David’s Offer

My dear blogging friend Paul writes about snowstorms in June for today’s weekly guest column. I always said he’s one cool Canadian. We dig Paul, right, like a snow shovel cutting through drift.

Your Barrista -- Paul Curran

Your Barrista — Paul Curran

Leaving the Hospital in a Snow Storm
If We Were Having Coffee

Welcome to the weekly coffee and tea garden. My name is Paul, I’ll be your barista today and I’m happy to be here at Mark Bialczak’s Little Bitty in Syracuse, New York. Please come in and go through to the living room. Mark, his wife Karen and their pooch Ellie B, have prepared a nice, cool, comfy place for us so I can tend to your needs for a cuppa, and sweets. The weather this morning is rainy with a high just over 75 F. As usual, I’d be pleased to bring a pot of whatever beverage you prefer – we have a wide range of teas and coffees to satisfy our worldwide readership and adult beverages for those who wish something stronger. We can relax with a cuppa in the air conditioning while we discuss the affairs of the week both personal and/or worldwide. Ellie likes to be patted, so please indulge her when she greets you. How has your week been? Have a piece of cake (or any of the sweets on the next table) – electronic sweets are all calorie-free!

Yum! Yum!

Today I would like to introduce you to an old friend of mine – David. From a big fishing family in PEI (Prince Edward Island) David turned to trucking after he had earned his First Officer’s ticket that allowed him to captain even the largest freighter anywhere in the world except in port. He got tired of fishing with the family on their lobster/crab boat and set out to see the continent on the road. At about 170 pounds and 5-foot-7, David was scrawny but possessed of an energy that was bursting from him constantly. His wire-rimmed spectacles framed blue eyes that seldom stopped moving. Not only was he quick, but he was smart. He had been top of his class getting his First Officer’s ticket, and he breezed through any testing that he encountered in life. He could see possibilities where others saw obstacles – sometimes to his detriment. He had a few monsters that he battled, and when I knew him, he had his life under control. According to David’s own stories, confirmed by those who had known him when he was younger, that was not always the case. But that was years before, and now he was quirky with a mischievous grin and an infectious laugh. One of his favorite platitudes was that when one was running full tilt and hit a brick wall one should get back up, brush off the dirt, put on Band-Aids to stop the bleeding and carry on in a different direction. David always added to this by saying that what bothered him most was when he realized that he was attached to the brick wall with a bungee cord.

Crab Fishing Not for the Weak of Heart

David and I had met when he applied for a driving job at a large retailer where I was the assistant transportation manager in central Canada. I liked his attitude and intelligence, and I hired him. That began a decades-long relationship in which he worked for me or I worked for him and we looked out for each other as friends. David had left that retailer when he had a disagreement with the upper management – he was not always the easiest employee. It was apparent that they were not going to change so he left and found a job with a tanker company hauling gas.

A few years later I had earned a Master’s degree, had been laid off because I was over-educated and then had been diagnosed with cancer. After three operations, chemotherapy and radiation treatment, I was finally coming to the end of the tunnel and getting ready to leave the hospital, a hundred pounds lighter and with a clean bill of health. It was January and bitterly cold – an uncommon cold snap that had lasted weeks with temperatures below -30 C – when David came to visit me in the hospital.

He leaned forward in his chair, fidgeting nervously as his eyes locked on mine:
“So when are you getting out?”
“They tell me this week, as soon as they are satisfied.”

I knew David had a deep fear of hospitals and I was grateful that he had set that aside long enough to visit me. I also knew he wouldn’t stay long, but that was OK. I appreciated the company no matter how long or short. I had learned while sick that one of the important parts of life were friends and family – they remained when all else abandoned you.

He grunted then continued: “Whatcha gonna do for a job when you get out?”
“I don’t know; no possibilities yet.”
“If you want a job, I can get you one.”
“Sure, doing what?” And so those three little innocuous words spoken from a hospital bed set me off down the road of another career.
“Driving a tanker.”
“Sounds good.”
“OK, call me when you are ready to leave here and we’ll talk. See you then.” At this David got up and hustled out the door and out of the building.

Getting Home to Get Ready

Three days later I had my walking papers and had called David to get a ride to my boarding house. It was bitterly cold with blowing snow and it was already dark by 4:30 p.m. I climbed into David’s salt-covered car and soaked up the heat.

