Wednesday, March 26, 2014

This Story May Not Be Safe For Dog Lovers

. . . Unless They Have A Sense of Humor

Carl had only been working at the lumber yard for a few weeks. Fellow employees and customers alike seemed to enjoy his pleasant, easygoing manner. He was both likable and conscientious and exhibited skill and caution when operating company equipment. It was his first real job since getting out of high school and, in Frank's view, he was a promising young employee. 

Frank was the yard's Operations Manager. He had been in the retail lumber business for most all of his working life, which spanned five decades, and in a supervisory position for more than twenty of those years. Up until that summer day when he sent Carl out on a delivery by himself, Frank felt that he had just about seen or heard about everything that could happen while delivering lumber. 

As the yard boss, Frank was responsible for all of the company's lumber deliveries. He had approvingly watched Carl's performance as the young man worked in the yard driving a forklift or shuttling the delivery trucks around. He had also been given nothing but good reports from the older, more experienced drivers who had taken Carl along as a trainee and helper on local deliveries.

That is why Frank was not too worried about sending Carl out on his first delivery alone. It was a heavy load but it was a good one. Four units of plywood made up the base of the load. They were topped by two units of 16 foot long 2x12 framing lumber which served nicely to tie the entire load together so that it should not buckle or 'splay' as it slid off the tilted bed of the delivery truck.

There was a pallet of boxes containing assorted hardware on top of the load as well as one of the lumber yard's specialties, a custom built cedar dog house. These dog houses were hand crafted in a local wood shop and had proven quite popular in the community. Frank made sure that Carl knew that he was to unload the boxes of hardware and the dog house before he dropped the 8 tons of lumber to keep them from getting damaged on impact with the customer's driveway.

The load was ordered by a customer who was building an addition to his existing home so the delivery address was in an established residential neighborhood with paved roads and driveways. It should make things easier as Carl would not have to negotiate the truck through a new-construction housing development; the terrain at some of those sites could often be difficult to negotiate.

The truck Carl would be using was a tilt-bed, flatbed, 10-wheeled diesel powered vehicle. It is a remarkable labor-saving innovation that has been in use since the time of the Model-T trucks in the early 1900's.

Tilt-Bed Flatbed Lumber Truck

Dropping a load of lumber in this manner is widely used since there is no need for a forklift or for the time, and the labor involved in hand-unloading.

Frank knew that Carl had been a helper on enough of these type 'drops' to have gained a clear understanding of the two-step procedure: the bed is tilted until the leading edge of the 'pack' of lumber hits the ground and then the truck is pulled forward until the entire load drops off the back edge of the bed. 

He did not expect any difficulties. After watching Carl ease the truck carefully through the gate and into traffic, Frank returned to his other yard duties and put Carl's maiden voyage out of his mind.

Later that afternoon, as Frank was nodding drowsily at his desk over a batch of delivery manifests, the crackling of the speaker on his intercom startled him awake, "Frank. You have a driver holding on Line One."

Frank was not unduly alarmed because, even though they were infrequent, phone calls from drivers were not unheard of. While most routine communications between drivers and the yard were handled in the Dispatch Office, there were times when certain in-formation should not go out over the air so all drivers had been issued cell phones.

"This is Frank," he spoke into the handset.

"Hey, Frank. This is Carl," came over the line. "The thing is, Frank, um, I got sort of a problem," .

"What's going on, son?" Frank replied.

"Well, the thing is, there wasn't anybody home so I went ahead and backed into the driveway like you said, you know? Then I packed down all of them boxes of nails and screws and such and I roped that cedarwood dog house down real careful like and set it aside out of the way. So then I tipped the bed and the load slid off just fine and then I got into the cab to drive out from under it and . . ." Carl paused.

The first twinges of concern made themselves felt in Frank's mind as visions appeared of a destroyed garage door or irreparable damage to something that would doubtlessly be described by the homeowner as an irreplaceable family heirloom.

". . . and what, Carl?" Frank asked tentatively. "Please tell me no one was hurt." Property damage was bad enough but personal injuries were on a different level altogether.

The silence from the other end of the phone connection did nothing to allay Frank's sense of impending catastrophe.

"Carl? Are you there?" Frank was making a conscious effort to try and keep anxiety out of his voice.

"Carl?" Still nothing.

"Um, that kinda depends, Frank." Carl replied at length.

"It 'DEPENDS', Carl? What the hell is THAT supposed to mean," Frank gave up worrying about his tone of voice as panic seemed about to take over. 

