The Big Chill

August 30, 2006 at 2:48 PM | Posted in Journal | 1 Comment

  It’s cool now, in the morning.  Kids are going back to school.  Fall is approaching…  it wont be long now. . . 

  I had started to write a letter to my youngest daughter, Miranda, so that I can give it to her on her 18th birthday.  She is 10 now, and much of what is going on she doesn’t understand, and what she is getting is mostly one-sided, from her mother.

  I hope to retain a relationship with her, but I wanted to write about what is going on right now, so that later, she will . . .get it, get what happened to her mommy and daddy.  What I started to explain was–and maybe when I get done, I’ll publish it here–when you are with someone, you have to be there for them.  Compromise isn’t the other person giving in.  You have to be there for them, and they have to be there for you.  If they aren’t, you need to leave. 

  Every time I have quit a job, I have had another one lined up.  When I got fired, I didn’t have that option.  I’ve been fired three times.  So far.  Twice from the same job. If they were still in business, they would hire me back and fire me again.  Come to think of it, the other place that fired me is out of business also.  Let that be a lesson to the lot of ye.

  The second time I got fired from the warehouse job, I had been working there slightly under 6 months.  I still think it was a conspiracy, a combination of the six-month waiting period for health insurance, and other factors.  But it was a great gig while it lasted.  From May through October, 1990.  Or ‘89?  Christ, a long time ago.  I was a hot young stud.  With a wife and baby.

  I was working third shift, and it worked pretty good.  We had one car, I would take it to work at night, get off in the morning, the Wife would take it to her job.  I would stay up with the baby, and when she came home, I would go to sleep until I had to get up for work.  Since the boss got me on the cheap–6 bucks an hour, plus fiddy cent for working thirds–I got to work overtime, so I worked six days a week.  Didn’t see the wife alot, which defined our relationship in the early years and does much towards explaining its longevity.

  The warehouse was a great job, both times.  Henry Transportation, we hauled carpet up from Georgia, then distributed it throughout the midwest.  Went out of business later when some of the mills, like Phil-Shaw figured they could do it themselves and eliminate the middle man, Bill Henry.

  My dad was a Georgia driver for Bill, and therefore, one of the Gods.  He and several others would drive down to Georgia, basically empty, except for the rare return, and come back loaded to the very top with carpet.  He would make two trips one week, and three the next, so every other week he had a real three day weekend, plus he was home a couple of times during the week.  He drove the doubles, too.

  While we are talking about my dad, here’s a story, straight from his mouth: 

  One trip down to Georgia, I got a flat sitting in the yard at one of these shitty little independent mills.  I call Bill and tell him, and he says, well, he can’t get anybody to get there till tomorrow, but he can layover, and of course Bill will pay for it.

  I tell him, well, how about I pay for the tire, and you just pay me back when I get back.  It’d be cheaper, and I won’t lose a day.  Bill says, that’s going to be about three hundred dollars.  How come you have that much money on you?

  I told him, in case I’m down here and I get pissed off and quit, I want to be able to fly home. 

  So I worked in the warehouse.  I was nominally a forklift driver, but the Georgia drivers would generally drop in the yard, and so I spent alot of time hooking up and unhooking, backing into the doors, and so forth.  If I could, I used my dad’s truck, 48, because it was one of the new ones, and the best.  Conventional cab, power steering, A/C.  I could move trailers around all night with it.

  Then, back in the warehouse, we worked in two man teams usually, driver and spotter.  Spotter on the floor has the clipboard, and checks off rolls and locations as the driver unloads, or goes and finds as the driver loads the truck.  We had several towmotors–forklifts–a Mitsubishi, a Yale, and the favorite one I can’t remember the brand of, and another shitty Yale.  The shitty yale had actual forks on it, because very rarely we would do skids of tile or miscellaneous crap.  The rest of them had a 9 or 10 foot long pole on them for picking up the rolls of carpet with.  A dick.