“So, are you ready to go to work?”
“Sure, when do I interview?”
“There is no interview; you’re doing a run tonight with me.”
“That’s fine, let me get some warmer clothes on before we go. Are you going to let me drive any?”
David grinned; “Oh yeah, you will be taking another truck, you won’t be riding with me.”
“Jesus, David, I haven’t driven tractor-trailer for years and I’ve never driven a tanker and never a B-train. And this a serious snowstorm. Are you crazy? Besides, who authorized this?”
“I authorized it.”
“Can you do that?”
“I’m doing it, aren’t I? There is a serious shortage of diesel in Ottawa and there isn’t space in the pipeline for three weeks. We’re hauling as many full loads of diesel as we possibly can from the Montreal refinery to the Ottawa terminal [about 150 miles]. Brian (terminal manager) told me when I mentioned you to give you a truck and travel with you and we can do the paperwork in the morning.”

Would you like another cuppa? Perhaps a sweet? I knew it was legally possible under extenuating circumstances for insurance, workers comp, pay, etc., to be retroactive provided the manager authorized it because I’d had that discussion with government officials in the past (needed a driver to transport a truck when the original driver had been hospitalized because of a heart attack). But in a snowstorm with no experience on the equipment type? And the same day as leaving the hospital? But I needed a job and apparently I had one, as long as I had the guts to do it. Steeling my resolve, I jumped in with both feet.

David dropped me at home where my car was, and I got dressed in as many warm clothes as I could find. With my 100-pound weight loss, all of it hung off my skinny body like a scarecrow. My belt was cinched so tight that loops of pants stuck out all around my waist. I had to put on an extra pair of work socks since I even lost a size and a half in shoe size. Throwing a few sandwiches in my bag and grabbing my tool box, I jumped in the car and headed for the terminal. David was there, and he had started both trucks – letting them warm up. I was confounded by the huge size of these double trailers with the big highway tractor attached. It felt as if the tanker was staring me down and I was losing – very intimidating. David showed me how to do a pre-trip on a tanker, what to check and how to make sure the compartments were completely empty. The bitter cold with howling wind and drifting snow didn’t make the job any easier. We sat in his truck, and he helped me do all the paperwork for the trip: log books, pre-trip, time sheet, etc. When we were ready I went back to my own truck, and we started out.

Autoroute 40 near Montreal

At first I was delighted by how well the truck handled, but once we hit the highway, the wind slapped the side of the trailers pushing them sideways behind me, constantly trying to jack-knife the rig. The snow had piled up on the roadway and we were just following ruts, but thankfully very little traffic. David began to pull away from me, and he hollered on the CB for me to hurry up. I refused and said I was just going as fast as I felt safe and pushed in a Nick Guilder CD = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEYwmfd65C8 . He slowed down. We pushed through the storm taking twice as long to get to Montreal as would be normal. Still the trailers were getting blown sideways and the steering kept jumping in and out of the ruts with a jerking motion causing my arm muscles to ache.

On arrival in Montreal, David checked me through security and used his loading card to fill my trailers as well as his. About 90 minutes later, with 100,000 pounds of diesel fuel aboard each truck, we headed back to Ottawa. Although the visibility was getting worse because of high winds, the loaded truck drove like a dream. There was no blowing around or jumping – the huge weight (140,000 pounds – as much as two small bungalows) kept the truck straight and easily drove over and through any snow or ice. We stopped once for coffee on the way back and started discussing philosophy. David told me that arguing with me was like wrestling with a pig in the slop: after a while you started to realize that the pig was enjoying itself. We carried on and unloaded in Ottawa – David doing most of the work as he instructed me.

B-Train Tanker in the Yard

Finally we returned to the yard just as the sun was coming up, and we post-tripped the trucks and finished our paperwork. The office was open and the morning dispatcher was already in. We turned in our paperwork, and David sat me down with a new employee package and got me started on an application. Hard to believe that I had been out of the hospital not much more than 12 hours and I had already done a trip to Montreal and was now applying for a job.

That’s about all we have room for this week folks, so it’s time to settle in with another cuppa and pat Ellie B. Sweets anyone? Please join me in thanking Mark, Karen and Ellie B for their invitation to tea. We are all honored that you dropped by today to visit. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself and the conversation and please look around at Mark’s other posts while you’re here. Have a great week.

