Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My Favorite Summer Job and How I Lost It


A good friend of mine in high school worked in a mechanic's shop at a local truck parts warehouse.  Since I was in need of a summer job he suggested I go in and apply to be a truck parts delivery girl.  It sounded good - the hours were 8:00 am - 4:30 pm, M-F and our weekly pay was $2.50 more than minimum wage.  Plus I got to drive all over town and not be tied down in an office.  Since I loved to drive this sounded like heaven.

The day I applied the owner's son met me in the lobby and taking one look at me [dressed in a pink sun dress and sandals] just shook his head and said "Oh I don't think you want to deliver truck parts dear.  We have a nice secretarial position available we would be happy to hire you for tho'."  The lure of driving around all day, listening to tunes without a boss hovering over me was too enticing so I thanked him for the offer but asked begged for a chance as a delivery driver.  He told me okay, but he understood if I decided to quit in a week.

This job was insane! It was so much fun.  We started our day by stocking the warehouse, then pulling all the parts to stock our trucks for that day's deliveries and then we were out on the road for most of the rest of the day.  Keep in mind these were truck and bus parts - big trucks and big busses - dump trucks, concrete trucks, fire trucks, school busses and Greyhound.  Some of the stuff was h.e.a.v.y. - if I never lift another brake drum or bus battery again I will be a happy woman [like I could now!]  Still, to keep the job I had to hold my own - I worked with all men - so I did.  And loved every minute of it.  The best part tho' was being on the road and seeing our customers.  I saw the same group of clients everyday with an odd detour thrown in, but I am here to tell you chivalry was not dead in 1988.  Everywhere I went the shop would come to a stand still when the shop foreman would yell "Parts girl is here!" [Later it became "Skippy"] and all the mechanics stopped what they were doing and came to help unload the truck.  I tried to be insistent that I could do it, it was my job - but most of these guys were husbands and fathers and wouldn't think of allowing me to lift so much as an air filter [those were light! yay for air filter deliveries!]  I made a lot of friends on my route and looked forward to seeing them everyday.  They were so friendly, polite and fun to be around.  In fact, my second stop everyday was a local dump truck company where the parts manager and the tire guy took bets on who would ask me out first.  The parts manager won and later became my first husband, Senior.*

In the afternoon I would head back to warehouse to unload any returns or parts for repair and to wash up the truck. We washed and cleaned out our trucks everyday.  That was a neat part of the job too.  I really enjoyed it all.

Too bad it didn't last.

One afternoon I had a large part in the back of my pick-up so I decided to back up to the mechanic's bay and unload it there.  The bay dock was slightly raised with large bumpers which were positioned more for tractor trailers and not my little Izuzu pick up truck, but I had done it a bunch of times before and it was the only way to get this piece of equipment off of the truck.  As I backed up I misjudged how close I was to the bumpers and tapped one of them.  Tapped being the key word - I wasn't going fast or goofing off, I was just too close.  I hopped out of the truck and inspected my tailgate to discover there was a one inch dent in the metal.  Okay, I thought, no biggie - I'll unload this and go tell Jim the office manager.

Needless to say Jim didn't take this too well.  One of the mechanics came in and told Jim exactly what happened but Jim wasn't having it. After I told the same story as the mechanic and Jim looked at the truck he stormed back in the office.  He looked at me and snapped "This is coming out of your paycheck Skippy.  You did it, you pay."  I was stunned.  It could feasibly be popped out, if it really needed to be and was barely noticeable besides.  It was an accident and didn't effect the trucks usability so I jumped back with "Nope Jim - this is what you have insurance for and I didn't mean to do this.  It was an accident."  The mechanic just stood there nodding his head in agreement.  Finally Jim said "Either you pay for this or I fire you."  That knocked me back a bit and then I said "Jim if you charge me for this I will quit."  He told me that was fine, I could quit. but I had to train my replacement first since I didn't have enough hours to cover what he thought the repair would cost.  Fine.  I gave them one day.  This wasn't even a $100 repair and I made more than that in two days.

