Remember the old nursery rhyme about the “Little Old Lady who lived in a shoe who had so many children she didn’t know what to do?” Prime Driver Orain Jones may have the opposite problem. We may need a new nursery rhyme for him.
Orain Jones has five children and 1200 pair of shoes. He is an admitted “shoe fanatic”— a pursuit that helps him connect with his kids because they like shoes as well. Orain drives and trains drivers for Prime, so indulging these two passions consumes a lot of his free time.
What does one do with 1200 pair of shoes?
Orain says he can fit 54 pair on his truck and tries not to wear a pair more than one time during a five to six-week stint over the road. His collection of athletic shoes includes Jordan, Nike, Clarks and a number of other popular and unique brands. The remainder of his collection are stored in the upstairs of his house, two lockers at Prime, and a storage locker.
“People collect a lot of things,” he says. “I collect shoes. It’s my hobby and habit.” He has a vintage pair of LeBron James he purchased for $475. Another pair is valued at nearly $1000, though he says he got those “at a bargain.”
What will Orain do for a pair of shoes? Drive all over the country to various outlets, for one thing.
This is where Orain’s work for Prime has helped him with his passion for shoes. Even though he calls northern Florida home and his kids live in Gainsville, he doesn’t limit his routes to the East coast. “You’ve got to go all over the country to where the outlets are,” he says.
And speaking of kids, Orain and his kids talk a lot about shoes. They tell him what they like (e.g., Vans are a favorite with one) and he shares what he’s excited about with them. It’s an important point of connection—a shared activity they all enjoy.
But it’s not all about shoes for Orain. He also enjoys teaching his children about U.S. History through his travels. This includes natural history, i.e., about the environment, as well as about people and events. He once took his wife to the “Rocky steps” associated with the Fresh Prince of Bel Air in Philadelphia. He’s also visited Washington D.C. and Charleston, South Carolina with family members and he plans to visit the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee in the near future.
“I want them to know the world is an ocean, not a fish bowl,” he says. “I want them to see what I’m seeing.”
What thoughts does Orain have about ways to stay connected with your kids when you’re an over-the-road driver (or for any dad gone from home a lot)? Here are some his ideas:
1. Constantly communicate. Orain says he tries to text every morning. He wants his children to know he is thinking about them.
2. Send postcards. Especially when his children were younger, Orain did his best to send them a postcard from different locations with a state bird or the stage flag.
3. Learn what your child is learning. Orain learned “common core math” so he could help his daughter and son in the advanced classes in which they are enrolled.
4. Make notes. Jot down the things you hear your child mention, for example, interests or concerns. Ask them about these things when you talk a few days later. This helps a child to know s/he is important to you.
“Loving a child from the road,” insists Orain, “is not different that loving them when you are present. Call them back. Check up on them. Let them know you are available to talk. That’s what makes the difference.”