My husband, Ryan, is a freight conductor for the railroad. But above all, hes the conductor of my heart. =P
When you think conductor you may think of the guy standing outside of the passenger trains yelling "All Aboard" But that's not what a freight conductor does. They don't carry passengers, they carry hazardous chemicals, coal and other various items. Conductors do everything except 'drive' the train. Ryan has to do so much and he has to know even more. Its not a job most people could do. But as hard as his job is, I feel that it is just as hard to be the wife of one of these guys.
He has no work schedule. He works on call all of the time. They have a system they can log into on the computer to see what out they are. When I say what out they are, that means there's a list of all the conductors in order of who's next to be called. If he is head out, he is next to be called. If he is 3rd out, he probably has anywhere from half a day to a whole day before he gets called. We never know. Because of this unpredictable schedule, he misses holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and more. Its hard. But its worth it. Its enabled us to live comfortably. He makes what is called a guarantee. Meaning he cannot make less than a certain amount for being on call. They pretty much pay him for sitting around and waiting for a phone call. When he works he gets paid by the day/job so he always beats the guarantee. Some jobs pay more than others and he works all over the place.
I am alone 85 to 90 percent of the time. When he gets called to work, they give him a two hour notice. They can call anytime day or night. If he gets called for an out of town job he could be gone over night or for up to 3 days. They cant work for more than 12 hours so by the time they get the train to where it needs to go, they are out of time and stay in a hotel for their rest. If its a local job they come home. They get a mandatory 10 hours of rest after each job they work. So once their rest is over and if everything with the train is on time, they will be on their way back. Some trips, like to Russell Kentucky, they have a turn around of 24 hours. Which means once they get the train there they are stuck in a hotel for a day. So if he leave Tuesday afternoon, they get there in the middle of the night, stay in the hotel for a day and he doesn't get home until Thursday evening, assuming everything ran on time. There's so much more to it, but you get the gist, right?
Like I said, it's lonely. It takes a strong relationship and good communication to get through it. Trust is a big thing. The divorce rate for employees of the railroad is higher than the national percentage. That's crazy, right? But its true. If you think about it, my husband can be in 4 to 5 different cities depending on what job he gets called for, just staying in a hotel. Would most women be okay with their husbands staying in a hotel out of town? I don't think so. But its a job to him, not any sort of opportunity. Communication is key. We text each other, talk on the phone, and even have web cams so we can see each other if the loneliness gets too bad. We keep each other informed of whats going on. I don't even want to talk about how dangerous his job it, I worry constantly.
I was never good at being alone. I pretty much revolved my life around my husband before he got this job. I am no longer that way. Although I still need him very much, I have my own independence now. I have become involved in many different things that keep me busy so I don't feel the loneliness so much. I work a full time job from 8:30 to 4:30 Monday through Friday and sometimes hes home when I'm at work. Or Ive scheduled something thinking he's probably going to be out of town and hes not. So theres even times that its not his job keeping us apart. Its a very difficult balancing act. Trying to do what we need to do and still make time for each other and keep our marriage strong.
This life isn't for everyone and its been so hard at times. But we have adjusted and believe it or not have gotten into a routine. We value each other more, trust each other more, communicate more and to be honest I think it has made our marriage stronger. I wouldn't have said this a year and a half ago when all of this started, but I wouldn't trade this life for the world. I am so proud of my husband for what he does and how hard he works. I know its even harder on him that he has to be away and miss things I know he very much wants to be able to go to. But he does it all with no complaining and he truly loves his job. Who wouldn't love riding on trains all of the time?
So theres a glimpse into my life. I wasn't planning on writing this when I picked up my computer, but my husband left today for work and its was on my heart.
Read my Conductor's Wife FAQ post, here! :)