If We Were Having Coffee – October 18/2015 Guest Post

Pay It Forward

Paul Your Barista

Welcome to Willow’s weekly coffee and tea garden. First of all I would like to offer my condolences and prayers to Willow and her family at the passing of her sister this week.My name is Paul; I’ll be your barista today. I’m happy to see you have come for a cuppa and a chat. I am delighted to be back at Willow’s serving you, our treasured readers, a cuppa and sweets while we chat. Please come into the garden and make yourself comfortable. Willow fluffed the cushions on the chairs and set the tables in the garden so we can have a cuppa and chat as we soak up the sun and enjoy the beautiful plants. She has also brought out the heaters so we can stretch our outside tea time further into the fall. As usual, I’d be pleased to bring a pot of whatever beverage you prefer – we have a wide range of teas and coffees to satisfy our world-wide readership. Also available is a large selection of spirits for addition to your cuppa or in its place. We can relax amongst the flowers while we discuss the affairs of the week both personal and/or worldwide. How has your week been? My week was pretty rough but improving, thank you. Last week I told a story here of the last time I was in the terminal where I spent so many years coming and going. I found it to be a sort of fun piece, however from the readers’ reactions it came across as a rough story of screw or be screwed. To a certain extent that is true and it is one of the reasons why I eventually got out of long-haul trucking – I dislike myself when I am always anticipating the worst of people, even though that is what is takes to succeed. That said, there have been some times when I felt good about the role I played in helping people. I’d like to tell such a story here today, with your permission, of course. Perhaps it will help balance the negativity of last week’s story.

This happened many years later when I was driving regional for a gas tanker company, hauling Super-B’s as pictured above. It was a good job but because people drove most on holidays – we always had to work. The pay was excellent – double time and a half on holidays – and the heaviest thing we lifted was one end of a hose. Besides the Super B’s were fun to drive at 80 feet long, 30 wheels on the ground, two trailers, weighing 140,000 pounds when loaded- that’s about the weight of two small houses. We could legally haul about 58,000 liters of gas (a little over 15,000 US gallons – or if you used 10 gallons a week, enough for 28 years). It was a scorching hot 100 degrees F at 7 pm when I finished loading at Suncor’s distribution center in Toronto and pulled out of the loading racks. The sun was just starting to lower itself in the sky on this July 1 Canada Day weekend. Standing in the air conditioned driver’s room signing my bills of lading fresh off the printer, I contemplated my log hours. I could see the heat waves rolling off the tanker outside the window, and unseen, the 58,000 liters of gas inside. I had lots of fuel aboard so I didn’t have to stop for that on the way to Ottawa but I would need coffee and cigarettes and a sandwich about the half way mark – perhaps Kingston. The service plaza off the 401 just before Kingston had all that and was easy to access with the truck.

I swung up into the cab and noticed the A/C was starting to cool the air after being parked for an hour loading. Updating my log book, filling out paperwork and filing load sheets, I then pulled to the exit gate and waited for it to open, spitting my truck and me out onto the mean city streets. Winding the truck through the street lights and intersections, I eventually turned onto the Eastbound 401 highway entrance ramp. Accelerating up to the speed limit, I engaged the cruise control and relaxed in the air ride captain’s chair. The next time I slowed would be to stop for a break and a coffee at the Kingston service plaza three hours from now. The huge Super B was at its best in this world – moving 100,000pounds of gas along at 60 mph smoothly and steadily. Inertia was its best friend. I was along for the ride, just making sure nothing got in the truck’s way. The Jake Brake- an engine brake on large diesels- was even keyed into the cruise, making sure that the weight didn’t push the speed too high running off the hills.

