“Sure, I could use the extra money,” I told a friend who had informed me about a part-time job at his company.
That’s how I became a dockworker. Midnight to 5 a.m. shift. Last January. Subzero temperatures. On an open dock. Tooling around on a forklift.
The first night I went to sleep at about 9:00 p.m. and woke up at 11:00 to go to work. The cold snap was not snapping. So I put on layers.
“Put on layers,” said my wife.
“Okay,” said I.
Underwear. T-shirt. Long john pants. Long john shirt. Quilted pants. T-shirt. Long-sleeve T-shirt. Flannel shirt. Quilted vest. Scarf. Down jacket. Thinsulate pants. Jeans. Ski pants with bib overalls. Socks. More socks. Other socks. Thermal socks. Sock warmers. Insulated boots. Boot warmers. Another vest. Back brace. Big puffy red coat with glow-in-the-dark yellow stripes. Hat. Nose warmer. Goggles. Neck warmer. Another hat. Earmuffs. Thin gloves. Thicker gloves. Thickest gloves.
I was really sweating. I could hardly fit in the car to drive to work.
When I got there, my trainer Ted said, “Okay, get on the forklift now.”
“Fine, where is it?”
“Right in front of you.”
“Oh, sorry. My glasses are a little foggy.”
I waddled to the forklift and clambered onto the seat.
“Okay,” said Ted. “Now turn the key.”
“What?” I said, lifting my earmuff.
“Start the thing up!” he yelled.
I started the forklift up and backed over an empty pallet, crushing it. I couldn’t turn my head because my scarf was binding my chin.
“Go pick up that load in front of you with your lift,” Ted told me.
I threw it into forward and pierced a 50-gallon drum of laundry detergent with the hoisting mast. Lifting my glasses, I saw what I had done. “Oops,” I said. “Is that powder pouring out toxic? You said that breaking a toxic drum was grounds for termination.”
Ted threw up his hands in frustration.
At 2:30 a.m. I knocked over a stand of flashing-light construction sawhorses while trying to pick up a 25-foot roll of carpet.
“Hey,” I said, “I think I’m getting the hang of this!”
At 3:30 a.m. I blew a tire when I drove past a sign that said, “Do not drive past this sign or you will blow a tire.”
“Little help here!” I called, wiping an icicle from my nose. “I need a new forklift, please!”
At 4:00 a.m. my boss Joe called me over. “See my office at the top of those stairs? You don’t want me to call you into my office at the top of the stairs.”
At 4:45 a.m., Joe called me into his office at the top of the stairs. I talked to him at the bottom of the stairs instead, however, because I couldn’t bend my legs enough to get to the top of the stairs.
That was my last night as a dockworker. That’s okay. I have another friend who’s an airline pilot, and he said he could get me a job flying.