Stop Wasting Precious Diesel
They’d said it all before: I was useless, a complete waste of mechanical parts and ingenuity; I deserved nothing more than to exist as scrap metal in a bone-yard where no one would have to look at my pitiful frame.
Even over the hum and buzz of the construction site, I could hear them. The sneers and jeers of the bullies carried, driving into me like nails. I could imagine the insults they were tossing around.
“Look at the little loser. He can’t even reach the top beams.”
“Isn’t that just the ugliest shade of orange you have ever seen? It’s no wonder no one wants to hang out with him.”
“All he’ll ever be good for is holding up the painter. They should just send him to the junkyard and stop wasting precious diesel.”
Sadly, these derogatory comments came not only from bulldozers and cranes, but also from the lifts, even other JLGs. They liked to boast of their superiority and remind me of my inferior position, my unimpressive size. I longed to speak up, offer defiance and objection. But I refused to stoop to their level. I wanted to prove that building up was more important than tearing down. Though they towered above me, I was determined to hold my platform high.
A harsh nudge jarred my solid exterior. It was Carter, the crane who was the source of the venom that poisoned the minds of every other bully I encountered daily. His engine rumbled in menacing tones, but I didn’t even blink. Frustrated I may have been; intimidated I was not.
“Working hard over here are you? I’m glad they found a use for your talents-whatever they are.” My refusal to acknowledge his comment only increased the severity of his attack, but I tuned him out. When I noticed the absence of his voice in the surrounding din, I felt the tension leave me. Although I was beyond letting Carter’s badgering hurt me, his imposing demeanor and unrelenting torments were difficult to bear. I wasn’t sure I could take a decade of this.
I became aware of the gradual decline in noise and realized that it was time for the workers’ lunch break. I waited patiently as the painter on my platform retracted my beam and gave me a quick inspection. I headed for a quiet spot, just down the hill from the lodge we were erecting. Only here was I able to relax and observe the rhythm and pulse of this midday routine in peace.
As the end of my reprieve drew near, I was startled by an unexpected commotion. Radios blared while workers and machines alike rushed to the road. I felt my curiosity and panic levels rising simultaneously, leaving me torn between retreating and investigating. The urgency present in the scene unfolding before me drew me out of my hiding place and propelled me forward. When I saw the cause of all the excitement, I almost wished it hadn’t.
One of the telephone lines had fallen, and it now lay haphazardly across the road, creating a dangerous roadblock. The trees on either side made it impossible to manoeuvre around the disaster, and the switchbox was blocked by the tangle of loose wires. Worst of all, the pole had taken out an unsuspecting victim along the way. That victim was a crane. That crane was Carter.
I was frozen to the spot for several minutes, trying to absorb what I was seeing. I could not take my eyes off Carter; I had never seen him so helpless, so weak, so desperate. I could tell that every moment spent under the telephone wire brought him closer to an end he was not prepared for. His feeble gaze found me amongst the crowd. For once, there was no condescension, no smugness present. I could feel the electric charges in the air penetrating my core, and I winced, imagining how much stronger they were for Carter. I felt no hate towards him, only sympathy. I wanted to help him, even if he wouldn’t do the same for me.
By the time I tuned back in to the conversations taking place around me, everyone had come to the conclusion that moving the lines safely would be next to impossible. This left only one option: disabling the switchbox. It would have been simple, if not for the fact that it was thirty feet off the ground and blocked by the fallen electric line. I was just beginning to see the hopelessness of the situation when it hit me. I was an articulator lift! I had a flexible beam! They could use me to save Carter!
I rolled myself forward, pushing through the crowd until I had everyone’s attention. It only took a few seconds for them to realize that I could solve their problem. I heard Carter’s engine falter, and I could sense he was slipping away. We didn’t have much time, and this realization startled people into action. They positioned me as close to the lines as they dared and appointed a man to climb aboard. He turned the key and placed his hand on the controls. My boom slowly lifted into the air, towards the box that held Carter’s fate. The closer the wires grew, the more nervous I became. Five feet. Four. Three. The buzz of flowing electricity made me tremble, but I was determined to keep my tires in place. No one moved or spoke; the situation was too delicate to interrupt with the slightest distraction.
The man directing my beam carefully guided my platform over to the switchbox. He eased it to a stop. The only sounds to be heard were the clanking of his tools, the electric hum, and the fading of Carter’s life. Anticipation hung like fog in the air as the man’s steady hands reached through the wires. There was a soft click as the box opened. A heartbeat later, the electric hum ceased. Our anxiety was released in an audible sigh and enthusiastic applause erupted from the crowd.
Surprisingly, Carter had remained conscious throughout the ordeal. A look of understanding passed between us before my view of him was blocked. I had a feeling my selfless act had earned me some respect from this bully. Although I didn’t expect friendship, hopefully he and the other machines would now give me the credit I deserved. Even if they didn’t, at least I could take pride in my actions. I would go back to work with my platform held high…
Even if the painter was the only one who noticed.