SCOURGE OF THE SKIES

Sum­mer may be great for hol­i­day mak­ers, but when you’re out work­ing in the Aussie heat you’re a tar­get for most crit­ters with six legs. Scotty Dou­glas writes

Owner Driver - - News -

DUNNY BUDGIES, blowies, bas­tard winged spawn of Satan, flies – what­ever you want to call them, it’s that time of year again.

You may be wrestling with gates, cur­tains and straps in the sum­mer sun, or you may be shunt­ing trail­ers around on the hard stand of a back­wa­ter abat­toir. Wher­ever you are, there’s a good chance that, at some stage over the hot months, you’ll be snort­ing through a cloud of th­ese germ-rid­den bas­tards with a pen­chant for the near­est wet ori­fice.

So maybe I need a good cup of ce­ment and harden the f**k up, but ag­gra­va­tion by in­sect is one of the chal­lenges of the job.

I swear there’s some sort of lizard in­tel­li­gence in a swarm of blowies. Like they know when you have a sticky A-trailer turntable.

There you are try­ing to drop a tag trailer in the burn­ing sun, you wig­gle your guts in over the mud­guards with your body twisted and your head half jammed against a greasy lead in plate.

You heave on the han­dle to re­lease the pin; it doesn’t budge. It’s at pre­cisely this point that the furry lit­tle winged de­mons de­cide to crawl up your nose.

This leaves you jammed in tight be­tween the trailer and the guards of the mid­dle tri-axle while snort­ing like a cus­toms’ bea­gle that’s just found a bag of crys­tal meth. That said, I’ve never ac­tu­ally heard a bea­gle swear and snort at the same time. I imag­ine it would sound sim­i­lar to Char­lie Sheen at 4am on a Sun­day morn­ing.

You then wig­gle out and con­tinue snort­ing your way back to the prime mover so you can take a lit­tle pres­sure off the king pin and try again. And that’s when the filthy cloud of in­sec­tile evil that has re­treated to your sweat-soaked back once more tries to en­ter your cra­nium via the nasal pas­sages. By the time you’ve sep­a­rated the two trail­ers, you’ve got turntable grease down one side of your body and have in­gested enough in­sects to keep a fam­ily of cane toads happy for a decade. And peo­ple won­der why we get grumpy at times!

And this brings me to the sub­ject of hi-vis. I get why it ex­ists – no­body likes hav­ing a fork­lift parked on top of them. But, over the years, I reckon hi-vis has caused me more grief than if I didn’t wear it in the first place.

There was the time I got yelled at on site for not wear­ing the right colour hi-vis – I’m not jok­ing. This was from a bloke who was wear­ing a hi-vis beanie, shirt, jacket and socks. Se­ri­ously, he glowed that much he looked like a freshly caught fish off the coast of Fukushima.

Then there was the time I com­pletely for­got to put my vest on when climb­ing out of the truck. I made it half­way across the ware­house be­fore be­ing de­scended upon. Any­one would’ve thought I was car­ry­ing an IED the way they car­ried on. I didn’t help mat­ters by point­ing out that, as the only per­son not wear­ing hi-vis in the de­pot, I stood out more than the sea of flu­oro around me. Nope, not happy.

So, for a while there, I thought I’d ditch the vest and wear a hi-vis shirt. I must say I’m not a big fan. For a start, noth­ing shows grease like hi-vis. Then there’s the glow-in-the-wind­screen fac­tor. Driv­ing west into the af­ter­noon sun can be enough of a glary headache with­out a hi-vis shirt re­flect­ing back at you in the wind­screen. And then there’s the afore­men­tioned in­sect is­sue.

I may ac­tu­ally be a del­i­cate lit­tle petal. But I don’t think I re­sem­ble a flower that needs pol­li­nat­ing, even from a dis­tance. So why the f**k do fly­ing bugs find me so god-damned fas­ci­nat­ing when I’m wear­ing hi-vis. Do I have the pheromones of a bloody gera­nium?

The flies are bad enough. Then there are the ones that sting. The worst was a wasp that flew up my sleeve and got me nine times on the back while in peak traf­fic. Any­one present would have seen the truck parked at a weird an­gle on the roadside while I flapped about like a chicken hav­ing a seizure be­side it.

There was also the bee that got me on the back. At least I had the sat­is­fac­tion of know­ing it died in the process.

But the one that took the cake was the bee that flew up my sleeve and lay in wait like a black and yel­low ninja. As I slowed to turn right at an in­ter­sec­tion I leaned for­ward in my seat to change down a cou­ple, and the bas­tard got me be­low the belt buckle. The sound I let out was sim­i­lar to a live yabby on a bar­bie hot plate. I may have even briefly lev­i­tated out of the driver’s seat. I was not a happy bunny.

So that’s why I only wear a hi-vis vest when I have to. You may see me at a de­pot some­where – I’ll be the one wear­ing a swag­gie hat with corks, a fly net, a mine-spec sand flag, a flash­ing over­size bea­con, and 43 litres of bug spray. Try and tell me that won’t stand out!

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