17 October, 2009

Safety Is #1... or not

My week of being on call is winding down and I only have another fourteen or so hours left until the next guy takes over. I just had a call from one of the larger companies and the dude wanted to know if I could "help him out." This person had a truck broken down on the side of the road because a set of wheels came off the trailer. It sounds terrible, but it happens quite frequently when people don't maintain their equipment and drivers don't do pre-trip inspections like they're supposed to. Anyway, I was starting to think about how I'd have to tell him the trailer would be stuck until Monday when he says something that shocked me. He asked me to go out there and chain up the axle so the driver could get to his destination. His destination was four hours away! Uh, no. I'm not going to do that. I was told that there was only about 12,000 pounds in the trailer and that he's had this done before. WTF?! I told him that I'd chain up the axle to either get the rig off of the road or back to our shop for repairs, but no further. I could just picture my boss's insurance rates going up and the costs related to a lawsuit if the thing crashed and, you know, killed a busload of nuns or something. Besides, any DOT official would have to break out a fresh violation booklet if that trailer should get pulled off into a scale. I can just hear it now. "So, who chained up this axle and let you go?" The cops would let us take the trailer to our shop for repairs, but wouldn't ever let it proceed down the road. I can't believe the dude who called me actually thought we'd do that sort of thing. It's just fucking crazy! After I refused to do something so stupid, the jerk asks me if there's anyone else in the area that could do that for him. I gave him the name of another shop in the area which I know well. I know the guy who'd be running the call and he's not stupid enough to do it either. But that's not all! The company which called me also has other surprises that I learned the hard way. A vendor can only get paid between the hours of 09:00 and 17:00, Monday-Friday. The last service call I did for this company (it was about two years ago) was on a Saturday afternoon. I was on hold for an hour and a half before I actually talked to someone and got paid. I had to keep scratching out the total and adding on more time. They got billed an extra $135.00 for the time I was on hold. That was under the old rates, it would be a lot more expensive now. The dude who got me set up with a com check was some mechanic in one of their shops and he sounded totally worn out. He was the only person there and I think every department, from corporate on down, kept transferring the phones right down the chain until it got to the person I spoke with. So, having thought of the trouble with getting paid coupled with the extreme liability concerns, I politely refused. My boss hardly EVER turns work down regardless of how crazy it might seem, but I think he'd agree with me on this one. Besides, I have past experiences to draw from. One time we had a guy come to the shop after one of my coworkers went out to chain an axle after some serious wheel bearing failure. He found out that we couldn't get parts NOW and he wanted to pay for the service call (including the chain) and take off so he could get his load where it needed to be. My foreman at the time said "No, you're not taking that trailer anywhere in that condition. It's not safe." The driver turned into a real asshole and was calling everyone names and threatening us (not wise in a diesel shop). He was outside talking to someone on his cell phone trying to figure what to do. After a little bit, my foreman asked me where the guy was. I told him I last saw him outside. He wasn't there. He took off down the road. With our chain holding up one end of a trailer axle. We knew where he was headed because we always where a driver's headed. If someone runs off without paying or, as in the case of Mr. Angry, takes off with an unsafe trailer, we know what to tell the state patrol. And call the state patrol we did. I found out later that the dude didn't even make it two miles from the shop before he was stopped by the state patrol. It was this experience which led to my decision to not help the moron who called me today. The rig isn't going anywhere. Well anywhere too far. If he had asked me to fix it, it wouldn't happen because I wouldn't be able to find parts anywhere until Monday. If I did chain up the axle, he'd probably have to pull into a scale somewhere along the line and they'd put the rig out of service until it could be repaired. The dude is shit outta luck, plain and simple.

14 October, 2009

It's only a box, but...

