The 2011 Jungheinrich EJE 120
Today's the day! Today, I am finally leaving this pile of inventory to display my sheer strength and lifting ability at a fertilizer plant in Texas. No accident can hold me down, I am the greatest forklift ever built! I look in the mirror at my fresh paint job, admiring the shimmering yellow paint and the crisp Caterpillar logo. With new wheels and thorough maintenance, I feel as sleek as a sports car.
“Hey Jung, how does it feel to be stuck here? I told you I would get out first,” I tease to Jung, the 2011 Jungheinrich EJE 120.
“Don’t get carried away, Forest. You’re just a Caterpillar aisle forklift, not a gargantuan 797F mining truck,” Jung curtly retorts.
“I could drive circles around those dumb giants. Anyway, good luck getting out of here. See you around.”
I allow myself a long nap as I am loaded on a truck destined for my new home in Texas. The plant operators put me to work right away, lifting light pallets from shelves and unloading chemicals from delivery trucks. This is so mundane! Bring me the heavy stuff so I can show you what I can do! Unfortunately, the day passes in this fashion and I don’t get the chance to do any real work.
Once the human operators go home, the various machines around the plant gather to talk amongst each other; this is the perfect opportunity to introduce myself and assert my dominance. In the group are some other aisle forklifts, pickup trucks, a crane, conveyor belt, and a 2006 Loadlifter rough terrain forklift. I confidently stroll intro the group and introduce myself.
“Hey everyone, I’m new here. The name’s Forest, and I’ve been lifting pallets all over the country for 8 years. I have a pretty large load capacity if I do say so myself.”
“Welcome to the chemical plant, hotshot,” says the pickup truck.
“Oh yeah? A large load capacity? How much can you even lift, 1000 pounds?” says Larry, the Loadlifter.
He drives really close to me in an intimidation attempt, clearly one that he has practiced before. From the way the other machines cower around him, I can deduce that this is the leader of the pack, the one I need to challenge to establish leadership.
“My specs say 3000, but I can lift anything.”
“Pfft, yeah right. Listen, buddy, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m the boss around here. I can lift 20,000 pounds, easy. I could run you over with these tires of mine.”
Larry gets even closer, his tires like menacing eyes, but I am not backing down. The rest of the group is clearly intrigued. I have to do something fast if I want to gain their respect.
“We’ll see about that. I challenge you to a lift-off. Tonight.”
The rest of the group gasps. Larry makes a show of chuckling to himself before agreeing to the challenge.
I go off on my own and practice lifting things for a while, gearing up for the challenge. Later that evening, everything is set for the event. An assortment of pallets are laid out for lifting, an audience is gathered around, and the gas pump is sharing some oil for everyone to drink.
Larry rolls up to me and grumbles “Go back to your inventory, kid. You are going down.”
“We will see about that!” I say, ready for the lift-off.
The pickup truck revs his engine as a signal to start and we take turns lifting the objects, starting at the low end.
I effortlessly lift a 1000 pound crate, followed by a 2000 pound, and a 3000 pound one, and Larry follows suit. Suddenly, Larry decides to kick it up a notch. He positions his fork under a pallet supporting two 500 gallon chemical storage tanks, filled to the brim with wastewater. The audience eyes him closely as he slowly but successfully lifts the pallet five feet into the air.
“Let’s see you lift that!” grumbles Larry.
“Forest, don’t try it. That must weigh at least 8000 pounds!” says the pickup truck.
But I never decline a challenge. I position the fork under the pallet and feel my power surging. I lift it one foot into the air, then two. The pallet drops a little bit as the audience gasps. I attempt to lift it a little higher when I am struck with an intense vision.
It was the accident. I was in a large chemical production facility and a newly hired employee was operating me. I tried to lift a barrel of acid outside of my specification limit, but both the operator and I were confident in my capabilities. A more experienced employee repeatedly alerted the operator that it was unsafe, but we disregarded the warning. As I slowly lifted the barrel, I encountered a lot of resistance. Suddenly, there came an unappealing mechanical sound as the weight destroyed my motor, and the barrel fell to the ground, spilling the acidic contents in every direction. A spill hazard team was immediately dispatched and there were no significant damage or personnel injuries, but my operator was severely burned and rushed to the emergency room. The acid corroded most of my paint and my lifting ability was ruined. It was almost the end of me; I thought for sure that I would be left for scrap metal and parts. Fortunately, the company sold me and I was fixed up and given a new paint job. Good as new, but permanently scarred from the accident.
Snapping back to reality, I immediately stop lifting the pallet. I may not have learned my lesson the first time, but I am not going to make the same mistake now.
“All right, Larry, you win,” I exhale. Larry and some of his minions jeer, but I ignore it. The audience cheers and congratulations Larry on his victory, and I receive some looks of pity. Defeated and deflated, I quietly slump away from the group to have some alone time.
After a short while, the pickup truck approaches me in my moment of dejection and offers his consolation.
“Hey, man, don’t worry about him. You just weren’t made for that kind of load. Everyone here has their purpose and that is what they excel it, so stick with what you can do. You can lift lighter objects from narrow aisles, but Larry is made for heavy objects and driving on rough terrain. But neither of you can transport humans on legal roadways, like me. Let’s see Larry do your job without obliterating the aisles.”
I nod and quietly process everything he just said. He is completely right. I have been acting like an arrogant jerk for way too long. I was way over my head, and I don’t mean from lifting up a pallet. If I had just accepted my capabilities and been wary of my limits, I could have prevented the accident from long ago, or the humiliation I just faced. Yes, I think I understand now. I have a specific purpose in this plant, and lifting exceptionally heavy objects is not it. If I just accept that fact, then perhaps I can turn this into an enjoyable job.
A few months later, everything at the plant is much better. The operators still use me for mundane lifting, but I sort of enjoy it now that I have come to terms with my purpose. I challenged Larry to a competition in maneuvering around the aisles to retrieve inventory from inaccessible locations and easily won after he knocked over some shelves on accident. However, we all had a good laugh about it and there is no more rivalry between us. He retained his authoritative position and still teases me occasionally, but it is all in good fun. Just now, a new operator attempts to move a heavy barrel with my lifting prowess, but it is easily outside of my range.
“Hey, Larry, can you give me a hand with this?” I ask.
“Be right there, Four-pounder-Forest,” he replies.
I may not be able to lift the heaviest objects, but maybe being an aisle forklift isn’t so bad after all.