Saturday, June 29, 2013

Trucker War Story (not about Versed)

Back in the day I owned my own truck in the San Franciso bay area, and hired out to brokers to deliver aggregate materials.  I worked for one guy in particular, Art aka AJ who, when the old owner of a concrete company died and his son sniffed up the whole company, went out on his own.  I went with him.  I made nothing but money with this man and for this man.  He was a fiery hot-tempered Portuguese guy with snapping little blue eyes.

Late one Friday afternoon I got a call from Art asking me to deliver some "gunite" sand for a custom swimming pool in a high rent area.  Those are the absolute WORST places to go.  People with lots of money can make lots of trouble.  I don't like going into the bastions of rich people.  That goes for Pebble Beach, Carmel by the Sea, Atherton, Hillsborough, Woodside, etc.  The denizens of these cities and others like them have been the bane of my existence.  As my mind was screaming "NO" I found my traitorous lips already saying "yes".  Darn!  I hated Art that minute.

Gunite guys are another problem.  They are almost never at the job site to tell you where they want their sand.  You have to divine where their gunite truck will be, hod carrier, hoses, the sand can't encroach on the street, obstruct the gutter or (God forbid) get onto the landscape in any way.  The sand must be within reach, but not too close.  You have to try to figure out which access to the yard they will be using.  It's all complicated by the fact that gunite guys are temperamental to say the least and prone to swearing and intimidating their delivery personnel.  That's on the off chance they are at the job site when you are.  If they didn't pay so well nobody would deliver to them, they are that bad.

Late Friday I delivered the 37 tons of sand for the gunite guys so that they could shoot the pool on Saturday.  That's another thing.  Gunite guys know to the OUNCE practically how much sand they need and woe betide anybody who brings too little or too much. Try loading your truck from a silo and getting it to the pound...   It's a science getting along with them AND the rich people neighbors.

The home owner was a newly rich silicon valley guy who was absolutely GIDDY with excitement about his new golf course mansion, his new pool and life in general.  He peppered me with questions about what I was doing, why was I dumping there, what the gunite crew was going to do the next morning etc.  He was actually pretty cute about it, even though he was a pest.  As an aside, he was terrified of one of his filthy rich neighbors.  This will come into play later.

So I dump my sand, and go home for some much needed sleep.  My hat is off to medical interns and residents because *I* know what working 80 hours a week feels like.  You have to be just as alert to safely navigate bay area traffic as you do being a doctor.  People's lives and my job depended upon it.

At 6am Saturday morning my phone shrilled.  I picked it up sleepily. "hullo."  "YOU DUMB (c-word)!!!"  Art screamed.  I moved the phone away from my ear.  "WHERE THE (blank) IS THE (blanking) SAND???!!!"  The decibel levels were off the chart so I removed the phone even farther away.  "WHAT THE (blank) ARE YOU DOING out there?"  Art's voice was reverberating through my cranium.  "They (gunite guys) are SUING me for uh, uh, uh a MILLION DOLLARS a MINUTE!"  Art was really upset.  I put the phone down and listened from a distance while I woke up.  "The, the, the (blanking) GUNITE MACHINE is sitting there!  The HOD CARRIER" he bellowed.  Art was stuttering he was so upset.  "The (blanking) CREW is standing around with their, their, their FINGERS up their (blanks)!  What the (blank) are you THINKING OF?"  He was on a roll.  "YOU'RE FIRED" he shrieked! 

Now *I* was mad!  Furious really!  When AJ finally took a breath I went on the attack.  37 tons of specialty sand cannot disappear over night.  It isn't possible.  "Art," I screamed back at him, "*I* delivered that sand!  I spoke to the OWNER, I was at the correct address and besides I HAVE THE SCALE TAGS TO PROVE IT!" 

I couldn't believe this was happening to me.  I slammed the phone back in its cradle.  In ten minutes flat I was in my personal vehicle traveling to the job site at a high rate of speed.  Along the way (it was a forty minute drive, even at lunatic speeds) I alternated between feeling very sorry for myself, and absolute fury.  How DARE Art speak to me like that?  I was the only person he had who would even take those last minute loads.  Especially for a GUNITE customer.  His DRIVERS, little prima donnas that they were, wouldn't work late on Friday nights.  I was nearly in tears.  How could AJ imagine that I didn't deliver the sand?  I wallowed in self pity.

