Christmas is a time for peace on earth, goodwill to men, and new gloves with a matching scarf under the Christmas tree. It’s a time for honest reflection, family reunions and, if you’re lucky, a hot rum & coke by the fireplace. And if you’re an OTR driver for a nationwide fleet, the sights and sounds of the holidays include screeching tires, honking horns, and traffic delays caused by bozos who can’t keep their seatbelts on, won’t give up the texting, and don’t drink unless they’re driving.
Another thing we get to do is haul Christmas trees, mostly from Oregon and Mexico. Real trees come from the emerald state, and artificial ones that come from China, Germany, and Mexico.
I picked up a load of artificial trees on a Friday in Laredo a number of years ago, destined for Canada. As a joke, the daytime dispatcher told me to make sure the trees were watered sufficiently. Believing that one good joke deserved another, I told the night time dispatcher Saturday evening that I had watered the entire load of trees, as instructed.
Little did I know that the night time dispatcher didn’t get the joke. He immediately sent word up the chain of command that a NAFTA-approved, tariff-paid and government-sealed international shipment had been compromised and vandalized by a company-fleet driver/terrorist. Unbeknown by me, the driver/terrorist, pandemonium had broken out among the highest levels of company management.
By the time the dust had settled early Sunday morning, company executives were split 50/50 on whether to publish this comedy of errors, or publicly execute the driver at the next monthly employee meeting. My punishment was keeping my job. Unfortunately, it was not my only crisis involving Christmas trees.
A few years later, working as an OTR driver-trainer, my student was a thirty- year-old female from Texas. We picked up a load of real Christmas trees near Eugene, Oregon bound for a Dallas-Ft. Worth grocery chain. The trees were tightly banded individually, then stacked laying down, all the way to the ceiling.
Upon arrival at the stores, I would toss trees out the back, one at a time. She would stay on the ground with a clipboard and a tally sheet. At one point she bent down out of sight, and I threw a tree out there, just as she straightened up again.
The tree hit her with such force that it knocked the young woman off her feet. Well, there are truths, and there are facts. The truth was, her only real injury was to her pride, but the fact is she didn’t speak to me for the rest of the trip.
The very next year I hauled Oregon Christmas trees to a Houston nursery. Because of the distance involved, the load had to be coated in layers of crushed ice. This helps the trees stay fresh.
Immediately upon arrival at the Texas location, I saw the entire parking lot was a sea of mud. It’s okay, they assured me. All I had to do was back in, and their crew would unload the whole thing. That was fine by me!
Very shortly thereafter, I heard loud banging, and felt the truck rock side to side. Slipping on my boots and coat, I trudged through the mud and peered into the back of the trailer. I didn’t know whether to be shocked or delighted, so I went with both. There in the 90-degree heat of south Texas were three guys inside my van having a snowball fight!
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: I once was schizophrenic, but we’re okay now.
You can reach Roger at [email protected]