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
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!