  It’s way more of course, but those are solid rough numbers.  It’s currently costing the government roughly $7680 a year to subsidize my healthcare.  Since I am eligible for Medicare in 15 years, I have paid way more than we will be taking out and I am good.  What about social security you ask?  Well since no one can guarantee that will even be there for my, and since I can’t collect until I am 70, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.  Again I think I am good.   Turns out I’d rather my money went to helping me with healthcare than paying for a war.  I know it’s an oversimplification, but sometimes we get to do that on the big moral questions.

So that’s my answer.  You certainly don’t have to agree with it and trust me I would love for there to be an affordable solution that wouldn’t require a subsidy,  In the meantime, I personally decided I would not be held hostage to a job because of healthcare.  If ACA goes away then we will purchase a catastrophic plan and roll the dice on our health with no wellness care. Thankfully,  I can afford to do that, because thus far we are in pretty good health. If that changes then one of us will have to get a job that provides health insurance. We’ll figure it out.

Thanks again for the question.  It was a good one.  Trace


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12 thoughts on “First Time Gate Guarding – Day 17 through 19

  1. Hi Lee and Tracy: I enjoy reading your blog. Very intense! Good luck in your travels.

    You recent conversation about the Affordable Care Act was very interesting. I’m sorry that it caused you some anxiety. I’m not sure that the blogger who was concerned about you taking part in the ACA is “correct” about taxpayer’s paying for the premium subsidies under the ACA. Taxpayers do pay a slightly higher Medicare tax (an increase in the Medicare tax rate of .9%, which is less than a 1% increase in tax the tax rate) but other than that the ACA premiums subsidies are paid for through “indirect” taxes and fees that only impact certain companies and/or individuals. So, while it is technically correct that taxpayers are paying for ACA insurance premiums in my humble opinion the amount that taxpayers are paying is miniscule.

    I have copied below some information about where the ACA money comes from and where the monies goes. Enjoy!! Mike

    Obamacare’s Funding: Where the money comes from and where it goes?

    PPACA is a health care reform law that requires individuals to buy and maintain insurance or pay a penalty/tax. The law is funded in part by this penatly/tax and also by increased taxes on other health and non-health related items and services.

    Story: Where Does the Money Come From? Besides the Individual Mandate penalty/tax, there are numerous NEW or INCREASED taxes and fees to fund all that is required by this law.
    •+.9% Increase in Medicare Tax Rate (plus next item…)
    •3.8% New Tax on unearned income for high-income taxpayers= $210.2 billion ($200,000 for individual and $250,000 for joint filers)
    •New Annual Fee on health insurance providers = $60 billion (For calculation – Sec 9010 (b) of the PPACA.)[1]
    •40% New Tax on health insurance policies which cost more than $10,200 for an individual or $27,500 for a family, per year = $32 billion (inland tax as opposed to an importation tax)
    •New Annual Fee on manufacturers and importers of branded drugs = $27 billion (For calculation – Sec 9008 (b) of the PPACA)[2]
    •2.3% New Tax on manufacturers and importers of certain medical devices = $20 billion
    •+2.5% Increase (7.5% to 10%) in the Adjusted Gross Income floor on medical expenses deduction = $15.2 billion
    •Limit annual contributions to $2,500 on flexible spending arrangements in cafeteria plans (plans that allow employees to choose between different types of benefits) = $13 billion
    •All other revenue sources = $14.9 billion•10% New Tax imposed on each individual for whom “indoor tanning services” are performed.
    •3.8% New Tax on investment income. Includes: gross income from interest, dividends, royalties, rents, and net capital gains. Investment income does not include interest on tax-exempt bonds, veterans’ benefits, excluded gain from the sale of a principle residence, distributions from retirement plans, or amounts subject to self-employment taxes. (The lesser of net investment income or the excess of modified Adjusted Gross Income over a the dollar amount at which the highest income tax bracket, typically $250,000 for married filing jointly and $200,000 filing as an individual).

    Where Does the Money Go? Below is a non-inclusive list of ways the federal government will spend your tax dollars according to the PPACA.

    Medicaid Expansion: The PPACA gives money to States to expand Medicaid eligibility to Americans under the age of 65 who are below 133% of the federal poverty limit, but states can decline without losing existing funding. The Act gives States 100% Federal funding for the first 3 years for newly eligible individuals, beginning January 1, 2014 and ending December 31, 2016. January 1, 2017 the funding will be decreased to 95% with the next 2 years each decreasing by 1% until the year 2020 which will be decreased to 90%. [3]

    Tax Credits: Tax credits will be available for individuals and families with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($43,420 for an individual or $88,200 for a family of four) that are not eligible for Medicaid, employer sponsored insurance, or other acceptable coverage.[4] Other types of acceptable coverage would be Medicare, military insurance, grandfathered plans, and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Plan). This means that these tax credits are for individuals and families who obtain health insurance from the state run Health Insurance Exchanges. These are state-run bodies not to be confused as insurers that will regulate the private insurance companies to comply with the consumer protection set forth in the PPACA.
    “Individuals with incomes below 400 percent FPL who purchases coverage in the Exchange are not required to spend more than a set percentage of their income on health insurance. If they cannot find coverage at a price that falls below this threshold, they are then eligible for a premium credit to ensure they do not spend more than a certain percentage of their income on health insurance coverage.”[5] The tax credit is calculated on a sliding scale based upon income an individual or family’s income; from 2%-9.5% of their income. The amount of tax credit is reduced as individual and family income increases phasing out at 400 percent of the federal poverty level. Refer to chart below.

