We can never get enough Paul Curran stories!
QUINN PLAYS GOD
By Paul Curran
The phone rang at 1:32 am. I rolled over and fumbled for the cell and then flipped it open:
“Paul, were you asleep?”
“Ummm, yeah but’s OK. What’s up Quinn?”
I was slowly surfacing from the grasping fingers of slumber. Sitting up in bed, I picked up my cigarettes and lighter from the night table in the dark and sparked a smoke into flame. Drawing deeply on the filter, I felt my brain slowly shrug off sleep and move to problem-solving mode.
Quinn was my sort of boss. It was a complex relationship – far, far too complex, but in reality invigorating on some not good but seriously emotional level. I would like nothing more than a roll in the sack with her- she turned me on seriously – but she was married to a man that I respected as much as I respected anyone. He was a funny, dedicated, deep and devoted man – how I could lust after his wife, my boss, was beyond me. So, we are back to “Hello”.
“Paul I just got back from the vet’s. When I came home tonight Rowena [one of her two Shiatzus] was lying on the floor on her side and breathing heavy. She wouldn’t move so I called the vet and he said to bring her in. I’ve had her for 13 years Paul and it hurt so, so much to see her like that. The vet said we could give her medication but she was in pain and that pain would never go away.”
Sobs now down the phone line. And I’m not sure how to respond.
“Quinn, you did what you could … “
“But Paul, I DON’T WANT TO PLAY GOD!!”
“I-I-I had to have her p-p-put down.”
Her pain was so in my face that tears were now coursing down my cheeks. I took another drag on the cigarette and tried to stabilize my emotions.
“Oh Quinn, it was her time. You saved her from further pain. She had a loving, caring home for so many years. She couldn’t have asked for more.”
Quinn was not unfamiliar with this argument – she was a registered nurse who had worked in palliative care for years. She had gently cradled untold numbers of frail human forms as their souls had crossed over. During her time, although there was no official euthanasia, sometimes increasing loads of pain killers in the bloodstream would become fatal. The staff was aware when a patient had suffered enough and when their pain increased yet again, the painkiller would increase accordingly and when necessary, fatally with tenderness and love. Every single involved health care worker would deny this to even their colleagues but the sad look told it all. We played God – that was our job as God’s children and Quinn wasn’t saying otherwise, she was lamenting how hard that part of life was.
Quinn was our corporate safety director and as such was my direct boss in my position as regional safety director. She was less than 5 feet tall (and she would never say how much less) with mid-back length real blonde hair and bangs which she was constantly blowing out of her eyes when her hands were full. She was cute as a pixie and as tough as a stevedore. She was a registered nurse and she and her husband co-owned a tractor-trailer which he drove coast to coast for another company. Quinn was a licensed transport driver with considerable experience even on B-trains (two trailers). If you wanted a good laugh, you could watch bystanders’ reaction when an 80 foot, 140,000 pound double tanker pulled into a customer’s yard, backed into a tight spot and a petite 4 foot something, 85 pound, long-haired blonde jumped out – it was surreal. Quinn worked out of our head office about 300 miles from my terminal. Her office was about 15 feet down the hall from one owner and directly opposite from the other. She took care of all the hard jobs and exacting jobs and messy jobs and secret jobs for the owner. If he needed someone to stop birds from pooping on his Corvette or if he needed someone to go into a house that had just had gas put into a furnace tank and would explode if the furnace started – she was the one. From million dollar equipment purchases to the floor cleaners – she was also the one consulted.
Quinn and I both drank and smoked too much at the time – it was a job hazard when you were always on call and always waiting for the next big one – and would call each other at all hours to talk. A driver once confided in me that he was uncomfortable calling her after hours because she was usually drunk, and I pointed out that he would always get the attention he needed from a service truck (her contact list was second to none and I swear she had every person’s number within a 500 mile radius) to emergency vehicles and my concern wouldn’t be a lack of response, it would be that she would call out the National Guard.
The above makes Quinn sound like a lush but when she was at work, she was sharp, sharp, sharp and nothing got past her. She would take on anything at any time and would always accomplish her goals. I wanted a “Quinn” moment to illustrate this and as hard as I thought I came up with lists of tasks she accomplished against all odds but no giant triumphant moment. I realized that was because Quinn never wanted recognition, she worked behind the scenes to make it perfect for others – never herself.
