Friday, September 19, 2008

Forklift Nation!

There has been a lack of updates this week for two reasons:
1. I have fallen into a routine, and I don’t like it one bit. The first three days of work this week were so predictable. There were no surprises, only more of the same! Days consist of (in no specific order) Gliner swatting no less than three dozen yellow jackets to their immediate demise, sanitizing 20,000 gallon tanks before we place the grape juice in them, eating lunch at SUBWAY and complaining about the service, taking a long break in the “break room”, squeegeeing floors, spraying down equipment, checking how quickly tanks are filling, unclogging drains filled with grapeseeds, taking out trash, and cleaning everything in sight…
2. We are working hardcore, intense 13-hour days (with a 6:00AM arrival time…) and this leaves very little time for pleasure.

However, things were spiced up a little bit today due to a couple of factors. First, our auger - the device that takes all of the crappy parts of the grape that we don’t need and after the grapes are pressed/crushed this machine shoots this leftover stuff out of a long tube and into a massive dump truck…well, today white smoke started pouring out of this device around 9AM. I was overjoyed. I knew this would mean that it wasn’t just another day at the office…within seconds I was the head of a one-man bucket brigade to prevent thousands of gallons of Frambois remnants (raspberries mixed with water that creates something akin to a slushie) from spilling out around the winery’s exterior…this went on for a while and shut down production for a few hours.

All day I was anticipating one thing: FORKLIFT CERTIFICATION TRAINING

Now, if there’s one vehicle I never thought I’d drive in my lifetime, it is probably a forklift. This morning, the boss let me know that I was selected (admission: we were all selected) to be trained to use the forklift, just in case we’d ever need one in the line of duty.

The four of us from Pac-Rim, along with our comrades from Double Canyon Winery (a startup winery that uses about 10% of our space) were huddled into the break room where we encountered a mustached cowboy with a passion for forklift safety. I soon learned that this great American was the indefatigable Jack Robertson of Mid-Columbia Forklift. In passing, Jack quickly mentioned in his harsh Midwestern drawl that he started driving a tractor at age six. Within seconds he was encouraging all of us newbies to hone our forklifting skills, so that maybe, we would be able to win the Super Bowl of the warehouse world – the annual FORKLIFT RODEO held in none other than our very own Tri-Cities, Washington. If the mere thought of a forklift rodeo doesn’t get you superbly excited, imagine Jack's glee when he informed us of the prize money, which ranges from $250 for 1st place to $50 for 7th place.

Within seconds, my mind was racing. Jack Robertson was one of the best characters I’d ever met in my LIFE. (He also said to call him whenever I had a forklift question.) I already imagined the documentary (that would unintentionally appear like a mockumentary) starring Jack – The Tale of the Forklift Rodeo. Think Best in Show meets Napoleon Dynamite.

For about an hour, Jack told us tall tales of forklift mishaps - and there have been many...from people losing limbs to blinding themselves to severing their heads (he demonstrated the latter on me). This was all to prepare for our big written test that would precede our actual vehicular training...

The low point of this otherwise amazing afternoon was the video presentation from Toyota (who makes our forklift, though I am now certified to operate ANY forklift) and OSHA which I'm pretty sure is some bureaucratic government agency that determines if human fingers found in Wendy's Kids Meals are real or not.

Sadly, the woman’s voice on the forklift instructional safety video (length 1.5 hours) was soooo soothing that I fell asleep for half of it. Only a barrage of text messages from Gliner (who was sitting three seats down) woke me up. Jack had previously warned that falling asleep during the video was one of only two ways he would fail someone in the course...the other being causing bodily injury to another while taking the practical driving "exam."

Then, Jack presented the written test. This test was given to us as a group as there were nine of us were in a room. Jack went down the test in order and we all answered the questions together. (I assure you that many of our sarcastic answers to Jack's basic questions provided for more fodder than I can ever remember to relay back to the blogosphere). Jack’s assistant, Maria, somehow managed to make and laminate bona fide certificates for each of us giving us each 3-year forklift licenses that were ready by the time we finished the group-oral exam. Home Depot, here I come!

We then moved onto the practical part of the exam, and after I made a seemingly funny comment (that we could flash our forklift licenses to state troopers when we were pulled over to get let off of speeding tickets) which prompted Jack to select me, the most uncoordinated individual to ever attempt forkliftery to go first. In short, I was terrible at driving this vehicle and now have a new respect for forklift drivers everywhere...Jack Robertson was screaming at each of us (especially me) to turn left, turn right, bring the fork up - no further to the left, etc… By the end of the day, I was convinced that he’d murdered someone with a forklift and was sentenced to a billion hours of community service to teach all of mankind forklift safety.

For all my feminist readers, I leave you with this:

“Norma Davis was one of the best forklift drivers I’ve ever seen, and she weighed in at barely 100 pounds. You know why women are better than men at driving forklifts? Because they pay attention to detail. One time a truck driver wanted Norma to load some boxes into his truck, but Norma, had a hunch that this truck was unsafe, and she didn't want her forklift falling through the floor, so she refused. The trucker flipped his lid on her. But do you know what? Norma Davis was right! That truck was unsafe. How about that?”

- The indefatigable Jack Robertson of Mid-Columbia Forklift

1 comment:

T-Money said...

Just checkin out your site and realized you quit your job and are now driving a forklift. Hope you're enjoying it, I was there once. Anyways, lovin the blog.