Den of the Beastly Bear
Ya know how when you start a new job, you spend the first couple of weeks getting the "lay of the land"?
We got a "new" guy in our group this week, and as he struggles to find his place within the group I hope it goes better for him, than one of my new jobs did.
It made me think back to my first big time "real" job, as a delivery driver for Perry Drug Stores.
You know when you join any group you quickly categorize people. There's the "comedian", the "prankster", the "know it all", the "story teller", the "old man", and the "kid"! And in any group of guys that work together there is also the "bad ass"!!!
When I hired into Perry's, I immediately fell into the roll as the "kid". At 20, I was 10-20 years younger than the other 16 drivers that worked there.
I was befriended by a couple guys early on, others were a little harder to win over. I was warned off one guy in particular, the "bad ass"!
"Stay away from Charlie," I was told "he's strong as a bull, and mean as a snake. He's a wanna be body builder, and we're pretty sure he's using the 'roids! Also, he's got a bad eye so he kinda looks at ya sideways...don't pay that no mind."
"Oooookay..." I said
The first few days I spent most of my time working with the yard driver, shuttling trailers before I went out on my first official run.
Most of our runs were local, around the Detroit area and those started at 7am. That's where they started me, as not yet being 21 I wasn't allowed to run interstate.
So I got to meet most of the drivers that first week, but not Charlie...
By the beginning of second week I was included in the morning ritual of the guys standing around the truck bay swapping stories before we headed out for the day.
On the second day we were standing together, about 6 of us, when another fella joined our group.
He was about 6'2", long and lean 200-210 lbs. by my guess with short blonde unruly hair, clean shaven.
If I hadn't been able to tell by the 45° offset of the way he carried his head, I'd have known this was Charlie by the way the group dynamic changed when he walked up.
I was introduced, and he attempted the "rock crusher" handshake...but I'd played this dominance game before and matched his pressure.
He seemed a bit put out that I didn't whither under his grip o'steel.
The group quickly broke up and we were off for the day to make our deliveries...
The next day was a near duplicate of the day before, with the exception that when Charlie joined the group he already had his "back up" as they say, and it seemed focused on me.
Joking around, I joined in and made a pithy comment about the topic at hand, to the laughter of all there (even Charlie). When Charlie gave me a one handed shove! Caught completely off guard I took a stumble step sideways, and the laughter stopped.
"Hey man...don't shove me like that, ok?" I said, trying to maintain a light tone.
"Why?" He said, and shoved me again. Ready this time I just rocked.
"Look...I know you didn't mean anything by it, but I don't like that shit." I told him in a more pointed tone. Figuring I needed to shut this crap down right now.
"What if I did? " he said squaring off on me.
The group was mostly silent with a couple "come on Charlie"s thrown in, and a "leave'm be".
This was a pivotal moment here, and I wasn't backing down.
"Well, I'd suggest you not do it again..." I said looking him right in the eye. To raised eyebrows all around.
Ok, I baited him a little bit and I figured I knew what he'd do...my time as a bouncer was not a complete waste.
True to form he went to shove me again, mistake!
I took a step back, causing him to overextend and shift his balance too far forward. I reached out, put my hand on the back of his neck and pulled forward and down. This caused his arms to flail as he came stumbling forward, I stepped in caught his arms up and just that quick I had him in a reverse full nelson.
Bent at the waist, his head shoved against his chest and held there by my stomach, arms twisted up and back there was nothing he could do.
"I think an apology is in order Charlie, I didn't do a thing to you to warrant you being a dick!"
"Fuck you!" He said
"Wrong answer..." I said pulling his arms higher and pushing down between his shoulders, if I did this hard enough I'd dislocate his shoulders.
"Oooow, god dammit! Alright, alright Jesus...I'm sorry ok? Ok?" He managed.
"I let you go...you walk away right? I don't wanna hurt you..." I asked.
"Right, right, just let me go god dammit."
As I turned him loose and he stood up, his face was beet red. As I suddenly remembered we had an audience and looked around me to silent wide eyed stares. I wondered if this went bad if I'd get any help.
He turned on his heel and left...and I could breathe again.
"I ain't never seen no shit like that..." said black Joe.
Just like that...I was no longer the "kid", and the nicknames started...
Over the next few months Charlie and I became friends, though there were a few bumps in the road...
Like a couple weeks later I was headed North, as was Charlie. Driving can be lonely so I asked a couple guys (the "Dave" brothers, Dave Gawry and Dave Roe) what Charlie's call sign was on the CB radio.
"Sidewinder," they replied "because of the way he looks at you sideways..."
"Oh, so he's got a little sense of humor. Thanks guys"
I should have know better, I'd just been had by the "pranksters"!
So for a half hour I'm trying to get him on the radio...
"How bout'ya Sidewinder? You got your ears on?"
"Sidewinder, Sidewinder bring'er back..."
"Lookin' for that Ole Perry Drug Sidewinder, ya out there good buddy?"
THAT got a response...
"WHO THE HELL TOLD YOU TO CALL ME THAT?!?!?"
I didn't want to give up the pranksters and sic Charlie on them...so I prevaricated a bit.
"Not sure there good buddy, still learning everybody's names, no offense meant...I truly am sorry, what is your call sign there chief?"
"I go by Road Dancer...and none taken...I got a good idea who put you up to that."
So it went...
Like I said, he really wasn't a bad guy...little hotheaded. When he was looking for a roommate he even asked me... I even took pictures at one of his weddings, strange how friendships can form.
One half of the "Dave" brothers, Dave Gawry actually went on to become one of my best friends...he is the "Dave" of my trip to Atlanta as well as many other assorted adventures!
Hopefully MY "new" guy finds his transition a little easier than that one was...