What started as a little lower-back pain is turning into Backpocalypse. Third straight day in bed most of the time, with occasional movement to stay limber. I can cook a meal (although taking a cast-iron skillet out of the stove last night was a struggle) and walk the dog (as long as she doesn’t want a long one), but not sit for longer than a few minutes.

Saw my doctor yesterday. He prescribed prednisone (not helping so far), muscle relaxants (really not helping so far), and an x-ray. And physical therapy, which I have to set up. We’ll see. I’m hoping for recovery by the weekend. This shit sucks, although I’m doing a lot of reading and watching old Sopranos episodes on the laptop. It’s been interesting, seeing James Gandolfini assume the role of his life, the antihero who ushered in the golden age of TV. I recall showrunner David Chase despairing at how many of his own fans described Tony as “a good guy.” He’s not a good guy, and even the earliest seasons underline that.

Oh, well.

Bedbound as I am, I’ve been spending some time reading the news. This is the one-year anniversary of the Oxford High School shooting out in the exurbs. I haven’t read a single word of the coverage. Anniversary journalism was created for editors, so they can plan for a day sometime in the future. I don’t want to read about anyone’s grief, I don’t want to read how the survivors are coping, and I especially never, ever want to see another hashtag like #(Name of city)Strong. I hate the way these events are so common now, all we do is read from scripts afterward. For years, self-appointed media experts have begged reporters not to write so much about the killers, but instead concentrate on the victims. The message has sunk in, so today I’m scrolling past photo arrays of the four students killed, because we heard it all a year ago. It was tragic when they were killed, and it’s still tragic. I don’t see this as news.

Meanwhile, the cases against the kid who did the shooting, and his parents, who are being charged with negligent homicide, continue to drag on. The boy pled guilty a while back, but his parents are still fighting.

So I turn the virtual page, and it’s all about the impending rail strike, and I feel insane just reading about it. Are you telling me, NPR and New York Times and all the rest, that we’re looking at a national strike over four days of paid sick time, and what’s more, that today rail workers have ZERO DAYS OF PAID SICK TIME? How the hell did that happen? How does any industry get away with that? Is there something special about railroad work that it can’t accommodate workers having four measly sick days? Can someone explain this to a woman flat on her back waiting for the anti-inflammatories to kick in? Because I’m done with the crossword puzzle already and I’m temporarily sick of Tony Soprano.

Posted at 12:17 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

33 responses to “Ouch.”

  1. David C said on November 30, 2022 at 12:50 pm

    On my last bout with back pain I spent about three weeks living on a yoga mat on the floor. It hurt the least down there. The cats and I bonded while I was stuck on the floor. They probably thought that big incompetent cat is eating off the floor too so he must be one of us.

    If the PT mentions the McKenzie method, run. I went in with moderate back pain and after the McKenzie method was when I ended up on the floor.

    421 chars

  2. Peter said on November 30, 2022 at 1:02 pm

    I don’t understand the zero sick days either. I haven’t been able to find out if they have more personal time than other jobs, beaus I have read where if they are sick they have to take vacation time.

    I also don’t know how they compare with airline crews, since they have to be able to go on a moment’s notice or have to sit around for hours because their train has been delayed.

    I do know that railroad workers were not covered under the original Social Security act but under the Railroad Retirement Board. I found that out when my mom passed away – I had a hard time because her SS number started at 700, and people said that wasn’t a valid SS number.

    When I went to the SS office to get the whopping death benefit, an older employee looked at her number and without looking on his computer said that she started working for the Burlington Railroad out of Aurora in 1951 – all of which was true – due to the first 5 digits of her SS.

    944 chars

  3. David C said on November 30, 2022 at 1:13 pm

    It’s pretty common now to not have sick time as such. I have paid time off at work. All my days off come from the same pool. It doesn’t matter if I’m sick, just sick of it all, it’s a holiday, or a real vacation. I like it that way. When we had five days of sick time that I rarely used because I was rarely sick. I wasn’t one to take mental health days with my sick time so I never got to use it. Now that they rolled them all up in the same pool I get to take them. So while I’m nearly always in favor of sticking it to the man, my sympathy for the railroad workers is conditional on how many vacation days they actually get.

