A Curve in the Road of Life

By Wayne Lee

There are some days when you have to stop, think and ask, “what if?” Then… thank God. I want to share a recent experience through this blog focusing first on safety, then closing with a personal message.

We all drive some type of truck, van or combo truck/trailer to transport our tools from job to job. We take great pride in our vehicles, as well as the way we keep our tools organized and ready for work. I know it’s important to me that we have all the tools in order, everything in its place, and a place for everything. No one wants to waste time looking for tools, supplies, or something as simple as a roll of blue tape. If the crew knows where everything is in the van/trailer, it makes the job go much smoother. The key to that is making sure the tools are put back in the correct spot at the end of the job or when we are finished with that tool. Every time we have a new crew member, we make sure they understand how we work and why we do what we do to keep the truck/trailer clean and ready.

I recall the first time we set up the van, doing our best to think through the location for each tool based on its size, weight, shape and how often we will use it for the job. Is it an install tool or a sand/finish tool? Should we put it up on a shelf or keep it low? We set it up and took it apart several times before we agreed it was ready. We outgrew the van quickly, so we decided it would be best to also get a trailer and a pickup truck. This provided several additional benefits such as allowing me to leave the tools on the job so the crew could keep working if I had to pull off and go do an estimate and the ability to use the truck for trash removal on demo jobs.

So here comes the safety portion of the blog. While we spent countless hours organizing for efficiency, we didn’t stop to consider a key factor. What happens if the vehicle is ever in an accident? What will fly where and what will happen in the back of the van at that moment? Are the tools secured properly and are there safety measures in place to protect the driver? Well, I found out on that before mentioned day.

It was a few weeks ago, just a simple start to a great day with plans of making sales calls and later meeting up with some friends. Then in the blink of an eye, it went downhill. I was driving the van on a two lane road just focusing on the road ahead. A car came into my lane and we hit hard, I had no time to react or get out of the way.

Just like a movie, it became a series of snap shots. I took a quick look to my right to see if I could go on the side of the road to move out of the way. I see a ditch, so moving over is not in the plan. I needed to hit the brakes as hard as I could to slow down and stop. I couldn’t go right and I couldn’t stop fast enough. As if in slow motion I see the two cars hitting at 45 MPH. Seat belt on, set and ready for impact as it all comes forward.

The sound of the two cars colliding plus the sound of the tools hitting the safety wall behind me was one of the strangest sounds one can hear. It was over as fast as it happened and I was in shock. First check, am I hurt? How is the driver in the other car? Should I get out of the van? Double check, am I OK? It was amazing how fast the thoughts ran through my head.

Ultimately, the driver safety wall prevented me from getting hit with the tools. It would have been real bad if that wall was not in place! We did have the tools locked in on the shelves to prevent them from falling during a turn or bump, but not locked in for a 45 MPH impact. In this type of scenario, it would be difficult to stop all the tools from jumping off the shelves so it was very important that we had a safety wall installed. It was also very important that I was wearing a seat belt. I believe that if I had not been wearing mine, my head would be full of glass. Due of the type of impact, the air bag did not pop out.

The moral of the story, always be safe. Not only while operating the tools, saws and while on the job. Wear seat belts. Make sure the tools are locked down and ready for more than a few turns and bumps. Keep yourself safe while driving.

Now for part two, the personal part of the story. At a moment like that the mind runs fast. You review what just happened and then you get out of the truck, look back, and say to yourself, “Thank you God for keeping us all from harm.” Then, the “what ifs” kick in, and you think about family and friends. Life is fast, hard and at times just painful. Doing what we do for a living is never easy. Some jobs go as planned and others you hate to wake up to each morning. Folks get ugly, builders get out of hand, and the pressure is always on to get it right the first time. We stress over the task at hand and it can seem like our jobs become our main focus.

This experience brought to light that it’s time to slow it down when I can, tell my family how much I love them and need them. To tell all my friends how I value them and our friendship. It’s the greatest gifts in life that matter the most. It took a car accident to pull that together, through the snap shots of what went on during that moment. How fast it all happens, how fast it could be taken, and how fast our life goes by. It all matters.

Let’s all do what we can to prevent jobsite accidents and be safe. Please drive with your seat belt on and safety wall in place, but most of all let’s remember the reason we all work and live for, our families and friends. I am truly thankful that no one was hurt and we all were able to hug our families that night.