Connecticut-based daycab owner-operator Joe Bielucki, hauling in the 2004 Kenworth T800 pictured here and with one of a few trailers at his disposal, had been worried about the work ethic of the generation coming up under him, among other things. “I just don’t know what folks are grounded in anymore,” Bielucki, 47, says. “Technology is fantastic but is taking more of the ‘human element’ out of all aspects of life.” Case in point: Bielucki’s niece, Paige, who’s 17 and is making her way to a community college to start this fall with hopes of taking up veterinary medicine if her interests don’t take another route.
Bielucki took Paige out at her initial instigation to “see what her Uncle Joe does” on one of his local open-deck runs this summer. “I have two older sisters,” Bielucki says, and “I’m the youngest of the three of us.” Bielucki had just started dating his wife when one of them “had a baby that was in trouble….” Paige was “born five months into the pregnancy,” Bielucki adds, and she weighed just a couple of pounds when Bielucki went to visit the newborn and mother in the hospital and “my sister made me put my hand in the incubator” to sort of say hi, as it were. So he did. “And this baby, who was barely even two pounds, reached out and grabbed the tip of my finger.”
Bielucki’s always felt a strong bond with her, so in some senses it was no surprise when she told him she “wanted to go out in the truck” with him. And so they did, a “nice local run a couple weeks back” on a hot day for Connecticut — “85 degrees and 100 percent humidity. We’re not used to that up here.”
Up early, the two had to load three big paper rolling machines on Bielucki’s flatbed, run outbound, unload, then come back home empty. An easy day’s work for Bielucki, and Paige typically spent the first part of the trip texting her friends and browsing Facebook. Eventually, though, her phone ran out of batteries. “She had to talk to her uncle Joe,” Bielucki said.
What he found out was that she was surprised he worked as hard as he did for his living. “Kids don’t do much direct talking anymore,” he says. “It turned out to be a good day.”
He even bought her a pair of work gloves along the way and she assisted when it came time to roll all those big tarps after unload. She cut quite a contrasting picture rolling tarps, says Bielucki, given she was wearing what her mother told him was the female teenager’s more-or-less uniform in this day and age: Short shorts and a pair of high cowgirl boots.
All the same, “Here’s a kid that wasn’t even supposed to be alive, but she’s really got life in her hands, and she’s guiding it. She’s not afraid to work.”
Anytime Bielucki gets worried about the next generation today, she comes to mind.
Maybe there’s hope yet.
Bouncing back down I-84 heading toward the house that afternoon, Bielucki says, “she fell asleep in the passenger seat. I called up my sister later and told her I was shocked by the shorts” but otherwise it’d all gone well.
Paige sent him a text a few days on: ““She said, ‘I want to go trucking again, Uncle Joey, but this time I’ll wear pants.'”