Today Mark Bialczak and Ruth both mentioned Paul Curran one of our dear departed and truly missed bloggers in the sky. Strangely I have been thinking of him on and off this week. He died in October 2016. Here is the obituary I wrote for him, followed by on of his if we were having coffee posts.
GONE TO LEAD THAT CONVOY IN THE SKY
Paul first appeared in my comments several years back. He was always full of wisdom and kindness. I was amazed at how interesting and honest his comments were.
It was after one such wordy diatribe that I asked him why he did not have his own blog. He waffled on about lack of internet and a decent computer. After some discussion we decided he would contribute to, If We Were Having Coffee, every Sunday Morning on my blog.
Blow me down if he was not soon getting more traffic than my own version of If We Were Having Coffee!!!
There was no way I could be really jealous though because whether it was a story from his trucking days or the people in and around his apartment block, or even the people he met and helpped at the hospital he attended for dialysis it was a beautiful epistle or modern day fable. He was an angel, a knight in shining armour he helped so many. Paul helped me and gave me courage and so much strength.
Once Paul disappeared from our pages completely, I got in touch with Mark at markbialczak and then we put out an SOS then Linda G Hill who lives in Canada went round to his appointment and made sure he was okay… That is how much he meant / means to us!
I’m Paul your Barista
Welcome to Willow’s weekly coffee and tea garden. 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?
I have spent some extra time in the hospital this week. I have an infection that is related to my dialysis and it is proving difficult to address. We’re currently using intravenous antibiotics and have just added a round of oral antibiotics. The infection is under control but is not disappearing as quickly as the doctors would like. The initial visit entailed spending the night waiting in emergency – which then stretched well into the following day – actually about 3 pm before I got home – that’s a story. The antibiotics cause diarrhoea and so on the way home, I had to get off my handicap bus when he stopped to pick up another passenger. The bus would not wait, of course, so I called for another pickup and explained what had happened. They have a policy that they do not pick up after 2 pm for same day calls as it is their busy period – which left me stranded at a mall many miles from home. @#$%^&*! I ended up taking a taxi home. Oh well – insult to injury.
So, I’m limping around feeling bad for myself when my friend John (name changed) drops by to visit. He has picked up some TP and bread for me as I can’t get out – he is a kind soul and always asks if I need anything when he is out. He sits down with a serious face and tells me that he has just come from a meeting with his employer and they are putting him on medical leave. He has been diagnosed with testicular cancer. It is early days yet as the diagnosis just came Friday so much testing has yet to be done. He has honoured me by explaining that he hasn’t told family yet. I have had and beaten colon cancer and we talked about the emotions involved and options available.
I explained to him that I have been told that cancer treatment is very personal – everyone reacts differently. For me, the treatment was completely pain free. It was the side effects that really knocked me for a loop. There are days when I would not go through it again, and days when I would. Each time I consider it I come up with a different answer. My best advice to him was to take it one day at a time by asking himself:”Do I have what I need to get through today?” When the answer is yes, then proceed. In the end it is actually amazing how little we really need.
Suitcases and food
Would you like another cuppa? Perhaps a sweet? Anyway, we spent some time discussing this and John went to leave. He went out my back door which leads to a small private deck and a set of stairs down to the parking lot. Sitting on the deck were a suitcase, boxes and plastic bags. John asked if they were mine. I told him they were not, that I was surprised, and asked if they were there when he came in. He said they were. We checked out the suitcases and boxes and they were all canned food and pasta and pots and pans and cleaning supplies – almost all new. Even the suitcase looked new.
We carted the boxes, bags and suitcase inside. There were no personal clothes or goods with the shipment. Mysteriously, there was one small transparent clamshell fresh food container that had been scrubbed so clean as to appear brand new. Written on the tag was “”Deluxe Fruit Salad – Large” We checked through everything and found canned goods, cereal, some towels, pasts and the like. It’s all piled neatly on my floor now except for a big can of Puritan Beans and Wieners, a package of spaghetti and the mysterious clam shell – which are sitting here on my desk as I write.
After some discussion, John and I have come to the conclusion that one of our mutual friends – Frank – must have left the goods there. Frank is as mysterious as the clam shell. He has a room here in our complex but says he spends time at a rehab centre sometimes in Kingston – about a 2 ½ hour drive from here. One day he showed up at my door with the most delicious homemade soup that I have ever tasted – soup he made himself. Another day he dropped off two seemingly random used books – no explanation other than he thought I might like them. He asked me to help him one day with his computer – a used computer he had gotten as a gift. It worked fine but wouldn’t hook to the internet – we have cable here. I was able to determine that the problem was in the wiring in the wall, not the computer and he had the manager get it fixed. It was about that time that he started dropping off things.
Anyway, John went and peeked into Frank’s window and although the bed and dresser were there, all personal goods appeared gone. I’m not exactly sure what to do with all of Frank’s stuff. There are a few items, like partial boxes of cereal that I will have to eat. I suppose I’ll wait for a few weeks to see if Frank comes back.
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 honoured 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.
I really miss Paul .
Pay It Forward
Coffee Break at Highway Service Plaza
Paul Your Barista
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.
14 lanes of traffic on highway 401 in Toronto Ontario Canada
– Image ID: AN9YY3
Contributor: Bill Brooks / Alamy Stock Photo
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.