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Farewell, and Thanks for Coming In! | [Retired]

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It's All Gravy, Man! | And the Importance of Being Reassured · 1:49am September 16th

I didn't think I was good enough for my job. 

I'd been working a real snooze-fest beforehand. It wasn't a terrible job. It was a rental service for construction tools for various job sites over the region. I worked in a makeshift office with my brother-in-law. Orders came for differing devices and, if we had enough inventory to supply the demand while keeping enough for our store, I would find and stage the needed tool(s) for delivery.

I managed our inventory, what came in and what went out, the order tools were staged for repair based on their condition and priority and, lastly, if each item was where it was supposed to be. My coworkers were okay. Working that job felt like living in a small town. Everyone worked at their own pace. It never felt like you were working a proper job.

Just that you showed up there at the same time and sometimes got things done.

It was nice. Things mattered more because everyone had a personal connection with everyone else. You could go to someone else's area—or the two of you head outside—and talk about whatever was happening in each other's lives. 

Not everyone was perfect. And the work was not shared fairly. I ran into personal troubles that would not have happened at any other job. But, despite that, it was a decent job to work, and the people treated you mostly okay. 

But it was a dead-end job. 

After my brother-in-law left, I applied for my current job (Mobile Crane Operator), and the new management was fond of micromanagement. 

Truth be told—I didn't think I would make the cut for this new job. It was at CN (Canadian National Railway) where you would work in a vast yard in either a hitch truck, a shunt trunk (basically a miniature version of a normal truck that carries containers), or in a mobile crane. 

I was scared when I saw the footage of the crane, this great machine you drive and pick up containers and load them into tight spots. I'd never operated heavy machinery or worked in a harsh environment before. Didn't feel like either was in my DNA. 

But the money was good, and the job looked fair.

I took the job right and, after six months of starting, have become the quickest and (somewhat) youngest to operate a mobile crane. Such hulking machinery driving in tight places seems scary only in prospect and concept.

When dealing with those kinds of fears, you quickly learn that those fears aren't what they're cracked up to be.

You see a person driving a truck with a 53' foot container, and you see them zig through tight spaces and around other drivers, veering close to the cans than driving out, taking a hard left and then stopping, the back of their can aligning with an open space. Using only their mirrors or a head out the window, they reverse that can into a small space barely able to house it. 

Commotion burrs around this truck as people traffic continues around it. This truck reverses its container into the spot on their first drive and, with a quick unlatch of their air hoses, speeds off into the rest of the intersecting herd. Some might assume some talent, something in the DNA is required to be such a person that does things like these.

The same felt true to me regarding watching the mobile cranes operate in the yard. They're these tremendous hulking machines with a crane that lifts 53' foot containers of over thirty to forty feet high.

Or higher… depending on your bravery.

These giant machines pass each other with an inch between them. One will turn, tucked between a wall of containers on their left and a slew of chaises on their right, coming inches between either, extending their spreader to pick up a container or, as we call them, a can.

(Note: We call containers' Cans' and a chassis with a container on it a 'Cows.' This is because they have been left on the pad and either block or tighten the space a mobile operator has to function inside.)

Before this job, I never thought I could drive a truck or operate a crane. When it came time to my training, I had to remind myself that, no matter how scary something seems, after some time, at the very least, you'll get used to it. It might look scary and dated, but, like everything else… you'll get used to it after a while. It'll become comfortable and, soon enough, dull. 

And soon, instead of being scared of driving a truck, I was bored of it. 

There's something strange about me. I'll go from being scared of something to wondering how far I can push its limitations seconds after getting used to it. The truck took some time, but after a while, it came to me, and I could master the essential functions. Pulling a container to a train. Backing a chassis perfectly underneath a suspended container held by a mobile crane. And jackknifing a container into a tight squeeze.

These things look scary from the offset, intimidating and stressful in the first few attempts, and, after that, a daily occurrence that requires minimal skills to complete. 

