I nearly died driving a Forklift

It was January 1997 when I learned about Forklifts, inclines, and gravity.

I was preparing to move my family to North Carolina and had to dispose of a bunch of stuff out of the house. One of these items was the old water heater. Rather than haul it to the landfill and pay the disposal fee, I decided to take it to one of the warehouses of the company I worked for, Lofts Seed.

I loaded the heater into the back of my little red step-side pickup truck and headed off to the warehouse.

It was bulky and heavy, but I was able to get it up and into the back of the truck by myself.

If was a Sunday and no one would be at the warehouse. I called the warehouse manager to get permission to throw the heater in the dumpster. He said no problem.

When I got to the warehouse I decided to use one of the forklifts to carry the heater out back to the dumpster.

The dumpster I wanted to put the heater into was out back, next to the forklift ramp that led out of the warehouse.

I headed through the warehouse to the back dock door with the heater on top of the forks. As I headed to the ramp I started raising the forks into the air so that they would be above the top edge of the dumpster.

As I headed down the ramp, raising the forks higher and higher into the air, I turned the forklift to the left towards the dumpster.

Can you see it yet, forks about 12 feet in the air, big heavy forklift moving downward, then sideways on an incline?

I’m not a physicist, but I quickly learned about inertia, gravity, incline, weight, motion and instant FEAR!!!

As the forks reached over the top of the dumpster the forklift began to fall over to the right, down the ramp. Fortunately for me, and my desire to continue living, the forks caught on the edge of the dumpster, with me and the forklift sitting at about a 45° angle to the ground.

I managed to hang onto the steering wheel, hook my feet on the clutch and brake pedals so that I did not fall off and possibly under the forklift.

The front drive wheels of the forklift were off the ground, so I did not have to worry about it moving, yet I still reached down and shut off the engine.

I sat there, hanging onto the steering wheel and roll bars as I pondered what to do next. Wisely (where did that come from), I decided to climb up on top (actually left side) of the forklift and jump off, up the ramp. I felt there was less danger than climbing off, under and down the ramp.

I stood there for a few minutes pondering what to do next. More wisdom arose in me, so I called the warehouse manager.

“Hey John, this is Teddy. I screwed up. I accidentally flipped one of your forklifts over down the ramp. I don’t think it’s hurt, but there is no way I can get it back up on its wheels. What should I do?”

There was no laughter in his voice as he told me to, “Go home. Leave it where alone and we’ll fix it on Monday.”

I apologized for the problem that I created and left.

About a week later I came by his warehouse for a meeting. We sat in his office discussing a project we were working on. The forklift story came up briefly. He told me that his guys had to get a tow truck to pull it backup upright. I offered to pay for the tow truck. He told me he’d get the cost out of me somehow. He did ask me to promise that I would never get on any company forklifts. I promised.



Halloween Costume Story

Halloween Costume Story

I found this on a Facebook post from a friend.

Funny Halloween Costume Story

A couple was invited to a swanky costume party. The Mrs. got a terrible headache and told her husband to go to the party alone. He being a devoted husband protested, but she argued and said she was going to take some aspirin and go to bed and there was no need for his good time being spoiled by not going.

So he took his costume and away he went. The wife, after sleeping soundly for about an hour, awakened without pain and, as it was still early, decided to go to the party.

Since her husband did not know what her costume was, she thought she would have some fun by watching her husband and see how he acted when she was not with him. She joined the party and soon spotted her husband cavorting around on the dance floor, dancing with every nice woman he could, and copping a little feel here and a little kiss there.

His wife sidled up to him and being a rather seductive babe herself, he left his current partner high and dry and devoted his time to the new babe that had just arrived. She let him go as far as he wished, naturally, since he was her husband.

Finally, he whispered a little proposition in her ear and she agreed. So off they went to one of the cars and had a quickie.

Just before unmasking at midnight, she slipped away, went home, put the costume away and got into bed, wondering what kind of explanation he would make for his behavior.

She was sitting up reading when he came in, and she asked what kind of a time he had. He said: “Oh, the same old thing. You know I never have a good time when you’re not there.”

She asked him, “did you dance much?”
He replied, “I’ll tell you, I never even danced one dance. When I got there, I met Pete, Bill Brown and some other guys, so we went into the den and played poker all evening. But you’re not going to believe what happened to the guy I loaned my costume to….”

Halloween Costume Story – could this happen to you?

Author unknown

Do you have a Halloween Costume Story?

Public or Parochial School

In 1997 we moved from Maryland to North Carolina. It was a tumultuous time and very difficult on my wife and four daughters. I’ll write more about this later. Today I want to share the story of choosing a 9th grade school for our oldest daughter who was 14 at the time.

Jessie had been in a very good school in Maryland.  She’s a very smart girl and was taking classes a grade higher than most of her class.  When we moved to NC the public school system in Davie County was having a hard time figuring out where to put her. After many constructive and a few un-constructive conversations with the counselors at Davie High School we decided to try some other options.

