Mike H. was the best forklift driver ever to work at Brighton. Bar none. He would load and unload your machine in a jiffy. He knew where everything was at. He knew what your next order was and would locate it, bring it to you and have it ready to go. Before you needed it. He would separate the heads in a stack, and if they needed washing he would either take them to be washed or, if no one was working at the wash station, he would wash them himself.
We were about the same age. He was quiet, but had a good sense of humor. Which means I could mess with him. One time Higinio C., a flanger operator, called him to unload his machine, then went to the scheduler’s desk to get his next order. After Higinio left his machine and before Mike arrived, I snuck up and flipped the switch that would bring the upper center post down and lock the head in place. So Mike arrives to unload the finished head, only the upper center post is down, preventing him from unloading the head. So he looks to Higinio. Meanwhile, from the scheduler’s desk Higinio can’t see that the upper center post is down, so he looks at Mike sitting on a forklift in front of his machine. Mike is pissed because Higinio won’t raise the upper center post so he can unload the head, while Higinio is pissed because Mike won’t unload the head. Finally, Mike drives away. Which makes Higinio that much angrier. So he storms back to his machine. To find the upper center post locked down. So now he looks all around trying to see who is messing with him. Of course, I don’t let him see me laughing.
Other forklift drivers goofed off, or were unable to find the heads you needed, or were either creepingly slow or recklessly fast. Some people on forklifts get aggravated having to maneuver in such tight spaces as we have when we get really busy, and they fly around banging into heads. Mike always kept his cool.
But he had a weak stomach. One time when we were on third shift we came into the lunch room for a break and I opened a candy bar I had brought. I took a bite and chewed on it. Until I felt something tickling the inside of my mouth. I looked at the candy bar and saw it was crawling with maggots. I started spitting out everything that was in my mouth. Mike laughed at me at first, until he saw what I was spitting out. Then he started gagging and ran outside. I never got sick. I just kept spitting the rest of the night, even though there was nothing left in my mouth. I couldn’t stop spitting. It felt like something was still crawling around in there.
Mike was one of those persons who never missed, never came in late or never left early. His son looked just like him, but was totally different. He worked at Brighton for a while. His son was into rock climbing and repelling. He did a lot of this in Red River Gorge, in eastern Kentucky. He also repelled off the Jeremiah Morrow Bridge. This bridge is on Interstate 71 in southwest Ohio, and at 240 feet is the highest bridge in the state. Repelling off it is illegal, of course, so he did it at night. There have been a lot of second-generation workers at Brighton. Including my son. But, you guessed it, that’s another post.
When Enerfab bought Trinity in 2002 they didn’t hire Mike. They didn’t need any forklift operators. I heard he began driving cement mixers. As far as I know he’s still alive. It’s amazing how people you work with and see on a daily basis for decades can just drop out of your life.
One memory I have of Mike H. is him working outside in the yard in the middle of winter. He would stand behind his forklift, while it was running, to keep warm in the hot exhaust.