Please do not allow fear to deny you from trying something outside your comfort zone. Do not deprive yourself of the reality behind an activity because your perception of the action is worse than what it's actually like. Things don't always reveal themselves to be hunky-dory. After training to drive a truck or operate a crane, many decided it wasn't for them. 

Nothing was wasted in such cases (beyond the time and money lost by the company but… f'naa.)

It's better to try something and learn it's not for you than to spend a lot of time wondering. You learn more about yourself and about a unique function in the world. Still. I worried about driving a giant crane despite all the wonderful things I had to say to myself.

You can run over a truck and knock down a wall of containers if you're not careful. 

You have to carry a container down a pad and find a way to not carry it over those passing. You must bring it high enough over the containers on the train or the wall of them to your right. You could extend too fast or too hard and knock the containers together. Such a hard force could knock it down. 

There's a lot that can go wrong if you're not careful and, always assuming the worst of myself, I wondered if I should keep my current job as a truck driver. It could be boring. A lot of driving with hours of not much to do. You could move and jot in your notebook. Ideas for plots and outlines and this and that. Stuff to do at work, so you have more time at home to be at home. 

Can I do the same thing in a mobile? Could my mind drift as I drove aimlessly? Could I work through plots inside my head? How often could I resort to my notebook when it was harder to hide in such a big machine? And my doubts arose about driving something so big and not hitting something. 

I nearly went in to rescind my desire to be a mobile operator. Too many doubts and words of others weighed on me. I'd seen some crane operators cause much damage with something simple and small. But it was on my way inside my building during the darker hours of the night that someone nice decided to talk to me.

"Y'know, man, I can't figure it out." The voice catches me as I leave the building. I turn around to see an older gentleman smoking against the wall. He looks at me, wearing a loose smile. "Whenever I go down, either I catch you leaving… or I see you on my way out. Now, how's about that?"

I couldn't help but smirk. "Because we won't get in shit if we take an extended bathroom break sometime after two." I stepped closer. "But if you go exactly at two—they'll detect a pattern."

He chuckled and nodded.

We've been "working through break" for the last four months. Instead of taking a 30 min break: you work through it. 

You're paid an hour of overtime as a result. 

However, you can go to the building to use the bathroom or refill your water. Go 3-4 hours after your shift has started. However, leave at the same time, and the company will catch on. Fluctuate when you leave inside that span, though, and you'll become harder to pinpoint.

My new friend has been driving a crane since I started this job. The other operators either look stressed, angry, or have their services feel overused and underappreciated. This was the first time I could have a frank talk with someone about it. They seemed kind and friendly, open and free, that they would understand me well and give an answer based on myself.

"What's it like being in the crane?" I asked as I turned and fell against the wall as well. I took out a smoke, and he had his lighter already lit. "Seems like a real shitshow at times. Space always seems tight, and the carters look like a nightmare." He lights my smoke for me, and I take a puff. "And I'm unsure if I can do it."

The man falls back against the wall and gives me a loud, loose laugh, covering his mouth as he glances around. "That fuckin' crane, man? That shit is fucking gravy, my man."

I took a drag of my smoke and glanced at him. "Gravy?"

"Fucking gravy." He goes again. "You just take your time. Go real slow. And don't care too much about what others might think or say." 

"What about carters?" These are truckers picking up containers. They're usually stupid, trying to kill themselves, and think heavy machines can fly. "They don't seem like pleasant company."

"Them? They're motherfucking gravy too!" My friend laughs again. "You pull up, and you ask what container they want. Then you go in, and you dig 'em out! You do what you can do. Don't worry too much beyond that."

I looked at him for a minute as I processed his words. "So it's worth it?"

"Worth it for me," he replies. "The extra money is nice, and your day goes by real quick. You don't have places to hide—but you can step out of your machine every hour for a break and a stretch if you wanted."