We looked at a few of the private schools nearby, but being a single (low) income family, we decided that they were outside of our budget.

I got the bright idea that we should try Gospel Light Christian School in Walkertown NC. It was about 20 miles away, but the commute could be tolerated. My wife and daughter were not excited about the idea. They tried to convince me this was not an option because we were not Independent Southern Baptist and would never be Independent Southern Baptist. They were sure that this was a mistake, but agreed to go with me just the same.

I called the school and arranged for us to come by bright and early on a Monday morning. We arrived at about the same time all of the students were arriving.  All of the boys had on khaki pants and long sleeve white shirts, many had ties on. All of the girls wore ankle length skirts and long sleeve high collared blouses. Very few had on bright clothes. This created angst with my wife and daughter, who was dressed in jeans and some type of designed t-shirt. My wife was wearing pants and a bright shirt. They immediately commented that we stood out like sore thumb.

We walked into the school and were greeted by a very nice lady, again in an ankle length skirt and totally covering blouse. Her hair was up in a bun, just like you would expect some older teachers to wear theirs.  She escorted us to a room where the “Head Master” waited for us.

He greeted us at the door with, “Hello Mr & Mrs. Burriss, welcome to our school. Come in.” He didn’t even acknowledge our daughter.

He walked around his big desk and sat down as we seated ourselves in three chairs in front of his desk. He was expecting us.

He immediately went into the history of the school and the beliefs of the church. He rambled on about the graduation rates and successes of some of their students. He spent an inordinate amount of time sharing with us the beliefs of the church.

Now, it’s important to know that my wife is the boss when it comes to our children’s education, what she says goes and she wants to make sure all of our children get the best education. Therefore, she had lots of questions for the headmaster.

Each time she asked a question the headmaster would look at me and answer to me as if I asked the question. Each interaction he had with us was directed towards me. I’m not the smartest tool in the shed, but I quickly noticed this and as quickly I noticed the unhappiness building up in my wife. Not only did I feel this was rude, but it was also very disrespectful to my wife.

At one point I asked Jessie if she had any questions for the headmaster. I can’t recall if she did, but it would not have made much difference. The headmaster had totally ignored her and likely would have treated her with the same disrespect as he gave my wife.

I would have thought that he would have wanted to engage her in some conversation, maybe ask her some questions about her previous school or tell her about some of the great things going on at Gospel Light Christian School. Maybe, just maybe, try to get her eager to want to go to their school. But no, he totally ignored her and focused all of his conversation directly at me.

Now, I don’t recall what the big tipping point was, but between my wife and I we figured out in short order that, yeah, my wife was right. This was not going to work.

The headmaster did not want to communicate with my wife or daughter at all. It was obvious to me that he, and likely the religious beliefs of this school/church, were that men were in charge and women held no authority at all. Yep, this was not going to work for our family.

In some ways I felt that the headmaster had judged us as Yankees and really did not want our daughter in his school.

I do recall that once this clicked for me, I told the headmaster that we decided that this school would not work for us.

Here was the final confirmation for us, he said, “Yes, I can see that this will not be a fit for any of us.”

Wow – If I were not a Christian I would likely have responded in an ugly way.  I decided to just leave with a polite good bye, turned my back to his extended hand shake request and walked out of the room with my wife and daughter in front of me.

As we walked out to the car I got to hear what I hear over and over again, “I told you so,” as my wife sneered at me with that look of unhappiness. I apologized with, “I know, that was a big mistake.”

I agreed and never brought up the idea of a church school again.

To this day I try not to bring this story up with my wife and daughters. They just shake their heads and look at me with that sneer.


Million $$ Ticket

In the early 1980’s the State Lottery program started up in Maryland.

I worked at a chemical plant in Dickerson Maryland back then.  I’m not sure how it happened, but a group of about 20 people got together and decided each week to buy 2 tickets per person in the group.

Some how or another because I was the token “computer guy”, I was responsible for collecting the money, buying the tickets, printing a list of ticket numbers and holding onto the tickets.

If we hit any winning numbers I was also responsible for cashing in the tickets and distributing the money.

It all went well for many months until the Big Money week.

The pot was up to $20 millions, big money for back then. We had 20+ people in the pool. Everyone was excited about the possibility of hitting it big. During the week everyone pondered and played around with the numbers. 20 people in the pool, $1 Million each. Taxes back then were about 28% which meant we could take home about $720,000 each. Again, this was real big money for all of us.

I had collected all of the money, purchased the tickets, typed up the list of numbers and pinned the list up on the break room bulletin board. Some of the guys took copies of the list home with them.

I remember the drawings back then were done on Wednesdays. I always had a copy of the list of numbers with me so that when I heard the numbers I could write the winning numbers down on the list.

