Saturday, January 15, 2011

Last Night's Conversation

When I go to work it’s usually just me and another guy in the cab of a locomotive for 8 to 12 hrs.  Usually someone different each trip.  I get along with just about everybody, but I like working with some better than others, either for personality reasons or safety reasons.  When the phone rang at 12:30 last night and I heard who I was working with I let out a groan.  Double whammy with this guy.  I knew it was going to be a long trip.  No, it wasn’t the guy I wrote about before.Click here to read that story  A different kind of different.  Personality and safety concerns with this one.  He has been pulled from service three times in the last couple of years for signal violations that I know of, and is not someone that I feel especially safe riding the rails with.

The word that comes to mind with this guy is weirdo. (Mom and Sister, think Mr. Jerry Johnson of Lake View science fame.)  
He’s getting close to retirement now.  Legend has it that Rocky (yes, that is his real name) started out his railroad career 30 years ago on a maintenance work gang, but was struck in the head by some heavy equipment.  After having steel plates installed to repair his skull, the railroad offered him a job in train service since he could no longer perform the labor required on the work gang.  If they had just fired him outright he would have had a lawsuit against them.

I’ve only worked with him a couple of times before last night.  One time he didn’t say a word.  The other time he broke out in song every thirty minutes or so, singing 70’s rock anthems and Wierd Al’s greatest hits.  
I remembered that the last time I worked with him he had been going through some health problems so as an attempt at conversation last night I asked him how all of that had worked out.  Here’s the transcript of the conversation that transpired over the next couple of hours..........

“Well, I had some heart surgery, and the dye they used to track my blood flow destroyed my kidneys.  When I got out they said I was down to 24% and was gonna die, but now they’re functioning at 42%, so I guess I’m getting better.”
I just nodded.
“They don’t really know anything though.  One time a doctor told me that I had sorosis of the liver from my ten years of chemo and that I probably had liver cancer and was going to die.  He said that in front of my wife and she went crazy.  He was a sorry SOB.”
I couldn’t believe it (still don’t really), so I asked, “What did you have that required ten years of chemo?”
“Oh, they were trying to kill that virus.”
“What virus?”
“Hepatitis C.  But, they checked me out before my heart surgery and said that my liver was fine and couldn’t find a trace of hepatitis in me.”  
I didn’t know how to respond so I didn’t.
“Yep, I keep trying to kill me, but I keep survivin’.” He paused long enough to light another cigarette. “I got a bunch of scars though.  My heart scar looks pretty cool now.”  
I think he really wanted me to ask if I could see it, but I didn’t.  I didn’t say anything.
After twenty minutes of silence he said,“I wish I could still drink.”
I didn’t reply.
“I like drinkin’.” he stated matter of factly, then continued,  “but I drank four beers last August and thought I was gonna die.”  
Again, I said nothing.
(two minute pause)
“So, I know I can’t drink Wild Turkey or mess with Jose.”
Then he took another long draught from his second 1 liter Dr. Pepper bottle of the night and I had to ask, “Rocky, isn’t all that Dr. Pepper tough on your kidneys?”
“Nah,” he replied, “I don’t drink half as much of it as I used to.”
An hour later he opened the refrigerator and yelled, “Shit!”
“What’s wrong, Rocky?”, I couldn't help but ask.
“I thought I had another Dr Pepper in here.”, he said with a look of defeat on his face.  
A little while later he opened a bottle of water, took a swig, and went into convulsive choking fits.  When he recovered he said simply, “Drinking water makes me choke.  I ain’t used to it.”  

3 comments:

Dave and Lisa said...

Well, at least your co-workers aren't boring or anything... ;-)

Anonymous said...

Justin, this story was so random and hilarious. I'm so glad you blog this stuff!

jmyshybrn said...

Reading this, I kept thinking to myself, "Reacher said nothing."

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