    627 chars

  4. ROGirl said on November 30, 2022 at 1:54 pm

    The last place where I worked we got 14 paid days off a year for everything. If you ran over and needed more days off they were unpaid.

    135 chars

  5. Dorothy said on November 30, 2022 at 2:05 pm

    I’m sorry your back is in bad shape. Here’s hoping it eases soon. I get twinges occasionally and I’m always so afraid it’s going to become really bad. Usually some ibuprofen or Tylenol help. And I’m careful about bending over.

    Have you ever watched Line of Duty? It’s on several platforms, I think, but I’m pretty sure we watched it on Amazon Prime. It’s an excellent series. It might be a nice break from The Sopranos. But use closed captioning. Those British accents can be problematic.

    508 chars

  6. Bruce Fields said on November 30, 2022 at 2:18 pm

    Seems to me most of my employers have also had some kind of short-term disability policy that’d replace a sizeable chunk of your income when you run into a bigger health issue?

    It kinda makes sense to me. For smaller stuff, I don’t want to have to prove to my employer that I’m sick enough, I’d rather just have a block of time and make my own calls.

    Then again, I’ve never had to use the short-term disability, maybe it’s awful. And I’ve always had work with flexible hours and the option of working from home, which is a nice option when I’m on day 3 of a cold, bored of reading novels in bed, back to thinking straight, but just don’t feel like going to an office and being around people….

    702 chars

  7. alex said on November 30, 2022 at 2:22 pm

    Hurting with you in sympathy, Nancy, only mine’s the newly diagnosed carpal tunnel syndrome, severe on the right and moderate on the left. The electrodiagnostic study found no evidence of cervical radiculopathy, which I had suffered 12-15 years ago but overcame with injections and physical therapy. Looks like I’ll be having hand surgery, making a work comp claim and enjoying some time off.

    392 chars

  8. Julie Robinson said on November 30, 2022 at 2:32 pm

    From what I’ve read and attempted to understand, the RR workers don’t have flexible sick days and are penalized by demerits if they call off the day they’re supposed to work. But no one can plan being sick. The RRs have such tight scheduling that they say they can’t function any other way. The scheduling was changed several years back and since then they’ve had record profits, all on the backs of the workers. No doubt some brilliant MBA thought that up.

    So Biden and the Dems have sold out the unions at a time they need their support and votes. Truly awful.

    Sorry about your back, Nance. I’m hoping someone has the answer.

    633 chars

  9. Heather said on November 30, 2022 at 2:42 pm

    Sorry to hear it’s getting worse! I don’t have much advice except to build up your core muscles, but I think you already do that.

    My brother swears by this book for back pain–it’s kind of woo-woo but might be worth checking out. He’s not woo-woo at all, for what it’s worth. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/09/well/mind/john-sarno-chronic-pain-relief.html

    Mine’s been acting up a little bit lately. In fact I’m feeling aches and pains all over. Is this what getting older is like?

    484 chars

  10. Icarus said on November 30, 2022 at 2:51 pm

    When I entered the workforce we had something called Bank Time. It was your sick and vacation combined into one. Now it’s called PTO, which many states require payout if you are separated from the company. Unlimited PTO is better for the company because you cannot pay something like that out and no one really gets to use as much PTO as they want anyway. Some MBA is still living off the bonus check for that idea.

    Did we learn nothing from how Reagan handled the Air Traffic Controller strike?

    The pain in my shoulder area I mentioned a few posts ago is almost gone. Just a little bit to remind me it is still there.

    629 chars

  11. Julie Robinson said on November 30, 2022 at 3:50 pm

    CNN reports the delivery of six years of TFG’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means committee. Yaaaaassssss.

    111 chars

  12. Jerrie in MidMd said on November 30, 2022 at 4:42 pm

    David C, my doctor sent me for McKenzie therapy 30 years ago when I had neck and lower back pain and could barely move. It wasn’t a quick fix but I worked hard at it and it has kept me pain-free for all these years. I can’t recommend it enough. I’m sorry that it didn’t work for you.

    Nancy, sending you my best healing wishes.