"I have a journal," I continue. "Would I be able to get much writing done in that still? I usually drive to the North Yard and take a few to jot a thing or two."

He points at the machine. "You'll get more writing done in that machine than in a truck. But the whole thing is gravy, man." He pats my shoulders before flicking his smoke. "You'll do alright. I promise ya that."

I nod, and we bump fists, and I return to my machine.

All the doubts I had about the machine, from when I had started and seen them in service throughout my time, went away from this man's words. He helped to quell my fear by calling the whole thing gravy. The worst stuff I imagined, to him, was gravy. 

And that got me through my training, where, surprising most to myself, I was a natural. I don't write this to boast or to boost myself. If you saw me or knew me—you wouldn't think operating heavy machines in tight spaces would be my calling.

But that machine went from being a hulking monstrosity to an oversized ATV within twenty minutes of driving it. I was nearly given less training because I didn't require it. And I've been put on jobs not trusted with other rookies. The crane comes naturally to me. I still have my places to grow and learn and improve. How to be a touch quicker and get the containers stacked with fewer attempts. But for someone just starting—I'm doing remarkably well. 

Why this improvement and lack of fear? I had talked to many about this. Those who chose to remain in trucks didn't want to chance the stress and pressure from being in a crane. Those who did operate cranes acted as though they were on their own level or, in most regards, were miserable people.

And the one person that went from truck to crane that was a friend of mine… went back to being in a truck due to how hard it was being in a crane.

Everything told me to fear this job.

Everything from the offset, that is. 

But that one conversation reassured me that everything would be okay. This did away with my fear before and during my training. It allowed me to view and feel better about the job. That person probably doesn't have much of a clue about what he did for me. But in being chill and open and nice, he was able to deal away with my fears, reassure me to go toward… and now I have. 

Always be willing to reassure others in life. It's very easy to just ignore your fears or brave them anyways. The latter is a path we are usually just forced to take. But you can make someone else's life easier by giving them assurance. I would have done well in my crane regardless, I think. But, because of his words, I was more sure of it. 

Assurance is vital because we no longer require bravery. That maybe there is some potential in us that is meant to be. It's not just inside your head—others can see and feel it too. And their words, no matter how small or few, can be everything you need to take that broader step forward. 

This was a good blog. (After reviewing the edit, I take back this opinion, lolz!)

Maybe I could go back and dissect why.

Maybe it's because I wrote about something personal. Or it's because it's based on someone else instead of myself for once. It could be that the point came across better—or maybe the moral blinded me to its quality. But none of that really matters as, for once, I'm satisfied with this one for the moment. 

I'm still doing alright. Grinding away at the new job as I try to jump-start the twenty-million writing projects I have going on. There is fear that writing original content will only result in wasted time and terribly written words. But I also know that there will not be a better time. Where I will be better suited to make the plunge to new words and works. 

You have to start from the bottom to reach the top. You cannot wait and hope, somehow and somewhen, that you'll magically be better and ready for the greater challenge. You have to take it now. Fail as you must. All so that you may later succeed. 

And that is what I must do now. 

Later, gang.

~ Yr. Pal, B  

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Comments ( 6 )

Good luck, B. I believe in you and know you can and will do well!

Great to hear your work is going well.

Fail as you must. All so that you may later succeed.

Something I need to hear these days.

It makes me happy to hear from you still with these blog post

You write so eloquently, and paint such a vivid picture of the world around you.

I know ur time on the site is at its end, but I hope you find new avenues to explore and share your writing.

You’re one of the good ones, B.

You are a talented writer with a lot of fics to prove that. Never forget that you have touched a lot of people, and I hope your original writings take off as you deserve. But remember, this goodbye doesn't have to be forever. My advice is to give your all writing something original but don't be afraid to occasionally switch to a smaller project to avoid burnout. Plus you could post the smaller non-mlp fics on AO3.

I work the IANR. So I understand apprehension and fear in the face of massive tasks and machinery requiring intense responsibility.

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