I have decided to use Mondays to publish guest-posts and re-blogs (both mine and from other bloggers). Who better to go first than Paul Curran?
By: Paul Curran
The citrus shipping warehouse had an open loading dock with a roof over it. I pulled my loaded trailer out and stopped to close and lock the doors. This particular terminal in central Florida loaded only special orders this time of year – late November. They shipped mostly what we called “school fruit” – 40 pound cases of oranges and grapefruit that had been ordered for sale by the students of individual schools as Christmas presents in order to raise money. There were two systems; 1) orders were loaded and delivered by school and then distributed by the students or 2) individual orders were trucked to the post office closest to the delivery, already labeled with the end purchaser’s address and postage.
I had loaded the first type – for delivery to high schools starting in Massachusetts and finishing in northern New Brunswick – 6 drops in all. This was legal for me as a Canadian citizen because it was a single shipper with part of the load delivering in Canada. I enjoyed the break from delivering to warehouses but it was always a challenge dealing with amateurs. And amateurs they were.
My first and second drops were at high schools in towns north of Boston that I shall refrain from naming to protect the guilty – although God alone knows why I bother. I arrived at the first school and after reporting to the office, I was directed to drive around the side of the school and into a paved quad inside the square shaped building. There was lots of space and I had been told that they would unload right after recess. I no sooner got the truck parked when the recess bell rang and hundreds of teens came rushing from the building. A lot of the boys gathered around admiring the truck and I answered their questions about the job and the truck. I was only 21 myself at the time (being the youngest owner/operator the company had ever had) and I looked even younger dressed in a T-shirt and jeans. Many of the boys sported beards and looked my age or older. When the bell rang again for the end of recess, 15 minutes later, two teachers – a man and a woman – came out of the building and started yelling at the teens that they had to go back into the school. They reluctantly moved towards the doors leaving me standing beside the truck. The woman teacher asked me if I was stupid that I didn’t understand that I was to leave too. I just smiled and shrugged, opened the cab door and climbed in, starting the engine. She paused for a moment, realized her mistake and then hollered
“Where are you going?”
I responded: “You told me to leave, so I’m leaving.”
“You can’t go!”
“Make up your mind.”
She apologized and I shut off the truck and got out. It wasn’t long before a crew of teens and another teacher appeared, we unloaded their order without further incident, and I was on my way.
I drove to my second drop and reported to their office. They took my paperwork and directed me to back in around the side of the gymnasium where a teacher and a group of about 10 senior high teenagers awaited to help unload. I had checked each case onboard the truck and had placed cardboard dividers between the drops. My tally had matched the shippers tally by drop, by fruit sizes, and in total. I was 100% certain which cases were delivering here and how many of each size there were. So, the teacher showed me that they were going to carry the cases down a hall and place them against the wall inside the gym in preparation for distribution to the students who were participating in the fund-raising.
Two teens jumped in the trailer with me and together we brought the order to the end of the trailer where students on the ground carried the cases inside out of view. The female teacher supervised the process – not that it needed supervision but rather so she didn’t get her hands dirty. I counted each case and marked it off the total until all 175 destined for this drop were off the trailer. We were at the cardboard divider and the counts worked out perfect – as expected. The teens and I jumped out of the trailer and I closed and locked the doors. As I did that the teacher emerged from the door and asked if that was the whole order. I told her it was, and she said they were 10 cases short. I just figured they had miscounted, so I went with her into the gym and counted the cases against the wall.
There were 10 less cases in the gym than had come off the truck. The students looked guilty and the teacher would not look me in the eye. I knew immediately that they had stolen the oranges but the line of students had stayed constant during the unloading – none disappeared or reappeared out of order. This meant that the oranges were somewhere close by. I was so angry that I walked out of the gym without a word and looked up and down the corridor. There were a number of doors in evidence and I started opening them and checking inside the rooms. The teacher followed me and kept telling me that I wasn’t allowed to look in the rooms and that she was going to call security. At the time I was 6’ 3” and 250 pounds with no fat – she wasn’t going to slow me down without security guards. I had only checked three rooms and when I opened the fourth door, there were the ten cases stacked against the wall – same name on the boxes, same lot numbers, and the missing fruit sizes. No doubt they were deliberately placed there to try and steal them. At first, the teacher objected that they were not the cases that had come off the truck. I was so angry that not only had she tried to steal the cases but that she also enlisted the teens to help her steal – what kind of example was that?
I said nothing – just handed her the paperwork that I had inherited while checking the order and told her to sign it. She signed the paperwork, I gave her copies and with a disgusted look I left. I didn’t trust myself to say anything to her for fear that I would go into a righteous rage. And we wonder, as a society, how our children end up being liars and thieves – pretty clear answer in this case: they were being taught by the teachers.
The remainder of the deliveries went relatively well, although a few were challenging to access with a tractor trailer. Whenever I hauled school fruit, I always wondered by the end what had ever possessed me to take the load. And each time one of the loads was offered my memory failed me and I figured it would be a great break in the routine.
Image credits are under the respective photos for this post.