Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Lack of Attention to Detail

The wheels of the Landcruiser ute spun in the dirt for just a second as Tim left the light vehicle go-line. He knew he shouldn’t have done it, but it gave him at least some satisfaction. He’d just had what his boss George had called a “Performance coaching discussion”. It had felt to Tim more like a good old-fashioned chewing out.

Unfair. That was the best word to describe it. There were other, harsher, cruder words that came to his mind, and to his lips, but “unfair” was what stuck with him. What was the exact phrase? Carelessness – that was it, no – “lack of attention to detail”. How many details were there to pay attention to when you pushed dirt and rock and coal around with a D11 bulldozer?

Tim felt the back-end go sideways – just a little – as he turned left onto the haul road. He realised as he did it that he hadn’t looked right, at all. He checked his mirror quickly, and saw no vehicles. Lucky. He slammed it into second.

“At least something’s going my way today,” he said aloud, to himself. He shook his head at his own stupidity. Any one of the rear-dump trucks driving along the haul road could easily have squashed him and his ute to just a few inches thick, if it’d been there to run him over.

Soon enough, Tim was complaining to himself about his boss again. “Inattention to detail,” he muttered to himself, shaking his head. “Where does she get this stuff from?”

Suddenly Tim grabbed the two-way radio, and called up the OCE, and told him he was entering the pit area. White lie, of course. Entering – entered – it was a grey area.

He tried to relax as he drove down the haul road. It was hard to relax. With things the way they were at home: first with the kids, and now with the wife talking about “taking some time to re-evaluate things,” – Tim muttered that phrase to himself again. Yeah, he thought, it’s bad enough at home, without George making a mountain out of a molehill. She was normally okay, but then, nobody’s perfect. What a way to come back onto shift from his days off.

Tim was looking forward to the solitude of working on the dozer. He’d probably even have crib on the machine today, he thought, the way he was feeling about people in general.

He pulled up behind his dozer, grabbed his crib bag and went up onto the machine. He snatched up the pre-start book, hoping it’d been done for the shift already, which it hadn’t. He got out of the cab, checked the oil and coolant in the engine bay and then glanced at the tracks. He got back into the machine and ticked off the rest of the prestart. If it was okay last shift, it’ll be okay now. He copied some comment about a problem with the mirror from the last prestart sheet. He tossed the pre-start book aside and then started up the engine. The throbbing of the diesel engine made him feel better almost immediately. After a minute to warm up the beast, he opened up the throttle, and smiled for the first time that day.

He looked out at the job in front of him: just a whole lot of cleaning up of the coal seam, really. Good, solitary work – no-one to mess things up for him. Tim lifted the blade, and then checked his mirrors before backing up. Once he’d gone back about as far as he thought he needed, he looked back in front of him and saw something that he didn’t recognise at first; not for about five seconds. Then he realised that the odd-shaped little thing was what used to be a Landcruiser ute. The ute he’d parked there himself.

“So that,” he said to himself, as he shook his head, “Is what she meant by ‘lack of attention to detail’.”

This story first appeared in Shift Miner Magazine.

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