The next day I went to work, showed the new kid the ropes of stocking the warehouse, truck and how to read a map to go on the deliveries.  I was heartbroken but I wasn't going to let anyone know that. Well, until I arrived at my first delivery and saw my favorite guy - Tony - and told him that I had to say goodbye as I was being forced out of my job.  Tony and his crew were very unhappy. They thought it was incredibly unfair that I had been given a choice over something that was an accident and that the company had the insurance to cover it.  Then they all looked at my truck and laughed.  They couldn't believe Jim was making such an a** of  himself over the scratch/dent I had put on the truck.  I was so sad to say goodbye and this ended up occurring everywhere I went the rest of the day.  All "my" guys were just as upset as I was that we wouldn't see eachother anymore but wished me luck, gave me hugs and covered me in grease as I went on my way.  It was bittersweet.

I went home to face my folks that night. I was scared because I had never had to tell them I had been fired/made to quit a job and I was beginning to doubt I had done the right thing.  My Dad shocked me by becoming irate over the situation and telling me that they had no right to fire me, that I had done the right thing on principal and he was proud of me for standing up for myself in [basically] a man's world.  I was stunned, but so happy that I had made the right choice.

Fast forward two weeks - I had found a new job in an office [right down the street from the truck place] where I made double minimum wage, had benefits and the same hours.  Although I couldn't be on the road all day I was making great money, worked with nice people and had health insurance!

One evening the phone rang at my parents' house at 9:30 pm.  We had all gone to bed, so I groggily answered the phone to discover it was the [75 year old] OWNER of the truck parts warehouse.  He was calling to apologize for Jim's behavior and the situation.  He also asked if I would consider taking my job back.  I liked the man, although we hardly ever saw him. I was confused as to why he would pick a lowly, little parts girl over his long time employee and main man, Jim.  He explained that he hadn't known about what had happened until he noticed a huge drop in their weekly sales on the "south route" [my route.]  After a little investigation and a lot of phone calls to his previously loyal customers he discovered what had happened at the shop and learned that not one of them was to pleased with my loss of employment. They had collectively decided to order from the competition.

Oops.  I hadn't realized that would happen and I apologized profusely but he assured me I had nothing to be sorry for, that Jim had been in the wrong and would I please consider his offer?  He even agreed to pay me more, not as much as I was making but, still....I hesitated and then told him how much I was now earning and that I had benefits.  I told him I would take my same [old] rate of pay if he could just offer me benefits.  He thought about it a second and told me he couldn't, that they didn't give benefits to delivery personnel.   I told him I was sorry but I had to decline because I really needed the benefits as my parents coverage would soon run out.  He understood, wished me luck and hung up.

Now I felt bad.  I liked the man.  He was always so kind to us and he had built this business from the ground up.  He was a pretty admirable man.  I hadn't meant for this to happen.

The next day I drove to two of my favorite, former customers Tony and Mike and explained that Mr. Owner had apologized and offered me a good deal but I had a better job and wouldn't be back.  They were happy for me and promised that it would all be okay.

Years later I was driving by the trucks part warehouse and saw their trucks sitting out front. They had been dinged, damaged and, in one case, wrecked.  My original truck, #7, was still there and it looked awful.  These vehicles hadn't seen a good wash in weeks [months?] I couldn't resist.  I pulled into the parking lot and grabbing JR [who was a baby] I popped inside to the counter where Jim was standing [nothing changes] and said "Hey Jim.  Glad to see you took such good care of my truck after I left.  Appears as tho' you might have lost quite a few drivers over # 7." ::grin::

Jim just laughed and said "Skippy you don't even want to know."

*Senior did not participate in the boycott as he felt it was a conflict of interest since we were dating by then.

