We used to screw with Carl. Pretty hard under the circumstances. He was a mountain of a man, a usually gentle giant with a vein of anger usually only displayed when riding in the left seat of the rig.
A captain for years, Carl was loved by most of the old bastards. His warm heart and willingness to help anybody out far outweighed any anger that he directed toward ignorant drivers who refused to get out of the engine's way or engineers who disagreed on the route to a call. I can remember riding on the tailboard to a call, looking over the hose bed and watching him and Smitty gesticulating furiously at each other over a disagreement on the proper route to an incident.
Carl's massive middle finger could occasionally be seen extended through the captain's window, accompanied by a string of profanity. It was usually directed at someone who did not heed to the warning devices on the engine or someone who chose to ignore them and fail to get out of the way. Carl got away with that behavior quite a few time before a changing culture and one too many complaints caught up with him.
Carl worked at 10's, a single company house located in a peaceful orange grove. Occasionally, he would work an overtime at one of the multi-company stations. As the big houses were often filled with youngsters, ones who hadn't learned to love Carl the way the old bastards did, Carl occasionally got screwed with. Carl's OCD is what made him an easy target.
Carl's display of OCD mainly manifested itself by him compulsively straightening the top two drawers of the captains desk and carefully placing the assorted desktop accoutrements in a precise order. It didn't make any difference which station he was at, this ritual would occur shortly after roll call and as needed after that. As the top drawer of the desk is the one that contains all of the stationery supplies that are needed to make civil service work, people were in and out of it all day long. If Carl hadn't worked at a location for a while, the drawers could be quite a mess before he arrived to put them in order.
Once this compulsion was realized by us pot-stirrers, it became great sport to walk by the desk and mess it up, even if we had no business in it. Carl never said a word about it, he just straightened it up again, as many times as needed to maintain deskatorial order. I remember personally messing up the desk several times in one day, then returning an hour later to find it in perfect arrangement - as if a Feng-shuei disciple had used it for a teaching example. I was just one of several who tried Carl's patience in those days. If he ever realized that we were screwing with him we will never know. I don't think it made any difference to him, desktop order would be maintained - regardless of the cause.
Carl passed away a few years after retiring, many of the old bastards still lament his loss. Although I was never close to Carl, age and wisdom has made me realize what a good guy Carl really was and that it was a little cruel to screw with him, especially when doing so for our amusement.
It's funny that I thought of Carl while trying to put my own desk in order. I could tell that one of my kids tore it apart while searching for some office supply or another. The way that all of the paper clips were spilled and the box was overturned indicated that the offender probably knew that he had made a mess but didn't think to pick up after himself. Typical teenage behavior I'd guess, though a deliberate act cannot be ruled out. My kids know how annoyed I get when MY stuff gets screwed with and they are their father's sons. A little mirth at my expense would not be out of the question. What goes around comes around. I guess.
Thanks for reading,
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