Saturday, April 18, 2015

04-18-15 – Riding Shotgun – Friday

Rain was predicted for Friday, and the dispatcher told me to come in at 7, instead of 6:30, so I was expecting to wait around a couple hours for the paychecks and then be sent home. Surprisingly, it hadn’t rained yet by dawn, and I was able to do my pre-trip with no flashlight or umbrella. (Yes, EVERY self-respecting truck-jockey needs a bumbershoot!)

The sky was overcast by 8, when two other guys and I were dispatched across town to Mount Shrinkmore, to get some fill dirt for a customer. It started raining enough on the way over that I already seriously doubted our ability to get to the top of the dig, from where the dirt is currently being taken. Just as we were ready to turn into the site, the bottom fell out of the clouds and the rain came down in buckets. Instead of turning into the site, I turned onto a lot across the road, owned by the same company, to wait and watch. The other two fellows followed.

When the monsoon stopped five minutes later, there was a small stream flowing down the access road of the site. I called the dispatcher on the radio and he said to go ahead and try to get the fill dirt if we could get to it. I knew the impossibility of climbing a hill of red clay, but I agreed and proceeded to drive to where the guy in the track-hoe was working at a location that was mostly rock. He said that we’d never make it up the hill and, if we did, would probably slide over the hill on the way down, so he wanted no part of trying to get regular fill dirt. I radioed the dispatcher with the news and he told us to go ahead and load rock for the next order.

That order was actually for a branch of our employers’ own company. They’re filling in a low section of their property which floods, so they can put mini-storage or rental buildings there. That site was unusably muddy, too. However, there was a small unused section of asphalt road where we could back in and dump, and the boss could then doze the dirt a short distance to where it was needed. The dispatcher pulled the third guy off the job after his first load and put him on another job, leaving me and the new guy they hired this week. (The kid actually has far more experience than I and has worked for the company before.) And so, we spent our day driving from one side of the river to the other.

A side note here—this tributary river has a total of three bridges joining the north side of town with the south. The Ohio, into which it flows a mile downstream, has only two bridges joining West Virginia with Ohio. Yet, the state says that when the older bridge, (originally privately owned, but now owned by the city) gets unusable, they will take no part in replacing it. That would leave only two bridges joining the two states in this area, one here, and another about 15 miles upstream. Go figure! ADENDUM - (For some reason, I forgot the relatively new bridge a few miles downstream.)

The track-hoe that was loading us had a good-sized bucket, and since the mud between the rocks helped hold everything together, it often took only three buckets to give me an 18-20 ton load. When leaving and pulling onto the three lane going by the site, I tried to get into the center turn-lane to let the mud sling off my tires in the least-used part of the highway. It’s always interesting to see how some folks will let you out, while others will speed up to try and keep you from getting out ahead of them. I’ve also spent enough time in that traffic area to know that some of the same cars run some of the same red lights every day.

My nine-mile round trip took me by the homeless camp I took a few photos of recently—22 times in fact, before the day was over. That was often enough to start figuring out which of the folks who frequented the bridge area were residents of the camp. One looked like a typical wino. Another looked like he was well enough fed, but down on his luck otherwise. A third looked like he could have been a Harvard graduate—neat and clean, well dressed, and concerned that someone would see him slipping off the sidewalk and walking toward the camp. He acted like he was just out enjoying the scenery and waited until he thought no-one would see him before heading for the camp. I wouldn’t have seen it either if I hadn’t kept an eye on him in my rearview mirror. Obviously, not all folks on the street are shiftless characters who want to live that way, they’ve just run out of other options.

Since the job form that I was using had lines for either load or dump times, so I recorded the dump times to see how long every trip took. Most of the 11 round trips took about 45 minutes, but some took only 30 minutes and a couple took an hour each. Variations included waiting for the track-hoe man to return from lunch or to move his machine for a better reach of the materials. It also made a difference how you caught the traffic lights and how heavy the traffic was. Of course, my water pills tend to complicate things, so three of the 45 minute cycles included a much-needed “pit stop.”

I had one interesting case of road rage to observe on the next-to-last trip. Waiting at the stop light before entering onto a bridge access road, the car in front of me remained stationary while the about ten cars ahead of him went through the light. When I looked closer, I could see a young fellow busily texting away, blissfully unaware that anything was happening. Perhaps it was my own rage that caused the situation, but I gave him a sort of medium blast on the air horn. He stuck a heavily-tattooed arm out the window and flew the bird as he started off. Then, he slammed on his brakes, slung open the door, stepped one foot out of the car and started screaming what I suspect were some rather unkind words at me. I just shook my head at him as I steered around him and went on. I had work to do. Besides, I doubt if my employer would have been pleased if I’d been the instigator of violence. I might not have been pleased, either, if his twenty-year-old speed out-fought my sixty-year-old sneakiness!

I mentioned the incident to one of the owners and he said the only thing he’d have done different would have been to LAY on the air horn. He then went on to tell of a similar situation, back when he was a hot-tempered young man, where the other guy ended up running away while he was chasing him and throwing wrenches at him. The next day, the guy’s name was in the paper for shooting his grandfather in the back with a shotgun. He said that he began thinking things through a little more after that, just in case some crazy might start shooting.

I guess some things are just all in a day’s work, as they say! © 2015


Sunnybrook Farm said...

I wonder what people like the tattooed texter will do when the economy crashes and texting stops. I guess they will become zombies.
Sounds like you made a good day out of what looked like a wash out.

Gorges Smythe said...

Yeah, SF, I was glad for the hours.