Finally, the day came. My supervisor, Miguel, pulled me aside after our morning meeting at work and asked me, “are you ready to drive a cherry picker today?” At first I didn’t know whether to say yes or no because I was afraid if I said yes, he would just tell me to go and start driving without him training me. Then if I say no I felt that I would lose my opportunity to learn any time soon.
I responded by saying, “yeah Miguel, it’s about time I get trained after two months of insisting.”
“Well this is your only chance so I hope you learn or else its back to the end of the line,” he chuckled as he walked away. As if I wasn’t nervous enough, I couldn’t tell whether he was playing or not so I panicked a little at the thought that this might be my only chance. Miguel came back with some papers in his hands and asked for me to go grab a harness. I had never worn a harness so when I got it I was confused on how I was supposed to put it on, especially because the harness wasn’t hanged on a hook it was just bundled up inside a small box. After a moment of struggling Miguel yelled out, “come on Brian are you going to take all day putting on that harness.”
“I’m almost done,” I told him even though I was still lost. Luckily one of the other drivers passed by and I was able to figure out how it went by looking at his.
“Took you long enough, now let’s see go ahead and go to the open area so that we could start practicing.” I looked at all the cherry pickers we had available and they all looked brand new. Those lifts were huge and weighed up to three times as much as a car. They go at least thirty-feet up in the air and drive over ten miles per hour. I turned it on and began to drive but I didn’t even get to move five feet forward before Miguel yelled, “GET OFF THE LIFT.” I was in shock I didn’t know what I did wrong I put my harness on before driving just how he asked. “Before you ever drive a lift you must always begin by filling out your PITO sheet. Your secondly you put the harness on but didn’t hook it on to the lift. Lastly every time before you start any motion you must honk your horn to signal that you are going to move.”
I felt so dumb at this point I asked myself how could I forget the most important things. “Sorry Miguel, I was just so excited to begin that I forgot.”
“It’s fine, we all forget the first time.” That really made me feel way better. After I fixed those issues Miguel began to instruct me. On these lifts, I was supposed to have a pallet in the back end but since I was practicing I didn’t need it. That made it a lot more nerve wrecking though because the first thing he had me do is go all the way up in the air since I didn’t have any type of support behind the lift. As I was halfway up I felt the lift beginning to wobble, but Miguel just told me to continue going up. I drove up like a snail would make its way up a wall.
“How does it feel up there?”
“A little sketchy honestly, I didn’t think that it would wobble so much.” I tried to ignore the fact that I was terrified because I was looking straight down and one wrong move and I’ll be hanging from my harness in midair.
“That’s the hardest part, getting used to the height and driving that far up in the air is what most people have troubles with but it isn’t so hard.”
After he had me go up he just had me do a few circles and turns with the lift and told me that I was ready to start getting orders. This was great, I was going to be driving all day. I was scared about doing these orders because the other drivers were experienced so they work at a faster pace and I didn’t want to slow them down. I got the orders and went to the first aisle I realized that I had to drive in between them. I didn’t practice this Miguel. My main concern was not crashing into the racks. I guess was scared from watching all those YouTube videos of people crashing into the racks with lifts and starting a domino effect with everything falling. Yeah, I definitely did not want to cause a huge mess. I could feel my pals get sweaty because of how nervous I was. As I drove in I didn’t know which side to look at, every time I looked at my right side I felt as I was going to crash on the lift side. If I looked on the left side I was afraid I’d crash on the right side.
Then having to drive straight, making sure the lift didn’t hit any racks or any of the merchandise sticking out, having to go up at the same time was very difficult. I had to be looking up, right, left, forward, down, everywhere to make sure I didn’t hit anything. As I was driving into one of the aisles another driver came up behind me and yelled, “BANG!” Right after he yelled that I let go of the steering wheel and hit the side of the safety bumper on the rack.
“Why do you have to be such a jerk,” I yelled out to my co-worker but he didn’t care he just drove off laughing. A few minutes after Miguel came and asked me how I was doing, I would’ve said fine but I was still on my first order.
“Hey, come out here for a second,” asked Miguel so I slowly drove out the aisle. “I noticed I forgot to teach you something very important that will make doing these orders a lot easier.”
“Oh okay, what is it?” I was very relieved that he came to give me a few more pointers, I thought he had heard me crash and was coming to take me off the lift.
“There is a black switch on the lift above the horn, that button is a wire guide switch. When you drive into the aisles you turn it on, every aisle has a magnetic wire running inside the concrete and the lifts have a sensor that detects it. Once it locks on the guide you could let go of the wheel and it won’t move left or right, it will stay in center of the aisle so you just have to go front or back and up or down.”
“Wow, thanks. That’s what I was having problems with right now.” I continued with my orders and went back inside the aisle. This time I turned on the wire guide and it was amazing, it’s almost like an autopilot except that you still control the speed.
For one of the orders I had to go to the top level of the racks, as I was going up I couldn’t help looking down. I know I hate the feeling of it but I just had to do it. I felt butterflies in my stomach I wish the lift would go up faster. I felt like it took forever to reach the top rack. Going down was even worse. “Come on, go down go down go down,” I repeated to myself. I was stuck, like a mouse in a mouse trap. I was still twenty-feet up in the air but the lift would not go down, up, forward or backwards. Things couldn’t possibly get worse right. Well, they did because the lift shut off completely. I couldn’t restart it at all I was stuck in the middle of the aisle. I tried calling for help but I didn’t notice it was break time so no one was around the area to help me.
Almost half an hour passed by when Miguel came to look for me. “What happened,” he asked.
“I don’t know it wasn’t going all the way down and when I tried again it completely shut off on me.”
I saw him start laughing, “oh, I see. So, someone decided to pull an old prank on you.” I didn’t understand what happened until Miguel went up to the front of my lift, opened the hood and reconnected me battery. When he did that the lift turned back on and I was able to come down. Once I was all the way down Miguel told me words I will never forget, “welcome to UPS.”
I always thought that work was all work and no play, but Miguel showed me something different at the end of the day. I was so nervous learning to drive that I forgot to have fun while I drove. At the end of the day when Miguel laughed about the prank they pulled on me he told me, “things will not always roll smoothly but just how the road has bumps so does our lives, not everything will be easy but you got to have fun as you live your life or else you will never find a point in anything.” After this day, I kept driving but I wasn’t nervous anymore, I listened to Miguel’s advice and just learned to have fun. I thought of driving lifts just as go-karts, just a lot bigger. Relating the lift to a go-kart allowed me to master driving lifts at work quickly. Thanks to my crappy first day the rest were great and now I’m a master of the forks.