Would you like another cuppa? Perhaps a sweet or two? So, three hours later the service plaza exit signs came into sight in the dark. 10:15 pm now and traffic was horrendous. Even out here on the big road (trucker slang for multi-lane divided highways) all three eastbound lanes were solid with traffic –although it was still moving at speed. The service plaza had a separate area for tractor-trailers in the rear and I took the ramp leading me down. There were only a handful of trucks parked in an area that could easily accommodate 100 tractor-trailers- it being a long holiday weekend. As I glanced over at the car fueling area, it looked unusual – taped off with barricades and lines of cars. Snapping on the parking brakes, I left the truck running for the A/C and stepped out, locking it up behind me. The air was still sizzling at over 90 F as I hurried to the convenience store in the center block of the fuel islands. Here there were sandwiches to go and cigarettes and drinks. A crowd surrounded the cashiers and I could hear loud and angry voices. Keeping one ear peeled, I poured myself a large coffee and picked up two wrapped chicken sandwiches to go and made my way to the cashier for smokes and to pay. One cash was open and running through non-gas purchases. I could hear the conversations at the other cashes: “I’m sorry but our computers are down and we can’t pump any gas.” Angrily: “What the hell am I supposed to do with no gas?!” “I’m sorry sir, we are having them fixed as fast as possible but it may be tomorrow before we can pump any gas.” “I don’t have enough to get into Kingston, what the hell do you expect me to do?!” Yikes, the busiest day of the year on Canada’s busiest highway on a holiday and their fuel pumps were down? Wow, sure was glad that I wasn’t that station manager. I glanced out the store windows and realized there were literally hundreds of cars outside waiting. Well, time for me to skedaddle.

As I started for the door, my attention was caught by a young woman who had pushed her way through to the front of the crowd. I paused for a minute to see what she was going to say and after she had been told there was no gas she asked if any Kingston stations could bring some out to her as she was almost out. The manager told her they had tried that earlier but because it was a holiday none of the in-town stations could spare anyone to come out. She looked crushed and tears welled in her eyes. She asked what she should do and the manager just shrugged – the crowd ignored her. She turned dejectedly with wet cheeks and walked slowly out the door. No one paid her any attention and my heart went out to her, so I followed at a discrete distance to see if she was with anyone. Had she been with a group or even another person, I would just go about my business. If she was alone, I didn’t know what I was going to do but I couldn’t leave her stranded here in this crowd all by herself. She opened the door on a compact older Toyota that was clean but had obviously seen some years of life. Once I saw she had no one to help her, I approached.

“Hi there. I’m Paul. I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation in the store. You’re short of gas?” Not sure what to make of this she replied simply: “Yes, I’m almost out and I don’t have enough to get into Kingston (about 20 miles) to get more.” As she spoke she was wringing her hands with nervousness. “I can give you enough gas so you can get into the city for more.” I had no idea I was going to say that until it came out of my mouth – apparently I had a plan but had not informed myself. Her eyes lit up and she said loudly with excitement: “You can?” “Shhh! It would not be good if anyone overhears us.” “Oh, sorry,” she whispered. Ha! I hadn’t really meant to come across as so conspiratorial, just for her to keep her voice down. “Look there is an emergency cross over into the truck parking right there,” as I pointed, “Take that and you’ll see a tanker truck parked halfway down. Pull up in front of the truck so the headlights are pointing at the side of your car with the fuel tank. I’ll meet you there.”

The truck area was not well lit and I found myself thinking how brave she was to park in the dark where there was little help. By the time I had walked over she had parked as requested and I unlocked the idling truck, turning on the headlights. There were a few other trucks between us and the car area, so we were not visible to anyone else in the service plaza – thank God. I unscrewed her gas cap and looked inside with my flashlight – sure enough there was a spring loaded safety flap inside the neck of the fill pipe. I told her to stay beside her car while I opened the truck valve compartment and the storage compartment. I pulled out a new large red safety cone that had a hole in the small end – it would do for a funnel.. Putting on gloves I grabbed one of the 5 gallon steel drip pails we used under the valves when delivering, and filled it ¾ with high test gas – if I was going to give away gas, it might as well be the best. That would give her about 4 gallons of gas, plenty to get to town. Bringing the pail, a ground strap, a drip cloth, a new pair of gloves and the safety cone, I walked over to her car. I had also grabbed a big wire tie we used to secure connections when pumping. I stuck the wire tie in the tank neck to hold the safety open, placed the drip cloth on the ground and set the pail down while I clipped the ground strap (to stop any static sparks from igniting the gas when pouring it) to her car and the pail. Getting her to put on the gloves, I instructed her to hold the safety cone like a funnel, and I slowly poured the gas into her car. When we were done, we checked her gas gauge, which now showed ¼ full, removed the wire tie, replaced her gas cap, wiped the few drops from her car with the drip cloth and threw the equipment back into my storage compartment. She was quite amazed and asked how much she owed me. I told her it was free – I just asked that in the future if she found someone who could use help and she felt safe helping them that I would ask her to pay it forward. She commented that I could make a fortune here at this service plaza tonight – I told her to keep quiet, I could just envision a mob. And so we parted ways and I continued on to Ottawa not ever even having known her name or where she was going. As I drove I worried. Basically, I had stolen product from our customer – the gas was not mine to give away. Regardless of the reason or use, it was still stealing and I do not like that. Pondering this for the remaining three hour drive to Ottawa, I came up with a solution. When I pulled into the station to which I was delivering, it was 1:30 am and the site was open but with no customers. I grabbed the drip pail and ground strap and went over to the high test pump. I put the same amount of fuel into the pail from a pump and then went inside the station. I explained to the manager what I had done and told him I wanted to pay for the gas with my debit card, which I did, keeping the receipt. Then I took the pail of gas back over to the station’s fill pipes where I was delivering their gas, and again using the safety cone as a funnel, poured the gas I had paid for back into their storage tank. This effectively paid for the gas I had given the young woman in Kingston. I felt much better.

