Thursday, December 20, 2012

My Job Ain't So Bad

A number of years ago, my job required me to wake up early each morning and head to work—pretty much like everyone else in the whole world. But on one particular day, I really didn't want to work. It was the day after Christmas, a Friday, and most everyone else was taking the day off. My kids were home for winter vacation and the last thing I wanted to do was drag my lazy carcass to the office.

I managed to get out of bed in a reasonable time, eat breakfast, and wandered out into the dark yard to scrape the ice off my car windows. It was a cold, gloomy day, the sun wasn't yet clear of the mountains, and it seemed I was the only miserable soul that had to go to work. Well, almost. I heard the sound of the garbage truck arriving, so I knew at least one other person in the world was working. While the car warmed up, I pulled the big, black trash can out to the street and returned to the garage to get another empty box that was too big to fit into the can.

The garbage truck pulled up and the driver waved down at me. He had a big smile on his face and acted as friendly as Mr. Rogers. Or maybe Mr. Bean. I briefly wondered what the heck his problem was—if anything, he should be hating his job even more than I was that morning.

The big robotic arm reached out and lifted the can up over the truck. It dumped all our leftover Christmas packaging into the bin, with Mr. Rogers smiling the whole time. I couldn't really talk over the noise of the truck, so I pointed at the extra box I had. The driver motioned for me to toss it up into the bin. I did so, but a small wind caught the box and it landed behind the bin on top of the truck. Now what could I do?

The driver was totally unfazed. He saw the box through his mirror, took the truck out of gear, unbuckled his seat belt, climbed out of the door and onto the ladder next to the cab. And he was still smiling and waving and nodding his head like he was the happiest man in the world.

He couldn't reach the box from the ladder, so he climbed onto the top of the truck and found he still couldn’t reach it. He waved at me like nothing at all was wrong and actually climbed down into the garbage bin to reach the box. Then tragedy struck. He slipped on the slime and disappeared down into the dark depths of the trash hole.

I'd killed the garbage man.

I ran over to climb up the ladder, but his head popped back up. He was safe, and still smiling and waving. Then he slipped and fell again. This time when he resurfaced, he didn't wave. He instead chose to use both hands to hold onto the side of the truck. He inched his way through the rubbish and reached my errant box. After pulling it in, he slowly returned to the front of the bin, climbed out of the trash and back into the cab. He was covered with slime and torn-up gift wrapping, but he never stopped smiling.

I stood there and watched him drive to the next house. And I came to an important realization—my job didn't suck that bad after all.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Affected by Tragedy

I've written a few posts about some of the crazy stuff we did when I was younger. This post is a little different.

There are occasionally things that happen in your life that make you stop and think about what you're doing. For some, it may be an embarrassing event. For others, it may be a family tragedy like a divorce or death. Even moving to a new town can be a major event for kids. Health issues, injuries, bad grades—all kinds of things can suddenly affect you in ways you couldn't have predicted.

I was out gallivanting with my friends one night and we headed home around midnight. Because of what later happened, many details from that night are a little fuzzy. I don't recall what we were doing, but I'm sure it involved driving around looking for classmates, goofing off, laughing, cheeseburgers, the usual. None of us were into drugs or alcohol—we seemed to entertain ourselves quite well without needing chemical assistance.

I don't even remember if I was driving that night or if we were in someone else's car. I only remember that we had several people in the car that all lived within a couple blocks of each other. As we neared the neighborhood, we saw police and emergency vehicles all over and the main road was blocked. We saw a mangled car in the middle of the street and activity all around. A crowd of spectators had gathered and most looked pretty somber. An officer directed us through a side road and as we passed, I heard something about a fatality.

It kind of humbled us as we drove the last little way to our houses. We didn't know what was going on, but it didn't look good. I don't remember the exact events after I arrived home, but I do remember my parents were very glad to see me.

It didn't take long to find out what had happened. A few friends of ours from school had also been out that night. Unfortunately, their group had decided they did need some chemicals. They'd been drinking pretty heavily and were driving home—drunk and at very high speeds. It was estimated they were going at least seventy miles an hour on a road with a thirty-five posted limit. Their car crossed a little bridge and went airborne. It flew straight into a parked flatbed semi trailer. The trailer severed the top of the car right off.

Everyone in the car was seriously injured. One boy whom I'd known for many years was decapitated and died instantly.

It was a pretty grim incident and made me glad my friends and I weren't drinking. But it also made me think about some of the crazy stuff I did. I wasn't a very careful driver before that. After that, I tried to be a little more careful and even started wearing my seat belt. Nobody wore seat belts in those days and my friends often bugged me about it.

The main thing I thought about after that experience, though, was how would my mom have felt if that had been me?