20 comments:

becca said...

what a great story

ellen abbott said...

yeah, great story. I had a driving job once that I really liked. good pay and like you say, not cooped up in an office all day. Only thing was I was picking up blood and tissue from doctor's offices and clinics for a medical lab. Wasn't bed as long as I didn't look too closely in the cooler I transported everything in.

Rudee said...

What a great tale! And look, all these years later, you're still telling it!

You should have tried to find the opportunity to open your own shop and put them all out of business.

Teresa - in the Middle Side of Life said...

that is hysterical! great story.

on the flip side of the coin... my dad HATED it when they started to allow women ("girls") in his arena to do his job. He was a switchman on the railroad and the switches weighe about 90 pounds. he never once volunteered to help a female co-worker because she was getting the same rate of pay as him and no one offered to help him throw a switch. he figured if she wanted to make his money, she could do the job same as him. i had to respect his thought process on it. it wasn't that he was a total ass but knew that if all the men jumped to help the women do their jobs, then their own job would suffer and something tragic could happen. i would never have wanted to do his job but if that's what some other woman wanted to do - great for her if she could do it. i knew i couldn't.

p.s. - i would have taken the office job in a heart beat. i'm such a girl...

Bouncin' Barb said...

Woohoo... Loved what you did in the end. My kind of gal! Great story and why am I not surprised by the fact that everybody loved you? Hmmm.

Drew's Mom said...

Love it! I was once a parts delivery girl myself, and loved that job. Your story sounds so similar to my job experience =)

Thisisme said...

Hi Skippy. First of all, I love the new background on your Blog!! That was certainly a great story, and how good was that, that all your customers took their custom elsewhere. As Barb said, why are we not surprised that everyone was so fond of you?!

Pain SUX said...

I love that story!!

I've just found your blog today!!

I hope that when you get a chance you will stop by and follow me back.

~Steph
http://fortheluvofsanity.blogspot.com

Life in the mom lane said...

What a great story! I too had an usual summer job way back when- I worked for Terminex and had to do inspections for termites, in basements, crawl spaces, etc... the only time I refused to go into a property was the time the owners had several black snakes in their dirt basement. That was non negotiable- because I am DEATHLY afraid of snakes! I told them I'd quit before I'd go in...luckily they sent another guy! :D

Odie Langley said...

Good to know all those customers liked you so much and you were so right to leave that environment. I guess they learned the hard way.
Odie

Jeannie said...

Great story! And maybe lucky for you in the end.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

You go, girl!! Good story.

~ Darla ~ said...

Loved this post. You were very mature at a young age. Way to stick up for yourself. I don't know what was up with Jim, but he was totally in the wrong.

People don't realize the trickle down effect of their actions at times, do they? But for every action there is a reaction, be it big or small. Yours was a biggie.

I like how you went back there and gave him a little what's what there. I love women (especially young women) who can stick up for themselves. WTG, Skippy. I enjoyed your post thoroughly today.

Michaela said...

GREAT story Skippy. I bet the guys enjoyed your parts run cuz u were probably cute, feisty, brave, and just a little bit hot. I love your stories about your life before you had to stay home being ill. Thanx for sharing this! xxxoooo

caterpillar said...

Like you said...a bittersweet story...but Mr.Owner was such a neat guy to have called and apologized. I wish I'd have half your courage to stand up for myself in a few situations...

Me...Uncensored said...

That was a great story!! I hope you have that written down for your kids somewhere!! (besides here ;)

The Adorkable Ditz said...

Well all things considering you did what was best for you. It wasn't your fault that things happened that way but it is a shame that the trucks did end up like that.

http://theadorkableditzmissteps.blogspot.com/

Roundabout said...

GREAT story! Way to hold your own :)

hed said...

Love it! Good for you-things always happen for a reason :)

hed

qandlequeen said...

I think it's mandatory we all have crap experiences - it helps us appreciate when something truly good comes along.