It’s just Wednesday. However, this half-week has been much more strenuous that many of my full weeks. Most of that has been due to the computer recycling company that we used to remove the old computers from our schools.
Old computers are a MAJOR problem for schools. First, computers take a lot of abuse in a school setting. You just can’t get as many years of service from a school computer as you can from one in a home setting. It’s hard to explain this to a taxpayer. For non-functioning computers there is the problem of disposal. We can’t send these to a landfill. It’s an even bigger problem if the computer is still functioning. Because of concerns with student data on hard drives, we can no longer just sell the computers.
So, last spring our school board authorized me to work with a computer recycling group that would give written assurance of drive erasure. I made the arrangements, and on Tuesday a truck showed up to pick up our nearly 700+ computers, plus some odds and ends of non-functioning equipment. The fun was just about to begin.
First, the crew arrived at our district office. From appearances, these characters were ones I’d never want to meet alone on the street. One actually came into our office with an unlit cigarette in one hand and a lighter in the other. I was beginning to worry.
We got them to pull their 18-wheeler around to our maintenance department and had them start loading up the few computers we had there. They didn’t have any carts, hand trucks, or other tools to help them load. My worries increased. However, with the loan of a couple of hand trucks, it didn’t take too long. We were getting ready to send them across the street to the high school for their pickup when the driver informed me that they were out of fuel. They had no money for fuel. Their company would first have to wire them some funds for diesel, then they could continue to the high school. The cigarette was lit, and I had to talk about smoking on school grounds. My worries had now turned into panic.
The truck left to get fuel at 8:30 am. They finally showed up at our high school at 1:30 pm. In the intervening hours I exchanged multiple calls between the crew and their home office trying to get things sorted out. It seems that I could talk to both of them, but they could never seem to talk to each other. When they did get there, they were upset about the delay, and arguments slowed the work process.
It was obvious that we were only going to get one school done this day. That started another battle as to whether or not they would or should stay overnight. It wouldn’t be worth their company’s trouble to drive back with only a partial load. However, some of the crew really didn’t want to spend the night. Spending the night meant that the company would have to wire them more money – for food and for lodging.
At home I began to worry about these guys. Despite their appearances (and penchant for smoking), their were actually pleasant to be around and talk to (when they weren’t arguing.) I obviously don’t have the same money concerns they have. When I travel on business, I go ahead and do what’s necessary and get reimbursed. These guys seemed to live more on the edge. I decided to do what I could to help, even if it was just a small gesture.
The next morning I showed up with biscuits from Burger King for everyone. It was a small investment that generated a lot of good will. The crew finished three more locations, and I brought back burgers from McDonalds. More investment in goodwill.
The investment was paying off. The crew worked hard and we got a lot done. However, it was gut-wrenching to see them carrying monitors by the VGA cords and just tossing them into the truck. I know they will probably be crushed and recycled for materials, and that our district is being paid for the equipment, but it’s just disheartening to see equipment that still might have a little life left being treated that way.
We finished two more schools after lunch. At the end of the second we still had two more locations to hit, and I knew that there were two locations we would miss. However, the driver informed me that he was already over the weight limit. To top it off, they had a dodgy tire. He might have to wait until dark to travel so it would be a bit cooler.
I signed the paperwork, we said our goodbyes, and we parted ways. It was late, but I still had a couple of hours of work at the office. When I finally left, I spotted their truck sitting in a lot near the Interstate. I wondered if I should check on them, but decided that at this point they were on their own. I just hoped that they were taking the driver’s advice, and driving after dark.