On The Road Again

25 Nov

When I rejoined Bob, they were heavily involved in a project that we had bid to the US Navy, during my earlier stint. It involved relocatable support systems for eight different sites around the world. As an additional duty, I went out on several of the installations of those systems. On these installation trips, the hours were sometimes long, and the headaches great. However, they had their perks, too. When spending a month in Bermuda, or Spain, or one of the many sites in the Caribbean, courtesy of Uncle Sam, some sacrifices are to be expected, right?

One of the trips which fell to me was the installation of the system in Bermuda. Because of some problems we encountered, the trip lasted 28 days, instead of the intended 10. When Bob told me he wanted me to install that system, I hand-picked my crew. Guillermo (Willy) Marquez was my first stop! I had hired Willy out of a Celanese plant in the Panhandle, some years before, and he was still a top hand, and one of the best workers I’ve ever been lucky enough to snag. He’s also a hell of a lot of fun, off the job! We loaded up our tools, manuals and suntan lotion, and the five of us boarded our plane, looking forward to a thoroughly enjoyable project.

As in all Government projects, we had a “watchdog”. This agency at least had a technical staff, rather than just accountants, but they were just as steeped in bureaucracy as their counterparts. On most of our installations, we dealt with the same representatives. They were Bill Maquire, Bob Reston and Dave Tilson. Bob was a Tech. Rep. from a civilian contractor, and Dave was an enlisted man. That put Bill, as the only civil servant, in charge. And while he had expertise in his field, he was incredibly unsuitable for the position. He had all the people skills of a rabid Chihuahua, but with less personality. His preferred style was to try to bully people into doing things his way, which was a little amusing, given that he was only slightly over five feet tall, and weighed around 100 lbs.

Key to this tale is the fact that it is impossible to rent a car in Bermuda. There are a handful of limos, available for hire, but only with chauffeur, and government budgets don’t allow for such luxuries. So, we were destined to either use buses and taxis for mobility, or rent mo-peds, for about five dollars a day. Since the maximum speed limit on the island is 25 mph, mo-peds serve quite well. Now, picture eight grown men, straddling mo-peds that are WAY too small for them, racing through the picturesque streets of Hamilton, Bermuda. Don’t forget that we’re driving on the left side of the road, an aspect that we were unaccustomed to.

Now picture Dave and Bill, riding side by side, with the rest of us trailing along behind. As they headed into a left hand curve, Dave realized that he was traveling too fast to negotiate the curve, so he began edging toward Bill, who was on the outside. As Bill was crowded over the center-line, he noticed a bus bearing down on him, head-on, and in order to avoid becoming a hood ornament, he swerved sharply across in front of it. This put him on a collision course with a very large stone wall, which was moving about 40 mph slower than he was. Bill struck the wall, at slightly less than a 90 degree angle…just enough less that after impact, he slid along its surface for about half a block, until he came to a stop against an immovable object…a large steel mailbox.

Also key to this tale, is the fact that since the island has a limited supply of rock and gravel, they have innovatively taken to using crushed coral as the make-up of their pavement, and cut coral blocks, for the construction of the many large, immovable walls they seem to enjoy erecting near dangerous curves. And they say the British have no sense of humor!

Returning to Bill and his plight…although he was wedged, nearly out of sight, beneath and behind the mailbox, it was easy to find him. He and his mo-ped were located at opposite ends of a broad scarlet streak along approximately sixty feet of the wall. His mo-ped was in two distinct pieces…Bill’s condition, while similar, was a little less distinct. One thing was obvious…he had left 15-20% of his hide embedded in the wall, as was evidenced by the bits of bone showing through, here and there. To help you understand Bill’s popularity, when Dave got to his side, he looked down, snickered, and nudged him with his foot, saying, “Yo, Bill, you okay?”

Bob, who had been a running mate of Bill’s for a few years, nearly came unglued, hollering, “Don’t move him! He may have broken something!”

“Yeah,”, said Dave, as he scooped him up like a sack of flour, “he may have broken that wall, and he damn sure broke his bike!” Bill groaned, Dave snickered. The rest of us just smiled. We were really starting to like Dave.

The night before, one of the locals had described to us what one could expect if he came into violent contact with any coral surface. Because of the irritating nature of the coral, every particle left in the tissue caused tremendous inflammation. Therefore, the local doctors would go to great lengths to thoroughly cleanse the wound of any particles. This was typically accomplished with a scrub brush. Recalling the process described, we smiled some more. Bill groaned again. Dave began to chuckle. As he shook with laughter, Bill progressed to a steady moan. By that time, most of us were nearly hysterical, and Bob was giving us all dirty looks.

The owner of the wall, hearing the crash, had come out to investigate, took one look at Bill, and ran to call an ambulance. When they arrived, stretcher in hand, we tried to convince them to take Bill’s mo-ped, but they paid us no mind at all. They had obviously never met Bill before. Bob followed the ambulance to the hospital, while the rest of us giggled merrily on, to the jobsite. We accomplished very little that day, since we were forced to repeat the story for everyone that had ever met Bill before. All pretty much agreed that the only good wound, is a clean wound!

By the time Bob arrived late that afternoon, even he was laughing. We all agreed that we would be able to get more done in the next couple of days, then we had been able to accomplish in the previous two weeks, with Bill around. We were right!

Bill was still in the hospital five days later, when I laid my mo-ped down at about 40 mph, in front of a bus. I managed to avoid serious injury, and the bus managed to avoid me, although my mo-ped was never the same I only lost a few square inches of hide, however, and I chose to purchase a bottle of vinegar, and dissolve the coral particles in the privacy of my room. The hell with a bunch of scrub brushes. I’d rather turn into a walking coral reef, than subject myself to that, thanks!

One night, Willy and I were heading for the far end of the island, and he earned, once again, his nickname of “Scooter Trash”. In the States, he owned a Harley chopper, and had probably brought with him two dozen different black Harley T-shirts. He looked more than a little out of place straddling a mo-ped, but he drove it the same way he drove his hawg – any way he damn well felt like!

We were racing along a winding road, when we suddenly encountered a hair-pin turn, designed for 1/3 our speed. Willy didn’t even attempt to turn; he instead went straight through the curve, off the road, and with his throttle wide open, disappeared over an embankment. I followed. I came upon him standing near his horizontal mo-ped, and asked, “What happened?”

He responded, “Nothing. I had to piss!” He then picked up his bike, started it, and raced off back up the slope. I followed. About fifty yards later, he plowed into some heavy brush, and I plowed into him. “D’ ya mind?” he said, looking back, as he pulled his license plate away from his rear wheel. He then gunned his bike, and weaved through the brush, swerving suddenly onto the road as though he never left it. That’s Willy, all over!

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