I pondered what could have happened overnight to make 37 tons of sand disappear.  Space invaders?  Little rich kids with wheelbarrows carting it away all night long?  What the hell?  It simply wasn't possible for those 37 tons of sand to have vanished without a trace in less than 12 hours.  I was mystified.

The mystery deepened when I turned the corner onto the cul d sac where the job was located.  There was the manse, just as I remembered, complete with the little homeowner peeping furtively through a slot in his curtains.  There was the gunite machine idling, the hod carrier, the hoses and the pool crew, although the latter certainly did NOT have their fingers up their (blanks) as detailed by my dispatcher.  They were however, standing around in anxiety stricken groups trying not to be noticed.  There too was the foreman, screaming bloody murder, and gesticulating wildly.  It was this foremen, the very man the homeowner HIRED that was instrumental in the homeowner being afraid to go outside.  What WASN'T there was the sand.  I was flummoxed.

I parked my pickup and got out.  The homeowner recognised me and raced out his side door, positioning himself on the opposite side of me from the hysterical foreman.  The homeowner started obsessively babbling away.  I admit that I wasn't paying any attention whatsoever to what he was saying.  I was busily examining the ground trying to figure out how that much sand could evaporate into thin air.  Here and there I spotted some fugitive sand particles that had somehow escaped the event.  I looked up at the clear blue California sky as if the space ship might still be in evidence.  The foreman spotted me being talked to by the homeowner and strode over to us.  The poor little homeowner cringed behind me.  Like *I* was an obstacle for this muscled up macho man of a foreman ...  The ranting foreman clearly wasn't going to listen to a word I said, so I mutely pointed to the ground where the last little grains of sand were embedded in the pavement. 

The homeowner continued his sotto voce communications with me the whole time.  Suddenly I straightened up and rounded on him "What did you say?"  He proceeded to tell us (again apparently) that his filthy rich neighbor had taken exception to the pile of sand.  Not only did the rich neighbor not like the looks of it, he also had plans of taking his fancy car out of his giant garage and parking it on the street in the precise spot in front of the other homeowners house where the sand had temporarily resided.  His pool having already been built, Mr. Filthy Rich wasn't having any part of some upstart new neighbor's pool construction.  No he wasn't.  So what happened was that Mr. Filthy Rich called the police the instant I left, and the city came out that night and picked up all the offending sand with various tools, machines and a street sweeper.  This can only happen where rich people live.  In my neighborhood that sand could have sat there until doomsday.

I told the foreman that he owed me an apology and that further he was to call my dispatcher Art and explain the whole thing.  He did so.

When I got to the yard, (where we parked our trucks) AJ was already in his office.  This was a new AJ that I had never seen before.  Gone was the arrogant temperamental Art that I knew and loved and in his stead was a servile, obsequious pod person.  AJ offered me his personal chair which I gingerly sat in.  He scampered off to get me a soda, actually opened it and handed it to me.  Very strange.  He apologized profusely.  He told me that he didn't mean it when he said I was fired.  He mumbled something to the effect that I was the best worker he had.  He rambled on and on in the same vein.  His behavior was making me nervous.  I decided that I really didn't like the new AJ and determined to do something to get the old Art back. 

I needed to do something that would shock him back into reality.  So I leaned back in his chair and pulled an ankle over the opposite knee in my best 'I'm the boss' posture and sneered knowingly "Oh Art, I already knew you would never fire me!  I BUILT this company for you!  You would have NOTHING if it wasn't for me!"  I arranged my lips into a smirk and winked at him.  Then I got more comfortable in his chair to watch the fireworks.  Art immediately obliged and I was treated to the spectacle of ole AJ pacing and stomping, waving his hands around and glaring at me with his fiery little blue eyes while lecturing me about just who it was that built his company.  So fun!  Even rich people's shenanigans couldn't ruin Art for long.

The End

PS Art Pontes, the dispatcher in my story, died in his forties of a heart attack. 
This tale is from my "Why I hate rich people" file.

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