Setting out a Bad Order

An unusable car is a “bad order”

I had to “set out a bad order” yesterday at work.  I’ll explain that term in a minute.  For all you who have worked for the railroad, this term is used in a different context.

Sadly, the railroad job “derailed” yesterday.  The local Union Pacific yard in Cedar Rapids recently canceled about 90% of our van jobs – “the bread and butter” for the local van drivers.  We drivers understood.  All of our drivers have a deep respect for the U.P. and love the railroad environment.  At the same time, the loss of work is devastating and the 60 hours of week has dropped to 15 or 20 hours a week… or less.

Were we all willing to live with the loss of work?  Yes.  But it was our own company – a subcontractor – that made things unbearable.

Unfortunately, yesterday we had a meeting with a newer manager for the company I worked for.  I’m not going to go into many details but for quite some time he listed all the companies he’s worked for.  We drivers later laughed and speculated he probably got fired at each one.  He seemed like a bullying prick.  It was actually pretty funny!

I indicated how with no work, I wanted to cut my availability way back and go fishing and camping.  Why sit around waiting for a call to work if there’s no work?  The manager laughed at me, even asking me if I had that kind of money afford to just quit working.  I told him I do, actually.

We teach kids not to bully in school and reward them for it at work.

There was no laughter when I gave my notice.  An hour later the regional manager called me at the Wendy’s restaurant asking me not to quit and then started getting argumentative.  I ended the phone call and the relationship with some choice words…  25 years ago, Mom would have washed my mouth out.  If she were here, she’d have been proud.  I take after her.

So why am I feeling happy?  Being a vandweller gave me all the security possible and took all of the manager’s bully power away.  He’s used to hiring cash strapped, desperate people.  You can abuse those people… but not most vandwellers.

What does it mean that I “set out a bad order”? 

One common box car failure is a hot axle.  It can be found when a ground mounted laser sensor detects a hot wheel and the moving train is notified to leave the car at a station and have it repaired.  The defective car is called a “bad order”…  As a railroad buddy told me, anything that is a worthless piece of shit is called a “bad order”.  The same slang, “I gotta set out a bad order” is also used to refer to taking a #2 (poop) in the bathroom.

Another way to “set out a bad order”…

Without getting too gross, sometimes there is a relief to be experienced after the flush of a “bad order” or a bad manager has been performed. 


So what now?  I’m heading for trout country and am stocked with with a T-bone steak, some asparagus, and a couple of those little “margaritas-in-a-bag”.  A stop for lunch at a Hardees hamburger restaurant has netted a bunch of refrigerated coffee creamers for use in tonight’s asparagus soup.  🙂

There will be some fun new places to explore in the next few days.  I’ll get some good pictures, including a new section of biking trail.  Work can wait.  There are plenty of “bad order” type jobs out there.  I’ll easily find another.  I just wish this gig had lasted longer.  

Take care and thanks for visiting!

Bradford the Van Trekker


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About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

9 Responses to Setting out a Bad Order

  1. Pleinguy says:

    Sorry to hear the RR job fell through. Hope you find something else that fits. Meanwhile, have fun with the van life.

  2. Driveby Andy says:

    Brad, bummer about the job but you’re right about finding another. It really does make managers stumble a bit when they realize they don’t hold any power over you. Show up, do a good job, but if things ever turn sour you can always leave and know you’ll be okay. An attitude more people should have. Or rather a life position they should strive to put themselves in.

  3. Tinabeane says:

    Wow that kinda sucks. the job sounded really cool and a good fit. How great though you could tell that jerk where to go! Living in the van gives you all kinds of freedom. Looking forward to your posts on where you travel to.

    Take care,


  4. Brad, good for you. As an ol’ Mom… I’m proud of you too. Enjoy your “vacation.”

  5. Johnnomads says:

    I’ve had a number of managers like that, although some were a pleasure to work for. But I never let any of the pricks bully me like they are prone to do around ppl who are locked into the American Dream (or is it the American Lie?). The Vandwelling lifestyle has given me the freedom, both financial and personal to live life on my terms, and in my way.

  6. Steven says:

    Glad to hear the man wasn’t able to stick it to you!

  7. Hey Brad

    Maybe besides fishing you will have some more time to make van improvements , I always like to read about your new ideas.

    Take care


  8. Meg says:

    The last Amtrak train I took had what I think you would call a “bad order”; they had to leave one of the coach cars behind at an earlier stop because of an overheating problem. That lost them a lot of seats so at my station they asked for volunteers to stay in the observation car and I was one of them. I got a free sandwich and a nice seat with a beautiful view, and I was able to sleep lying flat (on the newly cleaned floor of the car), something I couldn’t have done in a coach seat. Amtrak may have thought it was a step down but to me it was definitely an improvement.

    About jobs – I have never had the pleasure of telling off a boss when I was quitting but I did have one relatively positive experience with a job loss. My last temp assignment – which had lasted more than 2 years at that point – ended abruptly one Friday without warning but then I was called to come back a couple of months later. I turned them down. And that felt really good. 🙂

    Enjoy your new-found freedom, you’ve earned it.

  9. gabevarga says:

    It’s hard to control a man who’s needs are minimal, and can do without the luxuries that most believe to be neccesities 🙂