Saturday, 15 June 2013

For Father's Day Weekend... A Story About My Pop!

Here comes the train!

Well hello!  I'm back!  With a story!  A happy story.  For once, right? Ha.  Gotta mix it up, right? Right.

So! The year?  Maybe 1994-ish?  I was working for a place called "Plan-it Recycling".  It's a play on words.  Plan-it - planet.  Like as in Earth.  Get it?  What did Plan-it do?  Well, back in those olden days, Winnipeg had no municipal recycling service.  You want your refuse recycled instead of land-filled?  You gotta take it to a drop off place or hire somebody to come by and pick it up every week.  Which is what we did.  We had the blue boxes.  And six days a week, we had trucks out there driving routes picking up recyclables.  JJ?  He worked the evening shift.  The evening shift was responsible for making sure all the recyclable were put into these big semi trailers, making sure that the trucks were ready for the day drivers and making everything spic and span.  And one more thing.  Every day, there would be boxes that were missed.  Either because they were put out after the driver went by, or it was a new driver who didn't know where the box was and zoomed past or some other reason.   Most people were ok to wait until the next week.  But not everybody.  Some of them would and say "You better come get my recyclables!"  And we would! Can't let them be unhappy and quit and go to Red Box!  Or Green Box!  Competition was tight!

Then the city decided it would, after all, get into the recycling biz.  So they put the contract out to bid.  And Plan-It didn't get it.  And we were sad.  See?

Woe is us.  And our plaid shorts...ok, JJ's plaid shorts...

My dad...was a bit of pack rat.  And...a bit of a garbage picker.  Like, nothing crazy.  I don't think he would have made it to an episode of "Hoarders" or anything.  He just had a tendency to...collect stuff...and never get rid of it.  And he could not walk down the back lane behind our house without scanning for goodies.  Perfectly good things that somebody has inexplicably thrown away.  I can remember at least one garden hose that was good as new with some duct tape.  And the family homestead kind of had a lot of places where you could just put crap, and then forget it, without it getting in your way.  Under the front porch, in the back porch, under the back porch, in one of the corners of the roughly one-third-finished basement.  

The signature "get" in my dad's collection, had to be this air conditioner that he found in the lane.  It must have been from, like, the 1950's maybe?  It was massive. I don't even think it would fit in a window.  And probably weighed 200 pounds. But he had big plans to get it running and cooling that house.  My brother and I finally got rid of it when we cleaning the house out to sell it.  

Ahhhh...there she is.  The old homestead, circa summer of 2007
That's E-man in my arms and G-man's head at the front...good times...

Eventually Plan-It bought their own trucks.  Specially designed to pick up and sort your recyclables!  But not at first.  At first?  We drove these babies. Cube vans.  Sweet, right?  Bucket seats.  Automatic transmission.  AM Radio.

Did the company own them? Nope.  It rented them.  First from Budget.  Then, from Ryder.  I have to doubt how much money was actually made by either of those companies from renting trucks to Plan-It.  I don't think any of their invoices were paid until they threatened to repossess the trucks, and the beating those trucks took...the worst was when you had to go pick up or drop off a truck at the rental company.  The bad vibe was palpable.  "You fucker".  And it was like: "C'mon man! I don't pay the bills!  I just drive the truck! Now, gimme anther one so we can trash it too."

                                                                        Beep Beep! Hey, got any recyclables!?

When I was a kid, my parents decided to put siding on the house.  It was brick, and very nice, but I think it was in such a state of disrepair that it would be too pricey to fix.  So they decided on siding.  And they hired some company to do it.  And I remember there was some convoluted incident where maybe they left the siding at the house overnight and somebody came and stole a bunch of it and so they had to get another kind but there was some of the old stuff left over...? Or something?  Anyways, the result was that the house was sided with vinyl siding, but there was a bunch of aluminum siding left over.  Which they just gave to my dad.  And which he shoved under the deck in the back yard.  And left there for the next fifteen years.  While he waited for the opportunity to somehow, someway, use it.  

