Last week, I used a tow strap (I keep it in my truck bag in the back of my truck) and my big Chevy Tahoe to pull a UPS truck out of a ditch. You know, the standard UPS package car – big, brown, GMC service chassis with a Grumman aluminum body with dual rear wheels. I know GMC makes 4×4 drive-trains for those things; they’re not that much more expensive, either. I would sort of expect that each UPS motor-pool would have a couple 4×4 and the rest rigged for highway driving.
But, no, they’re all rear-wheel drive and they all carry highway tires that are practically drag-racing slicks. As I was hooking up the tow strap I noticed the UPS trucks down have tow points, either. This is in the mountains in Pennsylvania! I made some kind of expletive-laden exclamation and the driver said, “I know the guys in Montana have 4×4 and knobby tires but we don’t. The FEDEX lady’s a friend of mine and she doesn’t, either.”
That’s true. My regular UPS driver, and the FEDEX driver, both have my cell phone number and text me if the weather is nasty and they have a delivery for me. Then, I meet them at the end of my driveway. It’s no big deal and it’s a lot better than having to tow a UPS truck out of a ditch. They call when I have something heavy coming, too – like the 3 foot section of victorian railroad track I got in the summer – I drive up and collect it so they don’t have to wrangle it onto my porch (it needs to be in the back of my truck, anyhow!) Those people work very hard and I see no reason to make their lives more difficult.
After we got the truck out, we talked a bit and the UPS driver said, “this is nothing…”
Apparently, the supervisor who oversees the trucking operation sent out a directive early in the winter, regarding snow chains. It had come to his attention that snow chains were a hazard, because if they were not stowed properly a driver might trip on them, fall down, and they’d have an insurance claim. Because, I suppose, UPS couldn’t be arsed to buy a bunch of aluminum toolboxes and bolt them down in the back of the trucks, and fill them with tire chains, jumper cables, and whatnot? Or, was it because someone might shock themselves with jumper cables? I offered the driver that, if he wanted me to write the supervisor a letter, I’d be happy to explain to them that UPS is incurring huge liability having trucks on the road with inappropriate tires and that they might have killed someone instead of merely winding up in a ditch. And, furthermore, by becoming a road hazard they risked a customer being injured, or being injured trying to help get a UPS truck out of a ditch. I would conclude by speculating that he had graduated from business school not the school of hard knocks and mud and that he needs to spend less time playing golf.
Two years ago, my old FEDEX driver complained that she was not allowed to wear a snowmobile suit in the truck – she was freezing in the alumibody (those things are awful to heat!) and I suggested one of the USB/battery-powered sweaters. By the way, those things are great except you get so used to them you can’t live without them.
I do genuinely believe that corporate executives are often totalitarian sociopaths, who desire power but cannot recognize they have it unless they use it to exert control over others. There is something totalitarian lurking behind the drive for uniformity: it’s control. I’ve often quoted O’Brien’s speech from 1984:
“How does one man assert his power over another, Winston?“
Winston thought. “By making him suffer”, he said.
“Exactly. By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery is torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but MORE merciless as it refines itself.
Why would someone who is responsible for managing a team of truckers want them to be less than comfortable and well-equipped? I would expect that manager to be thrilled if one of the team came and said, “I was thinking we could get a toolbox of essential gear and bolt that down to one of the shelves in the back where it can’t get it in the way or shift, and we could put stuff in there.”
Now, I wonder if the trucks have 1st aid kits and fire extinguishers in them.
Corporate America has outsourced a lot of dangerous industrial processes to China, etc, because safety is so expensive. I suspect this is another case of that. What they mean, though is not that safety is expensive, it’s that they are unwilling to take even a microscopic hit on their profit-margins to make their employees’ lives a bit better. I’m pretty sure that Andrew Carnegie, who fought tooth and nail to claw pennies from his nearly destitute steelworkers, would understand. Executives fight with labor over tiny amounts of money, in terms of the company’s bottom line – and usually the excuse given is “if we give them a bit they’ll just want more.” Because, you know, if you give a capitalist an inch, they’ll take your life, your health, and your pension, then leave you in a ditch and blame you for being lazy. Next, they’ll go hit the links for a quick round of golf.
Doesn’t O’Brien sound like Paul Ryan, only articulate and passionate and competent?