Finishing up the delivery I returned to the terminal and closed off my shift. After the holiday I was off for three days and I dropped by the office to see terminal manager. I explained what had happened and that I couldn’t leave the young woman stranded and how I had paid for the gas I had given her in the parking lot. I showed him the receipt. My biggest concern was that someone may have seen us and thought I was stealing gas and giving it to friends. I assured my boss that was not the case. It was the only time I had ever done this. He just nodded – I could tell he was split in that it was dangerous to take a few gallons from a tanker (it is called splash loading and is illegal here – because the gas coming from the valve splashes into the gas already in the pail and creates static and potentially an explosion). On the other hand he had a young wife and sisters who were often getting into problems like running out of gas and he appreciated the fact that I helped such a person. He just thanked me for telling him and left it at that –no official positive reinforcement for stealing and breaking the rules but no remonstration for stealing and breaking the rules either. It was as I expected, which was fine.

Epilogue: Two months later I received a letter in my company mail – it congratulated me on being chosen the Sunoco driver of the month and said I could pickup my leather jacket and gift certificates from the manager. No reason was ever given for my selection. On that note, that’s about all we have room for this week, so it’s time to settle in with another cuppa and enjoy the garden. Sweets anyone? I hope you didn’t mind the story today, and that you found it a bit more positive than last week’s story. Please join me in thanking Willow for her invitation to tea. We are all happy that Willow is back and honored that you all dropped by today to visit. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself and the conversation and please look around at Willow’s other posts while you’re here. Willow is over there serving her guests and chatting it up. Let’s go see how she is today. Have a great week. We look forward to seeing you back here for sweets and beverages of your choice again next week.

And of course  the


over at Part Time  Monster  and Gene’O’s

38 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. willowdot21
    Oct 18, 2015 @ 14:46:45

    Great post Paul sorry it is late I am still not myself. I love this story you are such a great person!! xxxx


  2. Victo Dolore
    Oct 18, 2015 @ 15:16:25

    Condolences to Willow. Great story!


  3. cordeliasmom2012
    Oct 18, 2015 @ 15:48:12

    On the one hand, I’d like to slap that young woman for agreeing to meet a strange man in an unlit parking lot, even if he did make promises (or maybe especially because he made promises).

    On the other hand, I am very happy that you helped her out. I can only think of my own daughters in that situation. Assuming she couldn’t simply have stayed overnight at that rest stop (or a nearby hotel) until the gas supply came in, having you step in and help her was a blessing. Since you apparently never found out why she had to get to where she was going, I can only assume it was something urgent. Hence the tears.

    Did you keep a shining armor suit on that truck? You certainly could have worn it that day.


    • Paul
      Oct 18, 2015 @ 20:56:13

      Hi CM! Thanks so much for dropping by. Yeah, it wasn’t too smart of her or too smart of me for that matter. It just seemed to be one of things that was going to happen without overthinking it. I could have been accused of stealing – as we were not permitted to take anything from a load. We were legally only supposed to unload with a grounded hose and an approved container and site. A pail was a no-no, although I did take precautions by grounding it. I saw it as risk taking, not shining armor. There were only restaurants and the fuel islands – no other services, so she couldn’t have stayed over night. And the next exit was Kingston – too far for the gas she had. I certainly wasn’t looking to help and likely would not again – it was just one of those things. I’m afraid I’m not a knight in shining armor. Thanks again for the visit CM


  4. ksbeth
    Oct 18, 2015 @ 17:56:48

    i’m sorry for your loss, willow. and loved your tale of kindness, paul.


