Yesterday, I needed to top off my three axles intermodal dump truck after a couple days of hauling crushed gravel and coarse sand at the job site. So when I pulled into the shop and wanted to refuel, only .5 gallons came out and a lot of gurgling! “Oh classy,” I muttered to myself, “someone ran the tanks dry, again!” So off I went to find Klaus, our in shop mechanic who is a kind of master of all trades and tricks. I found him sitting in his old chair, surrounded by stacks of shop manuals and drinking a mug of coffee with a cigarette in his hand. His old dog “Levitch” was curled upon an old blanket a few feet away. Now Klaus has had more adventures than myself, and he has a head full of knowledge to match! He stands about 5’6″ and has a stocky, muscular build. He’s a master of kickboxing, holds a degree in Judo, amateur boxer, master welder, and pipefitter, and mechanic in addition to working for a security company in Saudi Arabia years ago! And that’s just the tip of his life and we get along well! So, as I said earlier, I found him just kicking back for a couple of minutes, taking a break from the unending projects that shop life consists of!
“Hey Ed,” as he greeted me and pointed to another chair at the small table and he asked me if I wanted a coffee, which, of course, no reasonable man would deny! While he was making it, his dog “Levitch” stood and after stretching himself picked his way around the tools and welding unit and extra parts and came to greet me. He came from Kazakstan and was a big animal and still impressive at 16 years! He enjoys having his ears scratched and having the top of his head tussled, and I certainly didn’t mind. He has a dirty white coat interspaced with a little brown here and there and thankfully, he is a friendly dog!
When Klaus returned with a mug of coffee, he asked me what was happening, and I told him the diesel tank had air issues again. “Anna did it,” he said as a matter of fact, as he pulled on his “Lucky Strike” cigarette. Now Klaus came from the land of the Swabs, that is, the state of Baden-Wurttemberg in the South-West corner of Germany. His hair is very short and sprinkled with silver and gray, like the most of us in the small company, and he has dark brown eyes that reveal a sense of humor, as well as an iron-hard mindset when irked or irritated!
He said, “I told Anna when she brought in the Volvo, not to tank because the fuel truck didn’t show up yesterday, but she insisted, and she emptied the tank, again.”
He paused to take another long drag of the cigarette and then continued; “I’ve told Monika several times already that she needs to order the fuel at least a week ahead of time, but she keeps forgetting, and so this happens!” “Well,” I said, “I’ll go and get some cash from Hans and go to the station in town and top the truck off.”
“No, you don’t need to because the fuel came an hour ago. I just have to bleed the tank! He seemed a bit irritated, so I asked him if this happens often and his reply was an absolute yes, too often he said!
So after some small talk, we went outside with a large wrench and five gallons of diesel in a canister. “One of these days I’m going to tell the drivers to do it themselves if they won’t stop running the tank dry!” he said as he stood at the base of the ladder that led to the top of the new 15,000-gallon tank. So he climbed the ten-foot ladder, and I handed him the diesel canister and then went around to the automated system where fueling the truck or excavators was done through the chip. After giving the kilometers and code, the system was ready to give me my fuel, but the tank was not! Again, it gave me 1.7 gallons of fuel before the gurgling began and only drops came out from the nozzle!
Klaus, who had poured the five gallons into the pump and had bled the air was by now visibly upset with the whole deal, and he was letting the shop know exactly what he thought about forgetting to order on time, which by the way, was the owner’s wife responsibility! If it had been ordered on time than he wouldn’t be sitting atop a fuel tank trying to jump start it! Of course, Anna, our only woman driver, was not innocent either and if she were there, she probably would have a red face by now because a Swab man can really “let it out” when he’s mad!
So he climbed back down with the empty canister and stalked back into the shop, his muttering fading as the shop door slammed behind him! Now, to be honest, I was laughing so hard that the tears were running down my face, but I was careful to look the other way lest I pulled his attention my way! I didn’t want to bear the brunt of his by now extremely irritated temper!
I was ready to go home after running the 6-ton excavator all day laying out the BMX trail for the town of Bergen, and the last thing that I wanted was to wrestle with a stubborn diesel pump and an angry mechanic, and I heard him approaching before I saw him, so I quickly composed myself and put on my sympathetic face.
“You know what?” he said as he handed me the canister and started to climb the ladder. “This is a damned good time to look for another job!” I stared at my steel toed boots, trying very hard not to make a sound and just nodded my head in agreement. “Here, give me the canister,” he said, and as I raised it up to him, he narrowed his eyes and glared at me and asked me if I had a problem! “Me? O no, I don’t have any problems that I can think of at the moment!” I was desperately trying to keep a straight face because he was steaming mad and I didn’t want to be drop kicked from ten feet!
After taking the canister, he started to pour it into the small opening, but then all of a sudden it looked like a geyser in action, spraying him from head to toe with fresh diesel! If you have ever seen a Laurel and Hardy film, then you’ll have a good idea of the expression on his face! I thought that I was going die from laughing! I couldn’t help it anymore as I quickly turned to face the truck and pretended to work the nozzle! There were no words coming from Klaus, just some strange and uneven warblings that were seemingly unidentifiable, but I knew better than to say anything. In this case, silence is the better part of common sense, so I used it!
After a minute, he handed me the canister and climbed back down and asked me if I had any paper towels in the truck of which I said yes and gave him a few pieces. “Are you saving the others for a rainy day?” he asked somewhat dryly as he proceeded to wipe his face and forearms and hands and dabbed away at the residue on his shirt, a hopeless endeavor I thought!
So, once again I gave the correct data into the computer and turned on the pump and squeezed the nozzle while Klaus stood silently next to me, studiously observing the nozzle for any signs of life! After what seemed like an eternity, but was only a mere few seconds, the pump rolled to 3.7 gallons, and then the gurgling began, again!
I’m choking inside, trying not to burst out in laughter as poor Klaus stood there, deeply perplexed at the stubborn pump that will not do what it was made to do, pump the diesel into the truck! He said very quietly, “I’m gonna blow this thing up.” And you know what? I believed him! And evidently, the pump did too because just at that moment, it began to pump!
“Hmm,” said Klaus, “it just saved itself from certain death:” And with that, the fueling was finished, I was finished, and Klaus shut and locked the shop doors, and without further ado, we all went home smelling like the spilled diesel that had sprayed Klaus!
All I wanted to do was to just give you a glimpse into some of the things that happen in a small company like ours and that life is full of concoctions and mysteries, humor and laughter, friendships and timing! It’s all part of the life we live. Klaus and I are still friends by the way!
Perhaps in the future, I’ll share other small stories that you may find interesting because isn’t that what life is, a continuing saga?