Some things are rationale in life, and others less so.
My dad used to say, “If you are going to dream, dream big”, and I took it to heart. I’ve never been one to set realistic goals. I’ve always been an over-achiever; it is just a part of who I am. Consequently, I’ve done some pretty amazing things and met some fascinating and disturbing people along the way.
I was telling my gram this story the other day, and I thought I would share it with you too.
She was the one that used to tell me the story about the little train that was chugging up the hill, all the while saying ” I think I can, I think I can.” Because of gram and dad, I have set the dream wide, and the bar high, and then I punt.
Back in the early 90’s I worked for a wholesale grocery distributor called Sweet Life Foods. You might have read that in my story about the Grocery industry in the Enfield, CT and Springfield, MA areas.
I was working in sales at the time, as a salaried sales representative. The Teamsters Union was strong and contract negotiations lead to a strike. I was the only female in the sales department, the first actually.
Most of the women I worked with were petrified to cross the picket lines but the orders still had to go out. As a salary worker, I wasn’t protected by a contract and I needed my job so I crossed the line. The other women who were in accounting and buying were able to work in the administrative building but the sales force had to cross the line.
I was called all of your favorite cuss words like whore, bitch, slut, scab, and my car was rocked pretty hard as I went through, but it was my own car, and not a very nice one at that. The Teamster guys were good to me and didn’t key it or pound on it, they only rocked me as I went through the gate.
Crossing the union picket line
Some of the other people crossing the picket line didn’t fare as well. One lady ended up fighting back and got hurt pretty badly, she was admitted to the hospital.
Once I was across the line, my first shift was in the freezer, at ice cream temperatures which is pretty darn cold. Again, I was the only girl and I had dressed for the occasion. I never asked to be treated any differently than the guys I worked with, and because of that, I gained their respect; I worked just as hard as they did.
Then came 2nd shift, and some of the people that were supposed to come in, didn’t show up so I volunteered for another shift.
The next 8 hours had me riding shotgun with the contracted truck drivers that had come in from all areas to deliver the loads. We had upwards of 200 trucks on the dock in a given day – mornings in, afternoons out.
Well I got hooked up with a driver who was from out of town, near Framingham, MA. He had his own rig, and he said he knew where he was going so I got in my car, CB hooked up, and dutifully followed him.
Getting lost and getting stuck in the mud
At some point on our route, he got lost and turned into a residential area that was being developed and got stuck in the mud. When I called it into the office on the CB the union guys must have been listening in. Within a minute, I had a bunch of angry union guys show up and start throwing rotten food at me. I took laundry from my back seat, and threw it under the trucks’ wheels to try and gain traction so that he could pull the rig out, but it was a joke.
All it did was ruin my clothes, cover me in mud and make the guys laugh at me calling me a stupid..well you know.
The driver was getting nervous and the crowd was growing larger; the union was a pretty brotherly group when it wasn’t contract time. I did work with a lot of them on a routine basis and we were friendly before that, but they wanted the upper hand in the negotiation and when they got into a crowd, their confidence level grew. I tried talking to them at first, but I quickly gave up and focused on the problem at hand.
About 15 minutes in, a big burly guy showed up and asked me what was going on. He could tell I was outnumbered and quickly losing control. I had called into my office again on the CB to tell them of the situation and they had told me to hang tight; they were sending the police.
The friendly stranger happened to be the developer of the land, and asked me if I would like some help getting the truck removed from the mud. “Yes please and right now” I said.
He told me he would contact the guy that owned the bucket truck that was on the hill above us, but that either me, or my company would have to incur the costs.
I told him no problem and begged him to please have it done as quickly as possible. I told the truck driver that we were going to get help, the police were coming and I was going to use the payphone down the street off the public lines to call the office and that he should stay in his truck.
I drove to the Dairy Mart and used the public phone (this was back before cell phones) and I called into my office and told my boss, the VP of sales what was happening . He told me to be careful and handle the situation as best as I could.
Getting pulled out of the mud
When I arrived back at the stuck truck scene, the police had arrived and the crowd was more civil. The pay loader driver was extricating the truck and finally, about an hour later, we were given a police escort out of the development.
The following day when I got into work my boss Rhett said, “Julian wants to see you about what happened last night.” Rhett offered me his ever ready jar of petroleum jelly that he kept on his desk for these type of “you’re f*cked moments, but I passed it up with a smile.
“I hope I don’t need that!” I laughed.
Time to meet the boss
Julian was the President of the Company, and although I had worked for him a bit in the administrative office, I was now in sales and had few dealings directly with him.
As I knocked on his door, he looked up and used his hand to beckon me into the room. As I walked in, he stood up, and asked me to take a seat.
He wanted to hear it from my perspective and I relayed the story to him. When I was done, he stood up and shook my hand across the desk, and said to me, “Thank you Kay, You handled that situation effectively, the press was avoided and the bill was only $400.00.”
He continued, “When Rhett told me the story, I couldn’t believe it. I wondered how the other sales guys would have handled the situation, and then I thought – you’ve got more balls than any of them! I’m so glad you were on it, and that you resolved it. Thank you very much, you did a great job!”
I thanked him and left his office beaming. I was glad I was still in one piece- all the way around.
Unions are a part of our country’s history and it is a tough thing as a salary person to have to fight for your job, against the wishes of a union, but for a company that employs you. There are always two sides to every story.
I wonder what those guys say about me when recalling that story. It must have been pretty funny to watch me frantically stuffing all my laundry under those truck tires, but I was scared as hell and willing to do whatever it took.