    327 chars

  13. Deborah said on November 30, 2022 at 5:35 pm

    So sorry Nancy, back pain sucks. I could go into a diatribe about my own back but I’ll spare you, besides I’ve commented here about it many times already. I hope you get relief soon.

    I’m having what we call an urban hibernation day, not going outside at all, especially when it’s miserably cold with “feels like temps” in the teens. We had company last night, so I cleaned yesterday, I’m going to cobble dinner together tonight and we’ll probably watch a movie we started last week but couldn’t keep our eyes open to finish. It’s a Cocteau movie which I was expecting to find tedious but it turned out to be interesting enough that I want to finish watching it. Also tomorrow is the start of a new month, I’m actually looking forward to it, except for the early darkness.

    774 chars

  14. David C said on November 30, 2022 at 5:43 pm

    The DPT I went to after the PT practice with the McKenzie method seemed pretty horrified that they used it. I had a L5-S1 ruptured disc. The DPT said the McKenzie method put more pressure on the disc and made it leak fluid which is a big part of the inflammation response. It probably has its place but it was completely wrong for my condition. I think a lot of PT practices take a one-size-fits-all approach. With my DPT, everything was customized. She spent a lot of time each session testing to see that what she was prescribing had the proper effect.

    554 chars

  15. Jerrie in MidMd said on November 30, 2022 at 6:00 pm

    That’s horrifying and I now understand.

    39 chars

  16. Jeff Gill said on November 30, 2022 at 6:26 pm

    Very sorry to hear of your back troubles, and hope relief comes quickly. I’m sure you’ve already gotten plenty of advice about how to recover, so I’ll leave it at that.

    168 chars

  17. Dave said on November 30, 2022 at 7:18 pm

    I’m guessing I’m the only railroader on here and I’m long since retired. We never had sick days, not one, only in the last few years of my career did we get personal days. Personal days were given based on longevity and the maximum you could get per year was eleven. I don’t know if that’s changed.

    When I started on the railroad, we could take time off without too much trouble. You only had to work one day in a thirty day period to retain your job and your place on the seniority roster and I know of a couple of men who did that. One made a lot of money getting in on the ground floor of Tupperware, where he and his wife made a substantial income but he worked one round trip per month to retain his seniority and that turned out to be a wise move when he eventually ended up in divorce court. Others I knew would work sparsely in the winter.

    When I was young and single, I took advantage of this, I was never off for an entire month but there were times that I’d take a week and once was off for two weeks.

    That changed over time and they started cracking down on attendance but by that time, I had responsibilities and my carefree days were long passed. It was despicable that we had no sick leave but when I was young, who worries about such things.

    I have never been told that railroaders had special social security number and suspect that dates back to the time when social security numbers were first issued. I may be able to find out my grandfather’s SSN, who was working for the railroad well before Railroad Retirement or Social Security came into existence.

    It’s true, railroad employees pay into Railroad Retirement and not Social Security and the benefits are much better because Railroad Retirement takes a bigger chunk of your paycheck than SS. Also, your spouse gets a retirement check, too. Folks find that hard to believe but my wife, putting up with a railroad husband, earned every penny.

    Christine McVie has passed away and Senator Braun of Indiana plans to run for governor, two bad news items today.

    2060 chars

  18. LAMary said on November 30, 2022 at 11:43 pm

    Sometimes I get what feels nearly electric jolts of pain. Sciatica. Usually it’s when I’ve done nothing to bring it on. Once it happened while I was sitting at the table reading the paper. There is no comfortable position. I don’t even want to talk about it. The sciatica gods might hear me and remind me where that nerve on the back of my left hip going down the back of my thigh is located.

    392 chars

  19. nancy said on December 1, 2022 at 9:32 am

    Someone finally offers the explanation I’ve been waiting for:

    All of which invites the question: Why do these rail barons hate paid leave so much? Why would a company have no problem handing out 24 percent raises, $1,000 bonuses, and caps on health-care premiums but draw the line on providing a benefit as standard and ubiquitous throughout modern industry as paid sick days?

    The answer, in short, is “P.S.R.” — or precision-scheduled railroading.

