7 Mar 12

Now my losing 14 pounds in three hours has nothing to do with snow in Miami, except both happened on the same day. Also it was a fraction under 14 pounds but it sounded awkward and I rounded it off. I was in college, starting a part-time job unloading trucks for UPS in Orlando. It would take  just over four hours for the four of us to unload four trucks, the supervisor said. That included a tractor trailer with a false bottom. Click twice to enlarge newspapers.

I left at 2:am to start work at the UPS center as the weatherman gave me the temp at 24 degrees in O town with a low wind chill not too far from zero. Like the snow in Minneapolis on January 19, 1977. But this was Orlando. When I drove into the parking lot, I saw vehicles coming from the suburbs with 3 to 4 inches of snow on the tops and trunks of cars.

There was one report of a pilot on a plane arriving at Tampa who announced the news to a cabin filled with tourists wearing Bermuda shorts and long stockings:

“Welcome to Tampa, folks. We’ll be arriving at Tampa in about 30 minutes. Temperature on the ground is 24 with snow and a windchill of 15.” The passengers chuckled as the city closed the bridges over the bay to all travel.

Our supervisor briefed us, saying that you need to pick up and move on the rollers two packages every second and a half. You will get a water break if needed. Well. I needed a challenge. And I was in excellent shape.

All right everybody. Let’s go.

After about ten minutes I was warmed up and I was going like a robot. The sweat from my body and my breath formed little clouds and drifted out the door. Into my second  truck now and I noticed a porcine man, dressed in a three-piece suit and holding a stop watch. He was watching me throw packages onto the rack like a whirling dervish. The I got a ten-foot long piece of plastic  and had to replace it three times before it stayed on the rollers. Then I picked up an envelope weighing about 6 ounces. Next a 50 pound box.

The man in the suit yelled, Pick it up. You’re losing time.’

I said something to him that was inaudible as I bent down and pulled up the false bottom and reached back down there where the heavy stuff was. I think this was from Dante’s Inferno. I charged on.

Meanwhile, the radio was announcing that it was snowing on Miami Beach and sticking to the beach chairs. How will they make it through the day, I wondered.

“Ferris Thompson, of South Miami, a district inspector for the Florida Department of Transportation, was driving to Fort Pierce on Interstate 95 that morning.

“I remember the snow flurries hitting my windshield; the further north I got, the more snow I saw snow settling on the side of the road…”

“Back home the next day, Thompson and his wife, Joan, hoped for a repeat. They got up before dawn and went in their heavy coats, waiting for snow. Jan. 20 proved to be an even colder day as temperatures dipped into the 20s, but no snow. The couple snapped a photograph that shows Joan sitting in the family car, the windshield half covered with snow. On the dashboard is that day’s newspaper.” The Miami Herald.

Meanwhile I had finished the second truck with another worker. One quit after an hour and the other one was too slow, too weak and had no stamina, so he was advised to leave and find something else to do. Then I and the other guy finished up the unloading. I was the only one asked to return and I smiled weakly as I tried to walk a straight line. Funny. I didn’t feel like a winner.

I went to my scale when I made it home and it said I had lost 14 pounds, from 200 to 186 in 3 hours. I was too weak to eat so I collapsed into bed. Here’s where it gets scary for me. I awoke 12 hours later and reached up to get out of bed and an excruciating  pain shot through my body. I was stuck in a curled up position, not moving.

I knew that I had to get to a hospital and I can’t describe how I made it to my car but I did make progress with a few expletives to cheer me on. I was actually walking low to the ground with my hands balancing me.  I hated to see what I looked like. Using a step stool I made it to the driver’s seat and inched my way across behind the steering wheel. My eyes were just below the top of the steering wheel. I backed out, guessing the location of the street. I was able to use my right foot, with pain, to hit the gas and break. And I drove slowly.

I felt things were turning in my favor now. A clinic was a mile away with little traffic. I wasn’t too worried about other drivers having a panic attack. This is Florida and we have many senior citizens who can’t see above the steering wheel so no one pays attention to a driverless car down here- as long as they stay between the lines.

I turned slowly into the clinic’s emergency room parking lot. No one saw me so I blew the horn and they wheeled me in and gave me a couple of gallons of Gator Aid, or something similar. My bill was $99. I called in and told the supervisor I couldn’t make it tonight and explained it in detail.

The supervisor said, You don’t show up, you’re fired.

 

 

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