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.

 

 

I hope you enjoyed your stay

In the late 1990’s I slept around a lot. Nearly 75% of my nights were spent in a bed other than my own.

My job had me traveling nearly every week to somewhere in the USA and I learned real quick how to navigate Airports, rental car pickup and drop off, restaurants and hotels.

There are lots of stories related to these travels. This story is about one night in Boston Massachusetts.

I was in Boston with a my boss. We were visiting one of our branch offices outside of town. We arrived in town early enough to get a late dinner at a little diner where we also planned our next day’s activities. My boss wanted to get an early start to the next day so we decided to go back to the hotel early.

We checked in at the front counter, picked up our individual room keys and said good night to each other.

It was nearly 9:30pm when I walked into my hotel room. Nothing fancy. A typical room.

Since it was getting late and I had gotten up early that day, I decided to forego any work or boob tube and just go to sleep.

I was in bed within 10 minutes and asleep fairly quickly.

Then it happens. At 11:00PM the Fire Alarm starts going off.  It was a loud and piercing sound. “Wha Wha Wha Wha Wha” Non-Stop.

I jumped out of bed and grabbed a pair of pants and shirt.

As I dressed someone beat on the door yelling, “Fire, Fire, Get out of the Hotel Now. Take the Stairs!”

I grabbed my wallet and hotel keys and ran out of my room with no shoes on. As I entered the hallway I saw what looked like 100’s of people in different state of dress also running barefoot towards the elevators and stairs.

In masse we all ran down the stairs and out the front door of the hotel.

That’s when I realized it was now raining.

The firetrucks showed up within minutes. I scanned the building and could not see any smoke, let alone flames.

Firemen in full uniform, helmet, facemask, gloves, boots, fire coat and pants, some with oxygen tanks on, all disappeared into the front door of the hotel.

We stood around for what seemed like hours waiting for a report from someone. Finally the firemen came out. As they walked past they informed us, “False Alarm, You can go back in now.”

Like a long line of little ants, in the front door, past the unattended front desk, up the stairs and elevators, down the respective halls and back to our individual rooms we all went.

Pulling my pants and shirt off, I fell back into my bed, thankful it was a false alarm and a little miffed at the interruption of my sleep.

I calmed down fairly quickly and fell back asleep.

Then, it happened again.  At 1am the sounds started up again – “Wha Wha Wha Wha Wha” “Bang Bang, Bang, Bang” on the room Door, “You have to leave the hotel NOW! Leave the Hotel Immediately!”

Maybe they missed the fire last time. I knew I did not want to challenge authority when it came to a possible fire, so I did as instructed.

I pulled on my pants and a shirt, this time I slipped on my untied shoes, grabbed my hotel hey and walked out of my room.

The people in the hall, again in various state of dress all seemed to be walking a little slower this time. Everyone went to the stairs except one guy who said he was too tired, so he took the elevator.

Again, down the stairs, past the unoccupied front desk, out the front door and onto the parking lot.

Fortunately the rain had slowed to an early morning mist.

Again the firetrucks showed up within moments. The firemen, this time with no oxygen tanks, strut into the hotel and within moments they emerged with the same alert, “”False Alarm, You can go back in now.”

Again the group streamed back into the hotel like good order followers and back to our rooms. I did hear another guest ask, “What is happening?” as we walked past the night security guard. “I’m not sure sir. They can’t find what is making the smoke.”

No assurance of safety there.

Back in my hotel room again, I stripped my shirt and pants and fell back in my bed yet again.

Now, I could drag this out with a long winded story, but let me squeeze it down for you.

The alarm went off again at 3AM and then 4AM. Each time the same actions occurred.

My boss and I saw each other at the 4AM false alarm exodus. We agreed to postpone our days activities by 1 hour and to check out at 6AM.

At 5:30AM I got up and took my shower. There was no doubt that I was tired as I struggled to get thru my morning preparations.

I dragged my butt and suitcase out of the hotel room, down the elevator and towards the front desk, this time occupied and busy with people checking out.

My boss showed up behind me in the check out line just as it started up again.

“Wha Wha Wha Wha Wha” It was even louder in the lobby.

The hotel guests formed two different streams. One stream of people out the front door towards the parking lot. The other stream formed behind us to check out of hotel Hell.

The lady working to check us out did not miss a beat. She continued to check guests out despite the loud piercing alarm going off. I heard her tell one guest that construction dust in another part of the hotel was the reason for the false fire alarms.

Fortunately for me, none of the guests checking out in front of me wanted to make a big deal of the chaos. They just wanted to get out of there.

Before our turn, my boss and I decided for the sake of time, I would pay for both of our rooms. As the guest before me walked away, I stepped up to the front desk, handed the hotel clerk both room receipts and my credit card. She had her actions down to an art.

As she swiped my credit card with one hand and typed on the keyboard with the other, the firemen strutted into the hotel lobby and down the hall.

With a smooth flow of motions she handed me the credit card receipt to sign with one hand and held out my credit card with the other.

She looked up at me and with the kindest face and loudest voice she could must up she yelled, “I hope you enjoyed your stay.”

I can still feel the death grip on my shoulder as my boss grabbed me. He knew that I was going to open up on her and he did not want me this to happen. He had had enough of hotel hell and the “Wha Wha Wha Wha Wha” sound effects.

I love the security systems we have in life. I get frustrated and really tired when they create false alarms.