    [6]
    Cost-Sharing Subsidies: The cost-sharing subsidy applies to individuals and families who enroll in a qualified health plan in the silver level of coverage in the individual market offered through an exchange and whose household income is between 100 – 400 percent of the poverty level for a family.[7] (Persons who are offered coverage through their employer also may be eligible for the subsidies provided through the exchange if their employer’s plan premium would exceed 9.5 percent of the employee’s income.) [8]
    These subsidies are meant to limit out of pocket costs before the insurance companies pay for all medical expenses. It helps reduce out of pocket cost significantly for low to middle class. If you are 200% below the Federal Poverty Level, your out of pocket costs will be reduced by two-thirds. They’ll be decreased by half for persons below 300% and one-third for persons below 400% FPL. [9]
    Both premium credits and cost-sharing subsidies are refundable tax credits paid in advance directly to the health insurer. Any costs above and beyond what the credits and subsidies do not cover are the responsibility of the individual or family. [10]

    New High-Risk Insurance Pool: $5 billion will be designated to create a federal program which provides stopgap coverage to the medically uninsurable, due to a pre-existing condition, until the Health Care Reform is completely in place and Insurance Exchanges are created. [11]

  2. That’s really cool about the kudos from the company man, Trace. Being the best you can be at everything you do is not only a gift to the world, but also to yourself. I used to have a Zig Ziglar quote on the wall in my office at work that read: “It’s your attitude, not your aptitude, that determines your altitude.” Especially when things seem to pile on, I try to live by that.

    Feel free to correct me if I am wrong on this. On the subsidies: if you were an employee covered under a employer funded health plan, your employer would get a tax exemption…in other words, a government subsidy…on the amount of your insurance. So no matter what, the government (we the people) is paying part of it. And you are contributing to society by helping to provide our energy needs (with a smile, I might add), so your subsidy is worth every penny…and then some.

    • Another excellent point, but yes I am guessing that most companies are smart enough to deduct those costs on their taxes. My company worked on construction jobs and passed those costs along on the jobs we worked. I’m sure they also deducted the costs off their taxes. The company had a team of people who were experts at minimizing taxes.

  3. Thanks for the information on Walgreens! Good to know that you haven’t experienced any issues. I’ve got one very expensive prescription for my diabetes, so before we even think about seeing if full time rving prior to Medicare is feasible, I’ll have to research that further, but good to know that Walgreens was a better option for you than Walmart.

    As far as your response to the ACA question…First I freely admit I don’t understand a lot of why insurance/medical care is so expensive. Not to be political in any way, I just wish there was a way that all citizens could receive quality health care that is affordable. I’m sure it’s more complicated than I’ll ever understand, but for me that is a high priority.

    I really liked your mom’s response and I’m going to add my two cents in support. I also have worked since I was 16. All through college and every year since for 33+ years so far. I’ve always paid my taxes without complaint and since my husband and I chose not to have children, we didn’t have a lot of tax exemptions, which is okay and the way it should be in my opinion. As we have moved up in our respective jobs, our tax share has increased, as it should. In addition to income tax, my state doesn’t have a sales tax, so a huge percentage of my property taxes went to public schools, which I’m in complete support of even though we didn’t have children going to those same schools that reaped the benefit. I have also been incredibly blessed so far in not needing to ask for assistance in housing, food, utility support etc. and am more than okay with helping those who didn’t have it as good as I did with my tax contributions,

    I have diabetes, so realistically the chances of living a long life in order to reap the full benefits of all those years of social security tax contribution isn’t very likely either. Therefore, in my humble, non-politically motivated opinion, I’m more than happy to have my “share” of all these years of taxes, and hopefully the next 10-15 years as well, go to people like you, or to a young mother or father raising the next generation, or to elderly folks that are struggling to make ends meet, or to a whole host of others that are trying their best to make it but may not be as fortunate as I have been so far. Just my two cents plus shipping and handling…. Thanks!

    • Dineen, have you tried getting a coupon off of GoodRX.com? They have saved us a bundle! I actually downloaded their app on my phone and show the pharmacist the coupon. They type in the number one time and it’s good from there on out. We also shop at Walgreens, and that coupon follows us wherever we go.

      Jim

  4. Two comments. One, I agree with you. I have also worked since I was 16 and paid my taxes and if occasionally you have to take advantage of the resources afforded to you, then so be it. In my life I have had unemployment benefits, and as our children were adopted from state care we get adoption assistance from the state and county and medicaid until each kid is 18. Without that assistance, Julia could not have taken 2 years off and raised kids. One of the ways we, in our hearts, “paid back” the system, was by becoming Foster parents for four years. We took in 9 kids during that time and I definitely feel wemore than balanced the scales.

    Secondly, I can’t believe Lee let your “back in 30 minutes” sex joke pass without additional comment!

    • I accidentally hit publish last night before he had a chance to look at it. He was not please by the comedy gold left on the table lol! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and great points on foster care!

  5. Tracy, thanks for the thoughtful reply to my question. A couple more comments:

    exploRVistas, tax deductions are different than tax subsidies. With tax deductions, you keep more of the money you earned. With tax subsidies, you are give some of other people’s money.

    Long technical discussions about subsidies and source of government funds are all fine. I asked a simpler question. You were self supporting, now you are not. Why do you think that is right? You answered it, thank you. Based on reading your other blog posts, I assumed you did not make that decision lightly, and clearly you did not.

    Thanks again.

  6. Tracy, thanks again for such a real blog. Although I am fortunate to retire at 55 with continued group health insurance (my share of the monthly premium for a family plan is $600+ 😩, I found the discussion regarding the ACA interesting especially given the current political state of our country. My husband and I have paid our share of taxes and I was always glad to be on the giving side and not on the receiving side of government assistance, but grateful to live in a country that would afford me assistance if I needed it.

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