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Managing to outfox a master trickster

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By Rick Dalton

Learning the ropes was as much a part of the job as printing and delivering production manifests at the General Motors assembly plant in Doraville, Ga. Part two concludes my first memories of my entry job with the automotive manufacturer.

Grease was used liberally and frequently to keep the wheels of the assembly line rolling smoothly, and without any undue friction. Lubriplate was the brand name and a sticky concoction it surely was.

You could get white Lubriplate, black Lubriplate, red Lubriplate and a dirty brown colored mess that smelled real sick in various areas of the plant. One could almost determine what production unit did what, by the color of the grease used for lubrication in each area. The body shop had high temperature Lubriplate due to all the sparks from the welding setting low temperature Lubriplate to smoldering and making the area smell real bad.

Grease was also used to play dirty greasy tricks on unsuspecting people who were selected simply because they stepped through the wrong door.

Black grease was used to coat the ear piece of production telephones — way back then all phones were black. Once the selected victim was within earshot of the doctored phone, the prankster would dial that number and most people got an ear full of Lubriplate.

A use for white grease was to coat the white door frames of the supervisor’s office and then watch as someone grabbed the door frame upon entering or leaving the office. Door knobs and pull handles were other favorite locations for a little dab of goo.

What they did to me was coat the undersides of the scooter’s handlebar grips, so that when we started or continued with our delivery route a great big glob of sticky Lubriplate greeted our arrival. This only happened in one particular part of the plant.

We had to deliver manifests to the second floor for the seat cushion and soft trim build up applications. There were two elevators that serviced this area and normal procedure called for us to enter one and go to the second floor. After delivery, we would take the elevator that was 500 feet away from the initial unit and then resume our journey.

Material operators would load elevators so tightly that a mouse would have difficulty squeezing if for a lift. It seemed that every time the elevators were loaded thusly, or were broken, and I had to park the scooter on the first floor and then run up the five flights of stairs to make my delivery, the scooter would be freshly greased upon my return.

Always wanting to provide a good show for my tormentors, I would grab the handlebars with gusto, allowing the grease to squirt out between my fingers and then nonchalantly drive away.

The next time the elevator was blocked, I paused on the stairs where I could see the scooter and watched a certain lift operators quickly lube both handlebars before driving away on his hi-lo.

Turnabout is fair play and I had a plan.

To make my plan work, I later made a special trip across the roof from my printing operation to the stairway where I had witnessed the crime. Not wanting to be out done by mere grease, I secreted a tube of printer’s ink in that stairwell. Grease wipes off. Printer’s ink wears off.

My plan came together a few days later during one of those rain storms that are better known as “frog stranglers” due to the hard downpour. My victim had to drive his fork truck out into the storm placing empty “dunnage” in racks.

I made my delivery, and then, with a rubber-gloved hand full of printers’ ink walked over to talk to the fork truck driver. His truck was propane fueled and as we talked, I deftly shut the fuel off on the tank with my inky hand. We finished our conversation and he blithely drove out into the rain storm holding a piece of waste cardboard over his head as a shield.

Just as his truck reached the midway point of his trip between shelters, the engine sputtered and stopped. I was standing in the doorway smoking a cigarette and gleefully darn near choked as he reached around to check the fuel tank and encountered the printers’ ink.

My revenge was complete, he got inked, he got wet and I got to see the whole thing. Then next time we met I was expecting a fight, but he stuck out his hand and told me that I was the first to outfox him.

Never again did I get greased in the plant. Word travels fast and I believed I earned a little respect for my actions.

Rick Dalton is a certified horticulture professional, who resides in southwest Marion County with his wife, Brenda. He says: “When you cease to learn, you begin to die. And if we cannot have a little fun while passing through, then plunk it.”