A downright dangerous job

Umm Zaid recently posted about her history of terrible jobs, and I posted on her comments section about my nightmare Saturday job when I was 16 and how certain companies pretend to serve their customers well while using it as a means to (a) screw their staff and (b) screw their customers. Today I had a job which I think I should add to UZ’s list using the trackback system and which could easily make the Idler’s Crap Jobs book: dropping and picking up vans for a vehicle hire company.

This is not inherently a nightmare job. I’ve had many pleasant days with this particular company, “pleasant” meaning an interesting run where I got back in one piece. Not necessarily an uneventful one. For example, one of them involved going up to Catterick (almost the other end of England) to pick up two Transit vans, one of which had its offside mirror missing, and having to drive that one back to London. The man who drove me up there insisted that he drive the van which was in fewer pieces as he had driven enough battered vans that week, so he recommended that I take it easy.

So I took the A1, a non-motorway dual carriageway (i.e. it’s got roundabouts and that sort of thing, and a lower speed limit) which he had refused to use because of the lower speed limits and speed cameras. He liked the M1 on which, when it’s not congested (which it is often), he could really put his foot down. I turned off the A1 at Huntingdon, returning to the depot in South London via Cambridge, the M11, the Blackwall Tunnel, Kidbrooke and Sydenham. I stopped for a curry on the way home, returning to the depot about 8pm. Mr Speed pulled in about five minutes later, having had to turn back at Harrogate (that’s about 35 miles into the journey south, so it added about 70 miles to his journey) when he realised he had left his keys behind.

It became a nightmare job today for the simple reason that I was sent out to pick up a van the company had hired to a certain big organisation with three Jack-the-lad idiots. We will call them Chav, Bonehead and Number 3. (Chav is the individual’s real nickname; bonehead is the impression I got of the person; Number 3 is just the one who isn’t Chav or Bonehead.) To begin with, Chav was assigned to drive me and another agency driver to pick up vans from a depot in Croydon, and instead of driving us straight there as was his job, he insisted on stopping at McDonald’s to buy a cheeseburger from the “Drive Thru”. I protested, because I don’t much like (a) being in a confined space with someone eating smelly junk food, (b) the thought of the individual’s greasy hands touching my clothes or (c) driving a vehicle said hands have driven. But the stop was made anyway and Chav ate his chips (fries) as he continued driving. (This is illegal, and people have been known to get fined by the police for having their hands occupied by other things than their driving. I really did hope he would get stopped, and a police vehicle actually passed us.)

Anyway, I got to the depot, got the van and headed back to the hire yard. I was then sent out with two of the three idiots to pick up more vans from Bromley. Number 3 was driving, and the pattern was set early: driving too fast, including around blind bends such as the one at the end of the long access road leading to this yard which today was covered in black ice after last night’s freezing weather. Every time he started from stop, his clutch control was such that the vehicle shot away and made screeching noises. We headed off in a direction which did not seem to lead to Bromley, and it turned out that the purpose was to pick up Chav from the company which was fixing his car after an incident of malicious damage in Rochester.

Chav, rather than sitting back in his seat and putting his belt on, sat in the middle and clung to the two front seats. On one occasion he produced a bottle of window cleaner and sprayed it. Number 3 continued his antics of wild acceleration, too-fast driving, corner-cutting, screech-starting, and apparently picking side roads rather than direct routes along main roads in order to facilitate his stupid driving. He took us via Woodside, and at the point where we turned out of Woodside Green into Spring Lane near Addiscombe, he drove straight at a traffic island, just managing to avoid hitting the light fitting on the island but managing to damage the car by losing the wheel cover. At this point he and the front seat passenger got out, and I walked off, telling the three morons they were not driving me anywhere. They took the paperwork for the van I was to collect, leaving me to make my own way back to the yard.

This is the third time I’ve experienced stupid driving by this company’s drivers (on one occasion it was along the narrow, winding and busy country lanes around Biggin Hill), and the second where I’ve complained to the company, but the first where it’s led to an accident and where I’ve had to abandon a job to save my neck. The lady at the yard said she didn’t blame me for walking off as she knew what they were like, and another agency driver told me that he has seen far worse, and that they were behaving this way as they knew it scared me. The agency staff told me they would contact me tomorrow, and I do hope it will be taken further as these idiots may well kill someone one of these days.

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