Monday, March 26, 2012


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,


  1. When I worked out in TinyTown, South Dakota we had 7 or 8 men in a single office area and nothing to do but work... and torment each other. If they found out something pisses you off, you'll be pissed off at least once a week.

    Enter Montreal Canuk. A small man, he was fussy about truly inconsequential things and somewhat paranoid. He'd come in Monday morning and find that his chair was attached to his desk via rubber bands, or the keyboard to his PC was unplugged so that when you turn it on you'd get an error. Montreal Canuk would hit the ceiling like a fourth of July skyrocket on steroids.

    One week a fellow worker, One Tooth Mike, said the guys down at the bar told him there was a big foot sighting in the Northern part of the State. I let this story circulate for a few hours, then Fred and I started putting together an expedition to go hunt Big Foot. We asked Montreal Canuk to go across the street to the gun store and find out what kind of rifle is best for Big Foot hunting, and if a license is needed.

    Were we a little mean? Maybe, but not mean spirited. I had several pranks pulled on me, but when they found out I wasn't easily spun up (I was, by the way, easily spun up but I kept a tight lid on it) they gave up in favor of an easier target.

    Do your kids know about the old trick with the telephone and the Vaseline smeared all over the earpiece?

  2. Mad Jack - They might have heard of that trick, but as their world is one of cell phones not land lines, a more common prank would be to change the wallpaper image on the cell phone to something offensive.

    As it is, they keep pretty close tabs on their phones.

    Thanks for the comment.