R. says as long as he likes me, and he does—I can work with him every day this week. I ponder the thought and begin planning how busy I will be with my real job tomorrow. Probably so busy I won’t even get to go outside I say aloud. When I get home, I’ll check my e-mail and let you know for sure this evening. It’s feast or famine this business.
I’ve finished almost the entire bottle of water and I can tell R. is getting a little miffed. Either that or he is tired after a busy day of deliveries that will surely be followed by another two weeks of busy days; followed by another 20 years. But, at least we’re outside, he reassures himself over the blower motor. The blast of hot air from the engine compartment reminds me of O. I miss him in all his incompetent splendor. He was a good guy.
The company has a strict policy regarding sexual harassment. They didn’t tell us what it was, just that it is very strict. After three days of riding together, you learn a lot about a person whether they tell you or not. As R. pondered just how great our communication would be in three days if it was already this good today; I was getting sentimental over O. My first driver. I guess you never really get over your first. They’re the ones who teach you how to do things for the first time. Right or wrong, you’ll always remember them and compare their ways to the ways of all those who follow. Beyond that, there’s a trust established when you are forced into a new or potentially dangerous situation with complete strangers and come out alive. Just like the driver helper group initially bonded over our common need to find a job and found ourselves gathered around a table just like Thanksgiving Dinner I felt myself thrust into the great brown world of logistics—it’s sustainable don’tcha know.
O. and I established a higher level of trust than most by the second day. He had no sooner confided in me that his boss was no less than requiring him to have a better day and entered the code for the gate when a car zoomed around us activating the only one car per entry mechanism that sends the boom gate—the wooden thing that goes down at railroad crossings and airport parking and apparently, this complex—into action. There was no time to respond. We went barreling through and the thing came down a lot more violently than I ever expected between the force of the big, brown truck and the forward movement. It cracked like lightening over the passenger mirror. I closed my eyes and leaned to the left as far as possible while covering my face with my right arm. It dragged alongside the outside of the truck until it finally dislodged itself, broke off and fell to the ground with a hollow thwack. Apparently, this was not going to be a better day.
Jesus! Are you okay?! O. shouts and unbuckles himself as soon as we have come to a safe stop. I’m kinda stunned but fine. “Your face! Let me see it!” He laments and reaches cradled palms toward my chin, lifting it up to his eyes. Not a scratch. Did that scare you? I’m really sorry. No, no. I’m fine. Really. He gives me little signals that he really is a good dad and a caring person but this is something more. We sit there smoking for a minute before O. makes the call to his boss. We’re going to be here for a while if you want to snack, he says pushing gently past me to exit on my side. I’m still buckled in. I don’t understand how you eat so much and stay so thin. Well, there’s not much room to pack it in so I eat often. Do you want some of my almonds and apricots? Girl, you know I have a toothache and you’re offering me that hard-ass shit? It’s all I brought.
There was a time I would have taken that personally but this is not it. I know he is suffering. He plays it off but I am beginning to wonder if the reason I didn’t hear from him on the fourth day is because he got fired. The damage to the truck blended right in with the other scratches. Apparently, live oak is just as strong as whatever that non-splintering material in the gate was. Thank god there was no shrapnel, O. thinks to himself so loud I can hear. Could have scratched her face up bad. The security guard for the complex shows up and assures O. that he will be getting a bill in the mail for $150. O. shrugs that off too and seems confident in the knowledge that the company will pay. I’ll be a witness if you need one, I say. There was absolutely no way you could have stopped. That car came out of nowhere and cut right in front of you. At every subsequent gate, I look into the mirror for him as he enters the code and give the all clear.