By Colin Black
When I was fifteen years old, I left school and my first job was in a local garage.
I was supposed to be an apprentice mechanic, but like all new boys, I was the general dogsbody. I made the tea and ran errands for the rest of the men, but after washing cars and sweeping up for a while, I finally got some mechanical menial jobs to do. The garage had a contract to service trucks that delivered meat to butcher shops.
One day I was lying on the floor checking the oil level of a truck’s rear end. It was quite dark and gloomy under the truck, so I had to feel my way with the tools. I stuck my finger in the rear end, and there was plenty of oil in there. Just as I turned to come out from under the truck, something caught my eye in the spare wheel carrier. All I could see in the darkness under the truck, was an animal head and its eyes staring at me. Well, I was out of there like I was shot from a gun.
When I got out and stood up, all the mechanics were standing there howling with laughter. What I didn’t know, was that the butcher truck drivers sometimes kept a sheep head in the spare wheel, because it was a perk of their job. They’d take it home and use it to make a pot of delicious soup. My fellow workers were just full of wee practical jokes like that.
Another shock that I received one day, was from the work bench, which was about twenty feet long and made of metal. There were three or four vices bolted to the bench, so if someone saw you working at a vice, they’d attach the electric cable for testing spark plugs to the other end of the bench. The result was a jolt of high voltage electricity that shot along the full length of the bench. Needless to say, you soon learned to be on your guard at all times.
As I said, it was my job to make the tea. However, before I started work there, I had never made tea. Oh, I’d seen my mother make tea many times, and I that knew you used dry tea cut from from a quarter pound packet, because there were no tea bags back then. Well, the garage had a big water boiler, that had maybe four or five gallons of water constantly boiling. On my first day of making tea, I was shown where the tea, mugs, sugar and milk were, and was told, “Right, Colin, tea time, now go and get it made.” Well, off I went, and came back ten minutes later announcing, “Tea’s made, come and get it.”
The men told me just to bring it out, but I told them I couldn’t lift and carry it without spilling it. When they found out it that was because I’d made five gallons of tea by emptying a whole packet of tea into the water boiler, some laughed, while others called me unprintable names. But, we’ve all got to learn, and if you’ve never made a stupid mistake, then you’ve never lived.
Tata the noo – Colin
Colin Black is a 62 year old truck driver (and has been for over 40 years), and author from Bellshill, Bonnie Scotland.