Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tony Drove Off the Side of a Mountain

I had only been working a few months in the trucking business when I was awakened late one Friday night by those words, "Tony drove off the side of a mountain!" Though I was groggy a moment before, I felt suddenly alert. My dispatcher had called me regarding a young driver named Tony.

"Well, is he dead?" came my reply.

"I don't know," he told me.

"Well, how do you know he drove off the mountain?"

"Another driver called," he explained.

"Well, the man didn't stop to see if he was okay?"

"No, he was driving by too fast."

"Well, he just watched him drive off the mountain?"

"No, he said he passed Tony at the top and Tony was driving slow, but then Tony drove by him and he was lookin' for a place to put 'er down," he told me. "You know what I mean."

"I have no idea what you mean," I told him, feeling somewhat confused.

"Well, he drove onto one of those runaway ramps."

"That's a lot different from driving off the side," I said, more relieved. "Well, let me head up to the office to make some calls."

"Do you want me to come up there, too?"

"No, I'm up now. I'll take care of it."

That is how quickly a day, or a weekend in my case, can change. One minute I was asleep, or at least half asleep, and then I'm up and headed back to the office to deal with a harrowing situation. More often these problems occur during working hours, but being ready to deal with a problem is part of life. How they are handled can establish a reputation. After I handled several crashes as part of my job, I started referring to myself as a fireman. I put out the fires so other people can go on about their day. The ability to handle problems calmly can help someone move up the ranks of management. Managers constantly play the role of peacemaker - between employees, between customer and salesperson, and many other situations - and problem solver. Letting the emotions - especially the emotions of others who are embroiled in a bad situation - affect your judgment can be dangerous and often prevent you from improving matters. Objectivity and a cool head go a long way to helping others calm down and think rationally, which is the best way to find a resolution.

So what happened to Tony? Fortunately for him, he only had a few bruised ribs, but his truck was destroyed, along with part of his trailer and his load. He had failed to adjust his brakes at the top of the mountain where a turnoff is provided for just that need. The saddest part of the story? He had drive several hundred miles out of his way because he did not know to use a shorter route involving a U.S. highway and had instead chosen the interstate (we call such drivers "Interstate Runners") that put him on top of that mountain. We had to let Tony go after that load, but hopefully he learned to pay better attention to signs and learned to read a map.

-- Robert


Sister Mary Lisa said...

Wow, that story is interesting. I'd hate so bad to have to deal with things like it in the dead of night.

But I can totally see how your calm demeanor is valuable in such a job.

Robert said...

I had to start with that story because it's the one my friend and I remember first when I think of my "fires" over the years. It wasn't the first time I had to deal with a tense situation, but it was my first being called from my bed and my first dealing with a major insurance claim. Hopefully you'll appreciate others I will share in the future.

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Of course I will. I look forward to them.