    P.S.R. is an operational strategy that aims to minimize the ratio between railroads’ operating costs and their revenues through various cost-cutting and (ostensibly) efficiency-increasing measures. The basic idea is to transport more freight using fewer workers and railcars.

    One way to do this is to make trains longer: A single 100-car train requires less track space than two 50-car ones since you need to maintain some distance between the latter. More critically, one very long train requires fewer crew members to run than two medium ones.

    Another way to get more with less is to streamline scheduling so that trains are running at full capacity as often as possible.

    All this has worked out poorly for rail workers writ large. Over the past six years, America’s major freight carriers have shed 30 percent of their employees. To compensate for this lost staffing, remaining workers must tolerate irregular schedules and little time off since the railroads don’t have much spare labor capacity left.

    1663 chars

  20. alex said on December 1, 2022 at 9:37 am

    Sucks for drivers too. Endlessly long slow-moving trains at grade-level crossings are vexatious as hell; just ask anyone who lives immediately south of Auburn.

    159 chars

  21. JodiP said on December 1, 2022 at 9:50 am

    I hope you get relief soon, Nancy–the pain sounds miserable.

    Well, more labor woes in MN. The nurses voted to authorize another strike. My wife is part of the union, so we will be affected. No further details about how long this time. The 3 day one back in September did absolutely nothing to nudge the employers.

    317 chars

  22. FDChief said on December 1, 2022 at 9:53 am

    My former employer did a fair amount of work for BNSF. There I heard that the train crews had hard stops on how many hours they could work. Hit the stop, and the train stops right wherever it is until the new crew arrives. Those “railroad transport” vans you see? The idea is that they bring the crew to the train way out in wherever.

    So apparently the rail companies are pretty hardassed about staffing. They want to KNOW they have the crews to swap in and out to meet the crazy tight schedules discussed above.

    The pay is good. But I’m not sure I’d jump at it knowing the working conditions…

    610 chars

  23. jcburns said on December 1, 2022 at 10:29 am

    Brian Stouder, here in this blog, December 1, 2008:

    “the runoff election for the Senate seat in Georgia will almost certainly have a lower turnout than the first time ’round. It is said that runoffs ALWAYS have lower turnouts, and thinking about it now, that makes perfect sense.”

    Things can change, Brian!

    314 chars

  24. Marjorie Taylor said on December 1, 2022 at 10:35 am

    Alex, those tracks just South of Auburn are close to Garrett railroad
    yards. Not so bad when going normal speed, these are just starting
    out for the long haul. Just a daughter of a railroader.

    197 chars

  25. Dorothy said on December 1, 2022 at 11:18 am

    I love this site very much, and once in awhile it jumps right off the screen why I love it so much. Today it was reading Alex’s use of the word vexatious.

    That’s all!

    172 chars

  26. Deborah said on December 1, 2022 at 11:22 am

    Alex, I love it when you use the word “vexatious”. The only person I’ve heard use the word vexatious in conversation is an attorney friend, he talks about “vexatious litigants” and “officious intermeddlers” which are extremely effective terms needing no extra descriptors. He says they’re official legal phrases which I think is interesting because legal terms to me are usually opaque.

    I’ve always tried to expand my vocabulary but as I age it’s contracting.

    462 chars

  27. ROGirl said on December 1, 2022 at 11:51 am

    Those long trains are both vexatious and a pain in the ass. The tracks cross busy main thoroughfares and you can end up waiting for a long time if you get stuck when a train comes through.

    188 chars

  28. basset said on December 1, 2022 at 12:20 pm

    In Terre Haute, which I’ve heard bug can’t prove has more railroad street crossings than any other city in Indiana, getting stuck at one is called “getting railroaded.” When I was there in the early 80s the city tried arresting engineers who stopped their trains and blocked crossings, which didn’t help at all.

    I worked on the CSX, then Chessie System, railroad for just short of a month one summer in, I believe, 1974. We were pulling out old ties and replacing them with new ones on the Cincy to St. Louis line around Medora and Fort Ritner, Indiana.

    We finished our section right before fall semester started at IU, so I turned down an offer to join the union, live in the crew car, and carry on to the next place. As a beginning “trackman” and not a machine operator or anything, I was on the low end of the pay scale – $4.58 an hour, close to triple the minimum wage then and equivalent to $27.69 now, and I thought I was making big money.