"Home is where the heart is." You read it and hear that phrase all the time. You see it done in needle point, paintings, wood carvings, blankets, posters, photographs... So much that we tend to take it for granted and not think about the meaning. Home truly is where the heart is. The house is just a big box. A box that contains and shelters the people you love and who love you, a box that contains "home." I keep reminding myself of this fact because the house that was home, is being sold. I haven't lived there for ten years and have a house of my own, but Mom still lived there and it was always "home" to me. In fact, right now I'm noticing that referring to this place in the past tense is rather awkward. My parents bought this house before me and my brother were born. My Sister and oldest brother were still fairly young when the family moved in. It seems rather rare these days for a family to stay put in one place for very long, but this house was the family home for around 44 years. There's so many things that happened in that house that I can't possibly remember them all. I knew Mom was going to sell the place for quite some time, but it didn't really sink in until I saw the "for sale" sign planted firmly in the middle of the front yard. I hit it with the lawn mower. My Dad passed the lawn mowing duties to me when I was a pre-teen. Being the youngest I was permanently on lawn mowing detail until recently. I'd mowed that lawn for around twenty two years! You can probably understand why I hit the sign in the front yard. It's the only thing that's changed in that yard for a long, long time. I was daydreaming like usual and then *CLANG*, I hit the sign. I just sort of stopped and stared at it. It was swinging on the post a bit as if to taunt me. The family had been fixing up the new house Mom was going to be living in and slowly, a little at a time, she would move things from the old house to the new one. The old house had a lot of boxes sitting around upstairs and some of the smaller furniture was gone, but it still looked like "home." My sister-in-law (a truly wonderful lady) helped Mom sort through all of the "stuff" and helped with packing and moving the smaller things. One Sunday when I was over for dinner Mom presented me with a tote full of stuff. That lady had every report card I'd received, baby stuff, school related stuff and the like packed into this tote. Apparently aside from being "home", the house was also the family archive. Then came moving day. In the space of six hours, the family had emptied our house of everything that was left. Except the garage, but more on that in a few minutes. I was selected as U-Haul driver. Apparently because having a Class A CDL made me the most qualified to drive an F-350 with a square box on it *shrugs*. I also deemed myself "Assistant Move Coordinator." The irony of the situation is even though I didn't want to see my home disappear, I wanted the move done right and as efficiently as possible. I'd reminded myself that the house isn't important, it's my Mother that's important. Though they weren't my Father's dying words, one of the last duties he'd assigned to me was "Take care of your Mother." What he told me has been in the back of my mind since he died and I hope that, in his eyes, I've been doing a good job. So, the night before moving day I started hauling stuff out on my own in my little truck. I wanted the next day to go smoothly with the least amount of stress for Mom. I had to be out of bed by 09:00 on moving day and I was tired right away. Having worked nights at almost every job I've had, getting up before noon is rather difficult. I knew I'd have a hard time seeing my home slowly emptied so I put it out of my mind and turned into a sleepy robot. Load the truck, drive the truck, empty the truck, repeat as necessary. After everything had been moved and the truck returned, I went back to the "old house" (the place had changed designations sometime during the move). I had a garage to empty out. Having been the last of my siblings to have lived there, I knew what was going into the trash pile or the "keep" pile. Once I got to the old house I realized that I was alone. I unlocked the back door and walked in. It was a very, very strange feeling that came over me. Even though everything was gone, my mind was so used to seeing things in the same spots for so long, that I just couldn't grasp that the place was empty. The other senses didn't help things any. The familiar sounds of doors opening and closing, creaks in the floors and steps, the familiar smells... It sounded like home, it looked like home and it smelled like home. "Is it home?" I asked myself. I really didn't know. If you asked me about some of my memories about home last year, I could have pulled a couple of the big ones off the top of my head, but having to think about it, I wouldn't have been able to recall too many. Being there alone, however, was different. As I walked from one empty room to the next, the memories came flooding back. It was almost more than I could take and I started to cry a little bit. The one place on the planet where I always felt totally and completely safe, was now gone. I felt... lost. Then the sun came shining through the windows. During the move, the weather had played its part well. It was cold, cloudy and gloomy. Then, as I was at the lowest point of the day, the sun breaks out. Now, I wouldn't call myself "religious" by any means, but I am spiritual. I'd like to think that My Dad, my brother, my grandparents, uncle Jack and the other family members so important to me who have passed on, were behind those rays of sunshine. They were giving me the support I needed so badly at that time the only way they could. It rejuvenated me and, though very tired, I got what I needed to carry on with the task at hand. I backed my truck into the garage and went back to "robot" mode. Load truck, drive truck, empty truck... I got back to my place at 23:00 that night. The only stuff left were some things my brother could sort out. There's some tool boxes from Dad still there, but those will be removed before the closing date. The following week was a bit strange, but being at work took my mind off of things. After leaving Mom's new place to return the rental truck, I didn't go back. So, I hadn't seen the new place "arranged" yet. This past Sunday, I went over for Sunday dinner like I usually do (the older I get, the more I appreciate a "home" cooked meal) and I finally saw her new house set up the way she wanted it and everything started falling into place. I looked at the kitchen floor, the fresh paint on the walls, the new tile in the bathroom, the familiar furniture and realized that all of the work was done out of love. Not for money, not to collect "loot" from old tool boxes and such. It was MY family working together because we all love each other. As I sat at the counter eating dinner with my Mother, I put it all together. My family is what I love, love comes from my heart and my heart is with my family. "Home is where the heart is."