I turned the TV on just in time to hear the numbers – “2,7,12,23,34,65”

I wrote the numbers down on the paper and then started scanning the 40 sets of numbers for a match.

Halfway down the list – MATCH – Exact Match!! This was unbelievable. The pot had actually grown to $21.5 Million which meant each of us would likely take home about $774,000 each after taxes. Of course this would be spread out over 20 years, but most of us didn’t make that much per year working at Neutron. This was great money for all of us.

Before calling anyone I had to confirm the tickets, just in case I made a typo.

I got my wife to help me read off each ticket.  Each week we read thru each ticket, just in case we had another typo that could turn a losing ticket into a winning ticket.

We got halfway thru the list when we found what we thought was the winning ticket. My wife read the numbers out loud, “2,7,12,23,34,56”

“Wait, don’t you mean 65,” I asked.

“No, it’s 56,” she said again.

“NO!!” I transposed the numbers.

Besides not winning the Big Money, this was not a big deal except for one thing. I had published a list that had the wrong number on it and 19 of my best friends thought we had hit it Big!

Just to set the stage a little more. This was back in the day before cell phones, text messaging, email or Social Media.

It did not take long for the phone to ring. Billy Owens, one of my best friends had a copy of the list of numbers and saw that we “WON” big, at least according to the transposed number.

My wife answered the phone and immediately told Billy that the list was wrong.

Here is when my best friend turned into someone different.

He hung the phone up and drove 15 miles to my house. He wanted to see the tickets and he wanted to see them NOW!

I handed him all of the tickets with the good ticket on top. I pointed at the typo and explained the mistake.

“Where is the winning ticket?” he yelled at me.

“This is it BIlly. But I typed the number wrong and we did not hit the Big Money”, I replied

I could not convince him I was telling the truth. It took lots of convincing from my wife for him to finally believe us.

The next day at work I had to do some more convincing, but eventually everyone believed me.

We cashed in the $1100 winning ticket and split it $55 to each player.

I started making photocopies of each ticket and posting the copy on the bulletin board. No more typos.

That was back in 1980’s.  I can’t imagine the threats and doubts that would have happened if the pot was $460 Million like the MegaBucks games of today (2012). I mean $640 Million – dang typos.


Here is your Son Sir

April3, 1988, just 23 years ago as I sit here recalling what happened that nigh, seems like so long ago. Yet what happened on that day is as clear to me today as it was back then.

The story actually started nearly 9 months prior to this date, otherwise we would not have been in a hospital as my wife was preparing to birth our youngest daughter. I could tell you all about that, but because my daughters hate hearing X-Rated stories of their parents, and because the activities of that day are not so germain to the story at hand, I’ll refrain from sharing that story (for now).

Back to the hospital the evening of April 3, 1988.

The staff at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital were all being very attentive to my wife as she entered the last phase of birthing (I love saying that).

The nurses were managing the broad spectrum of cables and hoses that connected her to the health monitoring and saline dispensing systems. They frequently squeezed her hand and asked with a soothing and caring voice, “Are you OK dear? Not much longer now. Hang in there. If you are in pain we can get you some drugs. Just let us know”

My wife was standing firm. No drugs. I always imagined my wife saying to herself, “I did not have any drugs when I conceived her, I’m not having drugs while birthing.” (Again, I love using that word.)

Yet, the anesthesiologist stood by waiting, surely hoping that she would scream out for “MORPHINE DRIP STAT!” But it never happened.

As the team prepared my wife for what became her quickest birthing, the Doctor was no where to be found. The nurses told us that he was running late because he had to attend a public function downtown. I heard one of the nurses assure my wife, “no worries dear, he’ll be here in time.” I thought I heard another nurse say something about wine, not sure though.

As if on clue, the Doctor walked into the room merely moments before our youngest daughter birthed. (he he he). Fully garbed and sterilized, beanie on his head, shatter proof safety glasses on his face and blue rubber gloves on his hands, he took his position directly in front of the birthing canal literally seconds before the birthing moment.

As the nurses joined me encouraging my wife to breath, push, don’t push, breath, relax, stop yelling at me, breath, don’t blame me, push, push, push harder, the doctor stood firmly with his hands and arms in perfect baby catching position.

Total birthing activity took less than it takes to heat up a grande burrito and Bing, Bam, Boom – Baby is Birthed!

As the Doctor grabbed the baby from the birthing canal he cheerfully announced to my wife and I, “Congratulations Mr & Mrs. Burriss, here’s your Son,,, I mean Daughter.”

I will never forget that 5 seconds in time. Of course, I did write another version of this story a few years ago – you may find that version interesting as well. Check out Happy Birthday Lauren.

After that experience, I have always thought to myself, wine. His vision was impaired by the wine. I’m sure that’s not the case. I’m sure the umbilical cord created an optical illusion for a few seconds. But, because we never asked him and he never offered an explanation, I’m going with, the wine.