    956 chars

  29. Jenine said on December 1, 2022 at 2:43 pm

    Article in the British Architects’ Journal comparing NYC’s Seagram building and a London building, showing the relative energy costs of building materials and heating/cooling costs.

    327 chars

  30. Heather said on December 1, 2022 at 3:06 pm

    That’s interesting about PSR. I researched that a little for an article for a client a couple years ago. They were a plastics company but they used freight trains to move it around the country, so it was a topic of interest in that industry. I didn’t consider the implications for labor.

    287 chars

  31. Deborah said on December 1, 2022 at 4:51 pm

    Hmmm Jenine, Since I live in a Mies Van der Rohe designed building in Chicago I can say that we have to keep a window open a bit when we’re there through the winter because it’s too warm if we don’t. Multi-family buildings are much more energy efficient than single family homes. We have built-in insulation above, below and beside us. Yes our floor to ceiling windows on two sides of our unit are single paned and therefore horribly inefficient as windows go today but we don’t feel it. The building probably pays an exorbitant amount for electricity to heat and cool it, but because ours is a coop we pay a monthly assessment that covers electricity for the building along with water, cable etc so we don’t have a sense of what it really costs us. We don’t have air conditioning, they had special AC units designed for the building somewhere along the way and we chose to have it taken out, or I should say my husband chose to have it taken out. That’s why I spend my summers in NM. The building has started discussions about making the AC universally installed building wide to save on the crumby unit by unit current system. But that will take years to decide and then be installed. The only time we were uncomfortably cold was during one of the polar vortexes that occurred a few years ago. For a highrise building, ours built in the late 40s, has windows that open, actually more used to open but the building powers that be decided to permanently seal some closed to reduce energy leaks and because it frightened people in highrises to be close to an open window. That was done way before our time. Anyway all in all if one lives in a single family home, exposed on all sides to the elements and built before the new energy efficient windows and insulated walls etc, we’re probably in the same boat footprint wise.

    1821 chars

  32. Jeff Gill said on December 1, 2022 at 5:13 pm

    A long grim day surreptitiously checking Twitter to see which friends & associates with Gannett papers got the axe today. It’s been bizarre: the first cohort to announce they got cut have been online/digital design staff. Which . . . makes no sense. The IndyStar has lost a ton of talent to buyouts already.

    311 chars

  33. Dexter Friend said on December 2, 2022 at 12:52 am

    President Joe got mixed up today when at the presser he said railroaders received a “44, 45% pay increase…” when it was 24%, as nance reported here. I noticed many DPUs in the last few years, unmanned power units (locomotives) in the middle and sometimes ends of trains, to distribute power front and back and enable trains to become a couple miles+ long. Joes also said only 4 of the “13 or 14” unions balked at the paid sick leave situation. I heard some of these unions have one paid sick day, others zero.
    I worked in a UAW factory for 30 years and we never had any branded paid sick days. After 10 years seniority was accrued, we got 30 days “vacation pay”, and could schedule the time off any way we wanted…one guy took 30 Fridays off, some took a month solid and went far away for a while. I took a week, twice a year, spring break, and an August holiday week. I never used the entire 30 days, because we got the pay the first payday in June, all at once, and then if we blew it all at once on a boat or whatever, we’d be short on the paycheck the rest of the missed time weeks.
    Here’s a good one, our union committee negotiated with Dana and later Eaton for our pension benefits.
    The workers at Fort Wayne Dana had the USW, we the UAW. I also know Teamsters retirees. Well, the Teamsters pension is fully 10 times our UAW take, and the USW retirees pensions dwarf our Auburn pensions. Just complainin’ here, as always. 🙂
    There are a couple USW Dana Fort Wayne retirees here on this blog who know what I mean. My pension would make a car payment on a new cheap car. Not asking for pity, as of course I live high-on-the-hog with Social Security and the V.A. keeping me in the clover. When I was drafted so long ago, I never imagined that my service would ultimately end with my being compensated for problems associated with serving in Viet Nam.

    1870 chars