The Truck Stops Here
Great moments in building history: A cement-filled truck is a dangerous thing.
As a concrete contractor, I had been hired to remove and replace a concrete wall and driveway for a home on a steep street. I was a little nervous when I parked my dump truck on the street. I had heard horror stories about runaway vehicles on job sites, and I shuddered to think of my truck rolling driverless down the hill. I quickly dismissed my worries, though: The transmission was in gear, the parking brake was set, and the wheel chocks were firmly in place.
Because the job was big, I’d hired an extra worker to help me and my crew. Jim showed up on time in his brand new truck. He had the necessary tools, the experience and a friendly personality. I liked him on the spot. After a brief discussion of the job, we started to work, jackhammering the wall and driveway. The dump truck was soon laden with chunks of broken concrete. As I was getting ready to haul away the first load of debris, Jim called back to me to go over a few things before I left. Then it happened.
One of the crew members yelled, “Steve, your dump truck!” I spun around to see the truck, fully loaded with concrete, rolling over the wheel chocks and down the hill. I was powerless to stop it. Would it crash through someone’s house? Run into an oncoming vehicle? Mow down an innocent kid playing in the yard? I knew there was tragedy in the making, and I turned my head because I couldn’t bear to watch.
A moment or two later, when I heard the crash, I wasn’t surprised. Glass shattered, tires squealed, a deep “thud” sounded. Then it was eerily quiet. When I looked, I couldn’t believe what had happened.
My dump truck had somehow turned into Jim’s new pickup truck and pushed it downhill and sideways into a large, firmly rooted oak tree. Jim’s truck looked like a bright red bow tie on the tree. Miraculously, no one had been hurt, but the pickup was badly damaged. The dump truck suffered only minor damage. The fiberglass hood had been ripped open, the front grille was damaged, and the bumper was bent. But everything else was unharmed by the crash. I couldn’t believe it.
I was so overcome that I couldn’t stand. As I sat in the street, my mind raced with the possibilities of what could have—but didn’t—happen. How lucky I was. How lucky we all were—except Jim, of course. Poor Jim and his brand new truck—on his first day on the job. (The truck’s condition wasn’t as bad as we thought, and soon the dealership had it back together like new. Jim even continued to work with me and my crew for a while.)
After I bent its bumper back, I could drive the dump truck, even though it had a big hole in the front grille. As I headed home, other drivers and pedestrians stared at the gaping hole in the truck’s grille. I felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator as he walked around with pieces of flesh missing from his metal android face.
When I finally pulled into the driveway, I was relieved to be safely home. My two kids and their friends were mesmerized by the hole in the grille. I was amazed that the exposed front radiator had escaped damage. I entered the house still shaken up but grateful that the eventful day was finally behind me.
What I hadn’t counted on, though, was the big-heartedness of my son Jeff, who at age 4 needed to help Dad feel good again. While I was in the house narrating the day’s happenings to my wife, Jeff and a friend dug up some screwdrivers from my toolbox and proceeded to fix the broken dump truck. They did the repair by poking several holes in the now-vulnerable radiator, which spewed out its iridescent-green contents. After Jeff was done, he ran in and proudly announced that he and his buddy had helped to repair the truck. As I followed Jeff outside, I was worried, then astonished as I watched antifreeze flow out of the radiator. I wanted to cry as I realized that a 4-year-old boy was able to do what the crash had not: destroy the truck’s radiator.
Instead of crying, though, I started laughing: I realized things had hit bottom. When I finally calmed down, I explained to Jeff that by “fixing” the truck, he had just done more damage to it than the accident had. I assured Jeff that I wasn’t mad at him, although I’m not sure he actually believed me. When Jeff is a little older, maybe I can put him to work using his natural talents: doing demolition.
— Steve Kendall, Pinole, California