Pensive Bear with Sunday Morning Coffee

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23 thoughts on “David’s Offer

  1. Thanks very much Mark for the opportunity to guest post. I hope your readers enjoy the story of my return to work after cancer and David’s offer. May the week bring health and prosperity to you and your readers. 🙂

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    • My readers should enjoy the hard-working Paul Curran’s drive through the snow to get back into the working world exactly one hour after release from the hospital from cancer recovery, Paul. You continue to amaze with your life and your writing, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Gatorette! Thanks so much for dopping by.Yep, that was one if the worst storms of that year – ha! – just another challenge. Cuppa black? Thanks for the read. Have a great week. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for the comment Beth. Yep, that was way outside my comfort zone. All I could do was trust that David knew my skill set well enough to be comfortable sitting me in that driver’s seat. From there it was just do what I felt was appropriate. Truth be known though, there was so little traffic i the storm over night that if i had made a fatal error, it likely would have only affected me. But it turned out he was right, i could do it. In fact i ended up driving there for years and then becoming their safety director – I post I have written but which has not yet found a home.

      thanks so much for dropping by Beth

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  2. Amazing what weight can do for a vehicle. Good that you took your own pace. So many people don’t and that’s when the accidents happen. Before that 52 car pileup that I managed to evade, I knew something was going ro happen. I don’t even belong to psychic friends. People were just driving way too fast. Thanks for the story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the visit 1iJaded1. It is so true what you say about weight. It was like night and day, the difference. It is also true you can usually sense when an accident will happen due to people driving too fast for conditions. We used to see that so often on the highway. I am pleased that you enjoyed the story. I hope your weekend goes well. Please come again.

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    • Hey Elyse! Fancy meetin’ you here. That’s an interesting point Elyse and I had been told that I was one of the healthiest sick people they’d met. Now, they had the whole cancer thingy done about 8 weeks before that. But there was a complication and my colon twisted and fell down behind my pelvis. That sometimes happens when they remove a chunk of colon but it did not fix itself. I was on TPN (feeding intravenously through a tube into the jugular in the neck) for about 6 weeks and they went in and put in a shunt to bypass the twist. that was what I was finally recovering from – a considerably less intense situation than the cancer surgery itself. But of course on TPN in the hospital is hard on the weight. I tried to get them to hang a bag of good hamburger fat but no luck – Ha! – all they had was extra lean TPN. Call me scarecrow but I was strong and well nourished.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You must have been bored out of your mind! The only thing worse than being sick in the hospital is feeling good in the hospital and having to stay anyway!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I was going nuts Elyse. But talk about opposites – out of a boring hospital and directly into the seat of a truck that I had never driven at night, in a snow storm.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Colleen for the visit and the compliment. It is a pleasure to have you here and I am glad you enjoyed the story. Believe me I was scared shitless – ha! It turned out fine but there was no chance of my falling asleep,I can assure you of that. Too much adrenaline. Thanks for dropping by. It is great to have you here. Please come again.

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    • Ha! Thanks Martha! And you are amazingly right about the strong part. Before the cancer I weighed 275 pounds but on 6 foot 3 inches. During the cancer treatment I lost 100 pounds and was unhealthily skinny at 175 pounds (on 6 foot 3 inches). What amazed me was that my muscles were used to moving around 275 pounds and kept the majority of that ability. I felt like superman by times – I could just look at the back of a trailer and think “Up” and I would be standing on the trailer with no memory of any climbing. It was surreal. I’ve since gained all the weight back but it was fun while it lasted.

      Great to see you here Martha. Please drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. And that’s why when I’m traveling to another city in a snowstorm (thank heavens, don’t need to any more now that my kids are no longer in college), I always just get behind a semi and follow in its tracks, hoping all the way that the semi won’t go off the road into a field because I’ll be right behind it!

    I had one of those TPN lines – the bags attached to mine liked like milkshake. Great way to lose weight, but I wouldn’t want to do it on a long-term basis!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yeah,6 weeks on TPN could make any plump person into a scarecrow. You must have run into the same challenge as I did CM – even though I didn’t need any nutrition, I craved food something fierce for about 30 days.It was unbelievable – I couldn’t sleep at night dreaming of greasy hamburgers, I daydreamed about food, i couldn’t watch anyone else eat, I couldn’t even watch the TV because if the food commercials. Then suddenly one day, the craving was just gone and food no longer meant anything to me. I got some inkling how hard it must be to break an addiction.

      Yep, following a truck is good in a storm, as long as you have the visibility.

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  4. Wow, Paul – you are one tough mother (as we say here in Texas)!! That sounds like a tough drive on the best of days, let alone after being so sick. One of the reasons I prefer down south – the ice & snow . . .
    David sounds like a good friend! And I LOVE Pensive Bear ❤
    Next week, let's add some Patrón XO Café Liqueur to our sweets 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sadie! Such a pleasure to have you visit. Yeah, I was obstinate in those days – just hang on and see what comes. Some called it pig-headed and some called it tough. ha! But it was hard to shake me once I had made up my mind. You get used to the weather after a while and just drive as fast as you feel safe. Eventually you get there.

      I’ll have some Patrón XO Café Liqueur ready and waiting this Sunday. Thanks for dropping by Sadie – please come again.

      Liked by 1 person

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