Okay, I’ve been AWOL for a few months. So sue.
In September, having realized that HAZMAT tanker was just not gonna be my cup of formaldehyde, I hooked up with what appeared to be a fine upstanding trucking company named Roehl (pronounced RAIL). They paid 38 cents a mile to start, and although they also run flatbeds and curtainside vans along with the occasional reefer, I was going into the dry van end of the business. Like Schwerman, Roehl is also based in Wisconsin – in this case, Marshfield. It had to be run by good Upper Midwestern folk.
I attended the three day orientation in Grand Prairie, Texas, with one other new hire. Jean was in his mid-forties and had driven for a couple of years with a few different companies. I must say that the testing went beyond anything I had ever experienced. Of course we had to pass the DOT physical and pee in a cup. But they had a physician’s assistant come to their facility and put us through a few extra exercises. We had to squat under a truck, climb into a trailer, and a couple of other transport gymnastics that are lost down the memory hole. After each, he would note our pulse rate and blood pressure. Obviously I passed and the kindly examiner added that I did better than a whole lotta younger guys he tests.
After a road test, which, obviously, I also passed we got into the classroom. Typical boring power point presentations and 60s era safety films.
On the last day I was assigned a truck. I got a new(er) International ProStar Plus – only 32,000 miles. Pretty dang clean. The other guy got a Freightliner, although it didn’t manner. A condition of his hiring was the use of a CPAP machine. Although he admitted he had a fat neck, he was not down with having a plastic cup strapped to his face every night so he opted out. He ended up going to work for Arnold Transport that did not require CPAP. We stay in touch.
I got my first load assignment back to Houston where I was able to load my personal stuff and take a couple of days off before I hit the road. My first trip? A nice little jaunt to Romeoville, Illinois. From there I picked up a load from John Deere in Janesville, Wisconsin (I grew up in Janesville … Minnesota) delivering in East Syracuse, New York, where I sustained my first on the job injury.
I had delivered three good-sized all terrain vehicles to a distributor. They were stapped down in my trailer and chocked with little triangular pieces of wood which were nailed to the trailer’s wooden floor with, at the very least, 16p (that’s pretty big) nails.
It was a drop and hook. If I haven’t described D&H before, it simply means that I deliver the load, unhook the full trailer, and, in most cases, pick up an empty trailer. Well, the empty had also delivered ATVs and was empty. Except for a few triangular pieces of wood and a whole lotta bent nails that were stuck in the trailer floor. It is one of my responsibilities to make sure the empty trailer is swept and ready for the next load.
I travel with a hammer, so I got my full-sized, Craftsman hammer and got after those pesky nails. They were beyond pesky.
The nails were big enough, and trailer floor wood dense enough, so that I could not extract a single the nail. Hmmm. Then I realized that I had also brought along a little pry bar that I used to thump the tires in my pre- and post-trip inspections. I retrieved the pry bar and took it to the first nail. My now puny arm strength just couldn’t get the job done. So I caught the head of the nail in the notch of my pry bar and then stepped on the other end of the bar. I had to jump on it before the nail let loose. And loose it did let. It shot free like a bullet, ricocheting off the ceiling off the trailer and ending up I knew not where. That was a positive development.
I found the next nail and tried it again. I put my full weight on the appropriate end of the pry bar and once again the nail shot like a bullet … into my face. I took a hard hit just above my chin, just above the crease between my chin and my lower lip. BAM! It hurt. I was stunned.
I first probed inside my mouth over my lower teeth. Tasted a little blood and felt a definite wound of some kind. Then I touched the pain. When I pulled my fingers away, they were bloody. Great.
I got a piece of napkin out of my truck and stuck it on the wound, as if it was a shaving cut. Then I finished extracting the nails. Only now I didn’t step on the end of the pry bar with the ball of my foot exposing my face over the would be projectiles, but with my heel exposing only the flesh of my buttocks to the rocket force of the nails.
Although I didn’t think my bullet / nail wound would be fatal, I did worry that it might get infected so I called my “incident” in to the safety department. They listened patiently, and asked if I thought I needed medical attention. I replied that I didn’t think so but I wanted to document what had happened just in case. We were all okay with it. And I finished my first tour of the upper midwest and northeast without further incident.
I even got home within two weeks. So far things were looking okay.