JJ and co-engineers building a fort in the back yard - 
"Lucky for us there is all this wood just lying around...."

One night, after the switch to Ryder trucks, JJ gets the call to be one of the guys going out picking up missed boxes.  Which is cool.  Drive around the city, listening to tunes (Ryders had FM radio!).  No Prob.  I am zipping around.  Sorting recyclables.  Grooving.  Got a box to pick up in the southern part of the city.  I head down the lane and make the turn...going nice and easy...nice and slow...and the truck stops.  "Huh?"  I gun the engine a little bit.  The truck moves forward...and then back.  I am stuck on something.  Fuuuuuuuck...  

Now at this point, I will tell you something about good ole' Plan-It.  A lot of the job was driving.  For the company.  But if you got in any sort of accident on the job?  You were on your own.  They didn't cover you at all.  I am not even sure it was legal to do that.  But what the fuck did we know?  We were just a bunch of young dudes.  "Ok!  I guess I better drive careful if I don't want to risk paying all of my $9.00 an hour earnings to an insurance company!"

Back to the story!  I hop out of the truck.  See a low hanging tree branch above the cube part of the truck... 

"Aha!" I say to myself.  "The cube must be caught on that!  I think the trick is to hop back in the truck, gun the engine...and I will just pop out!  No muss, no fuss!"  So I hop back in the truck.  Put it in drive and gun the engine.  There is...the most...godawful squealing noise...but I am moving forward...and moving forward...("squuuueeeaaallll!!")...and...I am free! Yes!  Fuck you, tree branch!  

And I stop and hop out to inspect any damage...look at the top of the cube...intact.  Fuck yes! Dodged a bullet there!  Then I happen to glance back down the lane from whence I had come...and...was that piece of yellow-painted wood lying in the lane by that hydro cable there before?

Walk back to check it out..."hmm...that's not wood...that's what the truck cube is made of...ooooohhhhhhh..."  I wasn't actually caught by a tree on the roof.  I was caught by one of those hydro cables that come up from the ground.  It was in the wheel well.  If I  had backed up, I would have freed myself.  But instead I gunned it and the cable acted like a saw blade and sheared off the bottom foot of the cube from the well to the back of the truck.  "Fuck.  Fuck.  Fuck. "

I don't know what to do.  I pick up the piece of fibreglass.  Put it in the cab with me...  Drive...home...  Where I take the piece of fibreglass and throw it...under the back deck.  On top of what?  The aluminum siding, of course!  Then I drive back to the warehouse.  I park it and look at the side with the sheared off part.  "It doesn't look that bad...I am not sure anybody will notice...probably no one will notice...the cube is still intact..."  Bottom line?  I didn't fess up.  I should have.  It was not the honourable route.  But I didn't.  $500 deductible on the truck.  For which I alone am responsible.  And for something that doesn't actually detract from the utility of the truck...  And yet...


That was me.  What kind of example was I setting for future G-man and E-man!  But no worries! The folks at Ryder...noticed that there was a piece of their truck missing.  And so I was asked "Hey, JJ, anything happen that night?"  And of course I say "Yes, it did, but I didn't think it was that big a deal..."

Well, it was, I was told.  Ryder wasn't too crazy about it.  Gonna take some serious $ to repair. Full deductible and mark on JJ's insurance. UNLESS! If Ryder had the missing piece of truck, they will just graft it back on!  Cost me just a little!  "Heck yes" I think to myself!  And I say: "Why, as a matter of fact, I do still have it...I just left it at home..."

So that night, I get home from work, late in the evening.  And I head to the back yard, to get my piece of truck...  "Huh.  I thought I left it right here..." Keep looking... "Got to be around here somewhere..." Keep looking...becoming a little more frantic... "Fuck!" Cannot find it anywhere.

The conclusion of the story?  As if it's not obvious...  I asked my parents the next day if they had seen this $500 piece of fibreglass.  My father had, of course, thrown it away.  "I thought it was trash!!!"

So...$500 later...

Beep boop.

JJ out!