Open Topped Chip Trailers Being Unloaded – Not an Option in Yard
(Note the sliding hatch in silver just above the rear wheels)
I rolled into the Head Office yard one cold, dark, day with sleet pelting the trucks, and there was Quinn dressed in an insulated coverall with steel toed boots and her hair tied back, high up on top of a load of wood chips in an open top trailer. She was shoveling wood chips over the side onto the ground. Directly under her was an open chute in the side of the trailer but the load was too wet to slide out. As I watched, a mechanic climbed up on top with her and stood close by. Another stood beside the trailer with a rope that went up the side and was tied around Quinn’s waist. I looked at all this and inquired as to what was going on. He explained that a new driver had loaded too much weight in wood chips and it couldn’t cross the scale for delivery. Wood chips only had value by the ton so they were unloading a few thousand pounds by hand. They had tried the chute but the load wouldn’t slide. Quinn had been on top earlier shoveling and the load had shifted burying her up to her chest in chips. They had dug her out but decided to have a spotter and a rope around her in case it happened again. She was fearless.
Unloading a B-Train Fuel Tanker
Another time, a large customer of ours – a pressboard plant north of head office – went on strike. Our owner’s brother owned the plant, and he intended to run it with management. They used a huge amount of furnace oil heating the wood product before pressing, and they also had diesel refueling facilities for the fleet of trucks that hauled in pulpwood. As a consequence, we hauled a few trailer loads a day of furnace and diesel into the plant. The strikers threatened our drivers, who decided they would not cross the picket lines. We had a court order allowing us through, but the strikers were threatening the drivers’ families and it was getting nasty. It was decided, with her buy-on, that our drivers would bring the loads to HO and Quinn would deliver them. She did this for two weeks while the labour issue was debated. This tiny, skinny, less than 5 foot blond with aviator sunglasses, steel toed boots and leather work gloves, crossed that picket line at least twice a day in and out unloading 50 tons of petroleum each trip. They threatened her and stood in the way, and she just pushed them with the front bumper of the huge tanker until they backed off. When they realized that she would run over them if necessary, they weren’t quite so brave and came to respect her. Towards the end when she rolled up with that 80 foot rig with two tanks behind it and weighing 140,000 pounds, the picket lines parted like the Red Sea and then closed behind her. She was the only vendor that the strikers ever let through. (Plant management took the pulp trucks through.)
Sudbury – called the Big Nickel by Truckers because of Mines
Then there was the time she had a government audit and discovered that activities her employees had been doing for years now required a government approved training course. There were no less than 5 areas including enclosed spaces, fall arrest, etc, in which we now had to have certification. She called me one day and told me the problem and then said she would meet me in Sudbury the next morning (about 300 miles from Ottawa and 150 miles from HO) so we could both get the required “train the trainer” training with a certified consultant she employed upon occasion. I met her after a 6 hour drive starting at 2 AM and we sat in a classroom all day. She was smart and competitive, and we ended up in a contest of who would finish the tests first and get the most right. Of the 5 courses, we each won 2 and we tied on one. I was a little bit faster and she was a bit more accurate. And she was pissed that she gave up two wins to me –I could see her clamping her teeth together. Ha! That was fun.
And so it went day in and day out – if you needed help on the road, call Quinn; if there was a legal problem, call Quinn; if there was a customer problem, call Quinn; if there was a management problem, call Quinn; and so on. She got more people out of trouble and saved the company more money and customers than any other employee. I often said that when I got into trouble I liked to hide behind a little 5 foot blonde. And she was a joy to work with, never ceasing to amaze and always willing to settle any issues collaboratively but never afraid of confrontation. She had one huge 6 foot 5 inch trucker who was drunk and interrupting a safety meeting of hers and she took a moment and grabbed him by the ear and escorted him out while chastising him loudly. He behaved himself after that.
“Are you going to be OK Quinn?”
“Yeah, you know I’ll be fine. And I have my sister’s Shiatzu, Benjy, coming next week – I’m dog sitting while they are out of the country. He’ll keep me busy.”
“It will be fine Quinn; you know Rowena wouldn’t want you to be sad. She loved it when you were happy and dancing.”
“Yeah, I know. Thanks for letting me bend your ear Paul. Goodnight.”
“’nite Quinn. Talk to you tomorrow.”
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