  5. Tricia
    Oct 19, 2015 @ 03:55:11

    Such a nice post Paul and I really enjoyed the ending where you won the driver of the month award. Me thinks your manager did indeed appreciate what you did. 😉 Big condolences to you again Willow.


    • willowdot21
      Oct 19, 2015 @ 08:50:00

      So do I 🙂


    • Paul
      Oct 19, 2015 @ 09:13:49

      Thanks so much Tricia. I’m glad you enjoyed the story. I had the same take on it as you did – the driver of the month was a reward but the lack of reason was a warning. You know every now and then in life you just do something knowing there is no other option. There isn’t a right or wrong- it just is. Those tankers were built to maximize delivery of large quantities and delivered at 15 gallons per second from each 4 inch valve (a car fill pipe is about 1 inch) – that was almost 4 times what I wanted in the pail in a second. I had to do some fancy manipulating of a combination of the safety and delivery valves just to get the small amount I wanted without spilling. I also had to carefully ground the components to stop static formed from splashing gas into a pail.Plus gas is mutanegenic and carcinogenic and an environmental hazard, so spilling it or getting it on your skin is not advised.

      All in all, doing what I did was actually illegal and broke a dozen company regulations. I wouldn’t ever plan to do it and had laughed at people who had suggested it before. This time around, for some reason, I knew I was going to do it and didn’t question why – it just was. Every now and then in life things like that happen and I have learned to just go with the flow – provided I think I can do it safely as a one time event.

      Thanks so much for the read and comment Tricia. Please drop by again.


      • Tricia
        Oct 19, 2015 @ 13:15:51

        Wow, I had no idea all the intricate details involved in something like that, quite. Interesting. And yes, sometimes you just gotta do what ya gotta do….;)

  6. TanGental
    Oct 19, 2015 @ 08:59:29

    First up, so sorry to hear about your sister, Willow. I hope it’s not all too grim just now. Second what a cracking story Paul. Those dilemmas can tie you in knots and also if everyone assumes a man offering help is a creep then there the only people who’ll offer help will be creeps because good men won’t want to risk the approbation. You did a fine thing.


    • willowdot21
      Oct 19, 2015 @ 12:46:36

      Thank you Geoff things have been better, we are all shocked. But life goes on. As for Paul’s story it a good one isn’t it we need more chaps like him!


    • Paul
      Oct 19, 2015 @ 14:22:03

      Hi Geoff! Thanks so much for dropping by. And thank you for the compliment – I’m blushing. It’s true you know, the rules prohibit helping others more and more often now. The world is a little colder place every day. Thanks so much for the visit and please drop by again.


  7. 1EarthUnited
    Oct 19, 2015 @ 17:03:25

    A lovely post, expertly told Paul, i thoroughly enjoyed your day-a-in-the life-of long haul trucker. Take care Paul!


  8. Paul
    Oct 19, 2015 @ 21:13:07

    Thank you very much 1EU. I am honored that you read and enjoyed the post. Please drop by again.


  9. socialbridge
    Oct 20, 2015 @ 07:57:31

    Paul, thanks for sharing this great story. I guess the woman has never forgotten either.
    Willow, I hope you are coping somehow. Hugs, jxx


  10. markbialczak
    Oct 20, 2015 @ 23:36:49

    Good man, Paul Curran. Your compass always points to true north in my book. I’m glad the manager agreed, and nominated you to receive that leather Sunoco jacket.


  11. ~ Sadie ~
    Oct 21, 2015 @ 05:41:19

    Paul, you are such a nice guy, helping that lady! I am sure that’s why you were named “Driver of the Month,” your boss approved. And I personally didn’t find last week’s story negative – that boss was a jerk! Great post!!


  12. philosophermouseofthehedge
    Oct 22, 2015 @ 20:38:15

    I didn’t know it got that hot there. Waves of heat are so odd no matter where.
    Loved the story, Paul. Such a wonderful overstuffed armchair comfy style – I felt like I was right there watching it all happen.
    Hope everyone has a peaceful weekend


    • Paul
      Oct 23, 2015 @ 14:25:07

      Phil! Wonderful to have you drop by – I am honored. Thank you so much for the compliment – I am pleased that you enjoyed the story. It does occasionally get that hot here but it is rare. In fact I don’t think it did at all last year. The year before, if memory serves, we had about a week of those temperatures. This story happened about 6 years ago. Thanks so much for the visit – please drop by again.


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