  We were guys, okay, working in a warehouse, with huge phallic symbols on the front of our machines.  What the hell else you expect?  Lots of jokes came with this.  When you roll up to a roll, you have to eyeball that target, otherwise you miss, go into the roll, and risk damage.  You miss, the guy on the ground invariably will ask, "Want me to put some hair around that?"  Or just stroke the pole with his hands a bit, and ask, "Ready now?"

  Carpet in the warehouse was stacked from the ground to the rafters, on shelves spaced about 2 feet apart.  Stuff on the top was easily 20 feet in the air.  It takes patience and precision and a good eye to get the dick in those holes.  We were all good.

  So, I have the lift up in the air, aiming for a hole on top.  I find it, and go in, then tilt back.  I raise it up slowly.  It is a large roll, a typical 120 foot roll, about 18 inches in diameter.  It is not on the top of the stack, there are two rolls on top of it, stacked brick style.

  So as I raise the lower roll, the rolls above it move, then one *pushes* to the side. The forklift leans over, and goes up on two wheels.  Then as the roll I am raising goes over, the other falls into the open slot.  The forklift then lists back in the other direction.

  There I am, with my lift twenty feet in the air with five hundred plus pounds bouncing back and forth, swinging the forklift like a pendulum.

  I know I have excellent sphincter control, because it grabbed a hold of the seat and didn’t let go.

  The guy I who was spotting for me, Jerry Brown, just shook his head at me.

  So driving a forklift is fun and occasionally dangerous.  Not to the driver, but to the surroundings.  We were always hitting things, bumping into stuff.  Shit happens.  I mean, with the pole and a roll of carpet, you don’t have to go slow.  We ran those tow motors at full blast.  The owner had governors put on them, to keep us from going too fast.

  The time came for us to move to a larger facility, so we moved from this new warehouse we leased from a large grocery store to an old, decrepit structure that belonged to a department store that I believe is no longer in business.  They warned us that since we were in this nice (?) new (??!) facility, that damage to the structure would not be tolerated, and would be grounds for dismissal.

  Well, you can guess what happens, right?  See, in a forklift, for me, anyway, I drive backwards so much that I forget that I have to actually look behind me.  I kinda remember what’s behind me, why do I have to keep looking?

  That’s why.  I hit the pole with the wheel, and it broke the tie rod on the tow motor.  The pole itself was not actually damaged, but in their counterclaim for my unemployment, they said it was.  I collected unemployment for about six weeks, and actually had to pay some of it back, the fuckers.

  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  That night, I knew I was done for.  The next night I came in, and Phil stopped me outside.  He tried to be a hard ass with me, but basically he said Bill said I had to be let go.

  I was seriously upset.  I get home, and go to the bedroom, and Linda is not quite asleep yet.  She realizes that I am home *way* too soon, and upset.  On the verge of crying.  She is almost hysterical, from 0 to 120 in two seconds.  Through my heaving, I tell her I got fired.

  The thing on her mind is not how I feel, but how this affects her.  I am upset as hell, and crying now.  She gets up, comes around to my side of the bed, where I am sitting.  I go to put my arms up, expecting a hug.  Instead, she berates me.  "How could you be so stupid!  What the hell is wrong with you!  We have a baby to take care of!  I can’t talk to you right now.  I have to be alone."

  And she walks out of the bedroom, and goes downstairs, and leaves me on the bed like that, alone.

  It was about 16 years ago.  It still hurts.  The scar is still there, but it is cold.  Very cold.

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  1. I am thinking so many things – like this:#1 – I must never ever ever cause that kind of pain in someone I love. I never want to be remembered as someone who could act like that in a moment of crisis.#2 – Is there any possibility that she was just crazy from lack of sleep/baby blues, blahblahblah? And would it help to heal that 16 year old scar if there WAS such a possibility?…good thoughts to you while you write the letter…;)t

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