Friday, June 10, 2011
I was working in the back room of ShopKo stocking shelves and doing whatever it is I normally did in the course of my shift when I received a page for a delivery (yes we carried pagers… needless to say this was the 90s). I called up to the register and was told a gentleman had just purchased a swing set and needed it carried out.
Now normally we would have the person drive around back and we would load the swing set there, but that required a manager to unlock the rear door and at the time none of them were in the immediate area. Rather than chase one of them down and waste the customer’s time, I decided to just grab another fellow employee and have him help me get it loaded onto two carts.
Keep in mind the largest swing sets came in boxes that were about 10 feet long, two feet wide, and 12-18 inches tall or so. I don’t remember the weight, but we generally would not even try to handle them alone. So in this case we placed a rolling flatbed under each end and proceeded to drive it to the front of the store as if it was one of those hook and ladder (fire) trucks you see with a guy on the front and the back both steering.
When we met the customer the first question out of my mouth even before bothering to haul this thing any further was to ask him what type of vehicle he drove. He immediately understood what I was getting at once he saw the size of the box, and he told me he drove a full size van, so it would not be a problem fitting it inside. Admittedly I was very relieved to hear this, so we followed him out the door and to his van.
When I saw the van I was extremely happy. Not only was this a full size van, but it was one of those extended vans with two full doors on the back to make access extremely easy. However, as soon as he opened the doors I saw a problem. The van was full of bench seats because it wasn’t really a cargo van – it was a 14 passenger van… and the seats did not fold down nor were they removable (without tools at least). The swing set was too large to fit under the seats, so our options were somewhat limited.
No problem – the customer just told us to lay it across the top of the seats and he would haul it that way. I knew it would fit so that wasn’t the issue, but I wasn’t sure the seats would appreciate having a heavy swing set laid on top of them and even worse I knew if he had to stop suddenly this could be a huge safety issue.
Long story short the guy just didn’t care. He was willing to take the risk and I knew I wasn’t liable if anything happened, so we proceeded to lift the swing set onto the seats, slide it forward and shut the rear doors. The front of the box was right between the two head rests of the front seat so at least if he had to slam on his brakes it would crush the dash and/or windshield rather than his skull, but I still thought it was a pretty stupid idea.
However, it was about that time that I turned around and noticed a woman with what appeared to be at least seven or eight kids standing there staring at us. Apparently this woman was his wife, and these were his kids. They were shopping alone which is why they weren’t around while we were loading this whole thing.
Now keep in mind this swing set rested on top of the seats so although a kid could lay on the seat or hunch over, there was no way possible to actually sit up straight in the middle of each row, and those who did sit up straight on the sides were risking head injury each time the van would turn a corner and the swing set would inevitably slide along the top of the seats (because it goes without saying the guy wasn’t interested in fastening this thing down).
As the woman opened the side doors, these kids proceeded to pile in the van one by one… each of them bending their heads in what would appear to be a very uncomfortable position in order to fit around and under the swing set.
Now if this guy was merely driving across town this might not be such an interesting story, but after seeing his contorted kids wedge themselves around the swing set I just had to ask where they were headed. The guy told me where he lived but I wasn’t aware of the town (and have long since forgot what it was called), but I do remember him saying it was about a two hour drive.
Not only was this guy going to be driving at highway speeds with a huge cardboard encased steel projectile capable of decapitation, but he was going to do so with his tribe of children wedged and squeezed around it just for good measure… for two hours.
Without so much as a shred of concern for the comfort or safety of his family, he pulled away as I stood there with mental images of a horrific traffic accident with random children impaled upon swing set parts and a rescue worker wondering who would ever be stupid enough to load a swing set on to the tops of the seats of a fully loaded passenger van.
Once again – people are stupid, and in this case I was probably an accessory to the stupidity.