Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mouse’s bucket list

Did you ever see that 2007 movie called “The Bucket List” featuring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman? It was about two terminally ill guys determined to accomplish certain goals or experience simple joys before they kicked the bucket.

There’s not a lot of time to chase such things in the life of a hard-working driver. So it’s no surprise that a fellow trucker’s “bucket list” tugs deep on the heartstrings with other members of the long-haul tribe.

What OOIDA Member Sallie Godfrey did last month to help out the dying brother of OOIDA Member Max McKillop exemplifies how deep that goes.

On Feb. 2, I got a sad call here at Land Line from Max, a member from Reese, MI. His 59-year-old brother was dying of cancer and had one big item left on his wish list. Brother Franny, known as “Mouse,” was a longtime trucker and wanted to see one of those cool International LoneStar trucks – see it up close and personal.

The McKillops are a large, close family – 11 brothers and sisters. Sister Michele was taking care of brother Mouse at their home in Belleville, MI. The family tried to find a LoneStar. They tried Detroit area dealerships, then Grand Rapids, but with no luck. Time was running out for Mouse.

Brother Max called OOIDA and told us the deal. We called International corporate headquarters in Chicago and they said they could make it happen, but could not get to it for a week. Max told me that his brother Mouse had less than two weeks and was fading into the last lucid days of his truck-drivin’, Harley-riding life.

OOIDA’s Public Relations Coordinator Norita Taylor and I were thinking fast. How could we help Max make this happen? As we were brainstorming, we thought about a large framed image of the LoneStar that was on our wall at headquarters down by the Membership Department. We went to snatch this framed poster off the wall and send it off ASAP to Mouse while we were trying to find a way to get a LoneStar to Michigan.

In the hall, I ran into Trinette Rogers in Membership. I told her what was up and in two seconds, she had the name of a member in Texas who not only owned a new LoneStar, but a drop-dead gorgeous Harley-Davidson edition.

Trinette’s speedy phone call to Sallie Godfrey hit the jackpot. Incredibly, that night Sallie quickly found a load that would get her truck to the Detroit area. The very next day the truck was northbound, due to arrive in Belleville on Friday. As Trinette and Norita and our crew left the office Thursday night, we thought of that truck rolling toward Michigan and Mouse’s immortal clock ticking. Ride, Sallie, ride, upon your LoneStar ship.

On Friday, the truck arrived but Mouse had taken a turn for the worse and was semi-comatose. He was not able to see the truck up close or take a ride. His brothers, however, met Sallie’s driver and took a load of photos. They went back to their sister’s house where Mouse was sick, but conscious enough to know the truck had come from Texas just for him. Max reports that the pics were loaded onto a computer and Mouse reached out toward the images as he saw them. Not exactly the up-close-and-personal visit, but good enough for Max and the family to cross it off their brother’s bucket list. That was Friday, Feb. 5.

Max called OOIDA yesterday and let us know that on Feb. 6, Mouse was moved to Ann Arbor Hospice where he died one week later. Max and his family wanted to thank Sallie, her driver and OOIDA for the immediate response.

“Who else would do this but another truck driver,” he told me. “Nobody but nobody cares more about a trucker than another trucker.”

Francis “Mouse” McKillop, was born Oct. 28, 1950, in Clifford, MI, the son of Jacqueline Burch and Robert McKillop. He served in the Vietnam War. Franny worked for Kenny Brothers Produce in Bridgeville, DE, for the past several years, and worked for numerous trucking companies.

Mouse enjoyed riding his Harley and deep sea fishing.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

‘911: What is your credit card number?’

The trend of cities and states finding unique ways to dig deeper into its residents’ wallets has hit an all-time low in Loma Linda, CA.

Now when you call 911 for medical assistance in Loma Linda, you could be saddled with a $300 charge. That is, unless you pay the $48 annual fee to use the service. You can read more about that here.

Paying for emergency services really isn’t a new thing. Countless fire departments have charged for services outside incorporated areas forever. That’s one of the reasons volunteer departments gained such popularity – that and the hope for quicker response times.

Of course, you’re going to pay for ambulance rides and the care provided during transport. That’s something else society has come to accept. So if Loma Linda has a shortfall in that area, that’s where it should be addressed.

But paying $300 for a (literally) call for help? What are they smoking?

Back in the day before 911 and enhanced 911, you had a regular “emergency” number to call for help. The state and federal governments saw the need for 911 service and provided grants and all kinds of assistance to municipalities to make that happen.

Heck, the federal government still has grants for cities, counties and even states to upgrade emergency communications equipment. It’s not like that funding has dried up.

So a system that was built and funded by local, state and federal tax money is now going to cost someone in a potential life crisis $300 to use. What happens if they call the non-emergency number? Is that free?

The problem is, and we all know it, other cities will snap up the idea and maybe even apply it to all 911 calls. The fallout from that is easy to see.

Take for example, you’re sitting at home and hear gunshots on your normally very quiet street, followed by screams. You know someone needs help for crying out loud; they are screaming for help and you can hear it.

Do you pay $300 and help out a neighbor in need?

What about the potentially drunk driver you just saw run two cars off the road? Do you call 911 and report it?

The cost of being a Good Samaritan is now $300 – if you’re not an annual member to the club.

What about families who can’t afford the $48 for annual membership? They gamble that they won’t have a life crisis where grandma has a heart attack at their house.

There are cities needing to address frivolous 911 calls. That solution is simple: Charge the offenders. Make them pay and charge them criminally.

But making a buck off a taxpayer-funded system by charging those in dire need is simply asinine.