And You Are?
I pulled a pair of well worn, slate grey slacks over a pair of dark orange cotton boxer briefs, the semi-permanent seam dissecting near the top where my ironing skills or lack of attention had resulted in a less than satisfactory job. Tightening the old black leather belt and fastening a boring metallic buckle, my ensemble was complete, and frankly I looked a mess. Adorned in a white, rinkled long sleeve shirt with a black sports coat and grey tie with short cropped dirty blonde hair, a face plagued by zits and at least 20 pounds extra covered a frame lacking in stereotypical male attractive qualities and the worst part, the utter lack of any positive self esteem; I was the typical nerd. yet, I was on possibly the non-nerdiest adventure of my life: a job interview with a 24 hour Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Contractor. My nerves felt assailed, like the unfortunate Asian A-Wing pilot in Return of the Jedi
The drive there is always the worst part. To say the least, a 42 mile drive, dropping 4000 feet in elevation, thankfully not all at once. More than once I had experienced a close call navigating the winding turns.
The moment I arrived my mind was afield with reservations, somehow it seemed like it was too small, too cluttered, seriously lacking the organization I thought would be required to run a successful HAZMAT emergency response organization. Though from a quick observatory perspective, it seemed like an organized, clean and neat operation, it was seriously lacking. All one has to do is look at the fire departments this company tried so desperately to reproduce, and the immediate failures were present. It was akin to getting gifted a computer, but instead of a brand that which you know has a quality and design pedigree, it has a label that seems legitimate, but is more or less a clear fake <cough iBuyPower cough>.
I walk through a smudged glass door, and am immediately greeted by an older woman, spectacles lowered on the tip of her nose, peering up over their brim seemingly judging, but simultaneously a warming presence. I immediately feel awkward, more so than normal. Overdressed, but somehow underwhelmingly so, I manage a faked smile and a composed greeting, utilizing my well practiced interview voice:
The owner is expecting me…
Stupid stupid stupid! Who says something like that, I’m not some cronie in a bond film! My self esteem which was already zero, drops into negative territory, and my body droops in response. Terror is quickly acting to take over reason in my feeble mind, and yet I don’t give into the sudden urge to high tail and run.
The lady simply smiles at me, with unwavering, understanding, however piercing eye contact, while pointing down the hall. “Last door on the right.”
The walk is short, surrounded by cheap fake wood siding that looks nothing like any piece of wood I have ever seen. A distinct smell that immediately transports me to the interior of a recreational vehicles harkens forth vague memories from a distant past. Distracted by the lackluster surroundings, prepared to make the eventual right turn, I almost missed the short middle aged man with youthful spirited eyes waving an outstretched arm.
Nathan, hi! let’s talk.
Waving his hand to go into his office,he gently shuts the door behind me. His office is the typical organized mess that occupies the space of small business, the outdated computer tower dominates my initial attention, before returning his piercing gaze. For some time we talk about the industry, Hazardous Materials Emergency Response. Putting forth my best effort at an impressive interview, only to realize a few minutes in that the owner of the company could care less. His straightness caught me off guard, he worked quick through the colloquial introductions, passed the job history, evaporated the schooling section, and simply asked:
Want to see the yard? Let’s see what you know!
Baffled I stood watching as he stormed out of the office. Strode right past a few hastily moving workers, past an employee that was yelling about a manifest, and straight out the door into a semi-organized assortment of medium to heavy duty work trucks, a couple semi trucks with a few box vans and the true beasts of burden: a large capacity vacuum trailer. Which is more or less a high powered shop vac that can hold 4000-9000 gallons based upon its configuration.
Proudly the short man walks by each one of his toys, displaying it’s supposed unrivaled abilities, all the while poking and prodding my knowledge base, asking pointed questions and beaming with each correct answer, chuckling with each incorrect. He is a nice man, a man you’d eagerly buy a car from to prove he can be made a friend. The time flies by as he escorts me throughout the roughly half acre yard. Eventually settling in the large multi purpose, two story garage in front of an old L shaped desk surrounded by white boards. I closely examine the scene, sectioned off with thin black tape making a series of boxes almost entirely filled with quickly written numbers, or words, or the occasional printed magnetic label of various colors.
The owner smiles widely at me when I return to his attention, noticing my interest in the board he motions to a curly haired, high strung man sitting behind a lone computer in the room.
This is the Dispatcher, you and him are going to become best friends.
Before I have a chance to make a witty retort, the phone rings and the Dispatcher goes into his motions, completely oblivious to the two other people in the room. A few words he scratches onto a legal pad catch my eye: diesel, Victorville, CALTRANS, Rocket launcher, Bins. Rocket launcher? I think to myself, what in the world does a rocket launcher have to Do with any of this?
The owner quickly ushers me out of the room, back to the yard. The brilliance of another picture perfect southern California day lost as my mind worked over what had just happened. He takes me over to a brand new Ford F250 with a nifty camper shell, and opens the back. Pulling a hardhat and safety vest from within, he turns to me, once again smiling widely, his eyes gleaning with excitement.
Take these, they are yours now, I have had them for years, and it’s about time I passed them on.
A large flatbed truck pulls up behind us, laden with a myriad of tools, 50 gallon barrels and even a large capacity water tank for an impressive high pressure jet washer. He opened the passenger door, which almost stood 5′ from the ground and hurried me aboard, yelling after:
We will get the paperwork started, for now just go have fun, learn something and be safe!
There is always that part of us that realizes too late that we are in over our head, the rational part of the brain that starts flooding hyperboles into the known about what may be. I shouldn’t have gotten in, I was hardly prepares, and just plain lucky to be wearing steel toe boots. Despite these thoughts of impeding doom, or worse, I grinned, and looked forward to the journey ahead, if only I had known then, what I know now…
Turning to the driver I proposed a simple query:
And you are?