"Well, um, the thing is, you know, earlier, when I first got here I rung the front doorbell and I waited but there wasn't no answer except for the dog barking from inside so I rung it a few more times and that dog was just going crazier and crazier every time I rung it so I went around back to see if anybody was maybe working back there and there wasn't nobody so I knocked on the back door and that dog..."

"Carl?" Frank had had enough, "Just tell me what happened."

"I'm trying to Frank," Carl replied, "You see, that dog was just plain going all over neurotic trying to get outside to play with me so I quit knocking at the back door and I went back around front to the truck to go ahead and drive out from under the load."

"And?" Frank asked, pulling a lined legal pad in front of him thinking it might be a good idea to start keeping some kind of record of this conversation.

"Well that load just dropped off the truck as slick as you please." Carl enthused. "Frank, I tell you it made the most hellacious kind of a bang when it slapped down on that concrete. So I set my brakes and went to the pack to loosen the straps and the binders and I was thinking I would do the homeowner a favor and cart that cedarwood dog house around to the back of the house so he wouldn't have to and that's when I seen it."

Frank took a deep breath and tendered the obvious question: "What did you see, Carl."

"I saw the tail." Carl responded.

"The 'tail', Carl?" Frank was using all of his self control to resist the impulse of reaching through the phone to shake some sense out of his driver. "Where did you see this 'tail'. I really hope you're circling in on some kind of a POINT, here, son because I'm kind of busy and I'll be needing you to get to it."

"I'm not sure, exactly, Frank," Carl said, "I'm thinking it looks kind of like a German Shepherd but it might be some kind of a Lab cross, or maybe..."

"Carl!" Frank shouted into the phone, "I didn't ask you what freakin' breed it was! What, in the name of all that's Holy, does it have to do with your delivery?"

"Well, that's the thing Frank." was Carl's response. "Um, you see, that tail is kinda sticking out from under the plywood, and I was calling you to see if . . ."

"From UNDER THE PLYWOOD?" Frank felt the remaining vestige of his self control evaporate. He reached up with his free hand to massage the bridge of his nose as he felt the beginning of a headache that should be one for the record book. He slid open his desk drawer and took out a bottle of aspirin.

"Carl. Please, son. Please tell me that you are NOT telling me that you dropped about sixteen thousand pounds of OUR lumber on someone's dog? Where did the dog come from? Where is the owner?" 

Frank knew he should be exhibiting more calm as an example to a fledgling employee on his very first solo delivery. But this was spiraling out of control. He pulled his Rolodex over in front of him and placed it on top of the legal pad where he had been doodling stick figure sketches of Carl swinging from a gallows, kneeling at a Guillotine, facing a firing squad. 

He thumbed the Rolodex to the tab marked: "Lawyers" as the drone that was Carl's voice continued in his ear, "Well, um. That's the thing, Frank. You see I think that dog might belong to the homeowner, 'cause when I was ringing the front door bell, and knocking on the back door, I could kinda see him through a couple of the windows."

"When I seen his tail, it kinda looked like it was the same color but I really can't be sure 'cause when I seen the tail, I walked around to the other side of the lumber pack to see if any part of him that I might recognize might have kind of squeezed out the other side and that's when . . ."

"Geez, Carl!" Frank interrupted, "This is somebody's PET we're talking about here."

"Well, that's the thing, Frank, you see, 'cause when I walked around the back of the lumber pack I happened to look over at the house and I seen that there was a window frame all busted up from the inside out and there was this window screen laying in the geraniums and the window curtains was all flapping in the breeze and so I figured that when I quit ringing on the front door bell and knocking on the back door that dog, he must have figured that he wanted me and him to play some more so it looks like maybe he . . ."

"OK, Carl," Frank said with a sigh as he slid open his desk drawer and pulled out his bottle of antacid tablets. "It looks like you dropped a bunk of lumber on one of our best customers' family pet. What do you think would be a good thing for you to do now?"

Frank had long believed that it was a good learning experience for his employees, and also very revealing of their character and thought processes, to allow them the opportunity to offer solutions to any problems that they might have caused. He was hoping that his initial opinion of Carl's character would be borne out.

And, in a way, it was. 

"That's the thing, Frank," Carl replied without the slightest hesitation, "You reckon this fella's gonna want me to leave that cedarwood dog house here now or should I bring it back to the yard seeing as how he's not going to be . . ."

Frank eased the telephone handset into its cradle and slid open his desk drawer. 







No comments:

Post a Comment