CHAPTER 15: C.F.B. TRENTON – P.O.L.
I found myself working at P.O.L. (petroleum, oil, and lubricants) at the very start of the hangars at the end of the runway. It meant that I’d have to do shift work because aircraft flew twenty-four hours. P.O.L. was a small dirty white shack that was split in two parts. Drivers of the bowsers (gas truck) had the largest section with supply staff having a quarter of the space. There was a grubby bathroom in-between the two sections. When I first entered the office a balding heavy-set sergeant with a large mole on his face greeted me. The corporal explained the shifts as he took me out to see the refueling stand, emergency shut-off valve, and storage shed. He told me that the sergeant came and went as he pleased and he played hooky a lot, especially on Fridays. They both said that the drivers and we covered for each other whatever that meant. The sergeant told the corporal to take me to clothing stores to get all my gear. I signed out coveralls, safety goggles, work gloves, a hard hat, and another pair of work boots. The corporal told me that the fuel ate through polish so don’t bother to do them and that we always wore coveralls over our work dress so we didn’t have to be too picky with ironing as well. After putting my gear in a locker the corporal took me on the transport side where I met a few drivers. Many of them were middle age dirty slobs, with fuel under their nails who looked like they badly needed a bath. They swore, scratched themselves, and spit with a regularity that was disgusting. I had ended up in the most male oriented workplace I could imagine.
About the only positive thing about working on graveyard shift at P.O.L. was that I found I had lots of quiet hours even during the day at the rail side where trains came in. Looking to make the time go faster I thought about taking a course to upgrade my education. There was an office in headquarters that had information about civilian courses in the area. I couldn’t go to regular classes because of working shifts and having no vehicle but there was the option of long distance education and testing at the office. Seneca College offered university courses and all I had to do was buy the text books & motivate myself to study. When I felt ready I told the office and they administered the test on behalf of the college. I actually ended up doing three courses English, Psychology, and Business Marketing.
One day the sergeant in my new workplace got a memo that I was one of several pall bearers at a funeral. All military members were entitled to a military funeral. We had to wear our dress uniform and met at the parade square to take a bus to the location of the ceremony. A young male was playing hockey and just dropped to the ice dead, it was a brain aneurysm. Everyone was in shock and of course his friends and family were devastated. I tear up when the father said a few words and they lowered his casket into the ground. His mother and sister were sobbing, and I had to bite my tongue so I wouldn’t cry too. I didn’t even know the guy so why did I feel so bad? It was probably because I was thinking about how I would feel in her shoes and also because he was so young.
Over the next couple of weeks I was trained how to fuel the trucks. Actually I didn’t touch the nozzle to fill the fuel that was the driver’s job. The supply tech just grounded the truck with a metal clamp and line to the ground, and turned the pump on and off, taking the readings before and after. It was quite easy but at the end of each day I scrubbed the fuel from every inch of my body but I could still smell it. I complained to Dean about the ignorant guys in fact one of the drivers in particular who drove me over to the train site. I don’t know what got into the young grungy driver who took me over one morning, but he stopped the truck half way to the site and leaned over to kiss me. I quickly backed up but he pressed me up against the window and it was only my outstretched arms that kept him at bay. “But I like you” he said. He was quite strong and determined so I shoved him back as hard as I could and yelled at him. Then suddenly he stopped and put the truck in drive gunning it towards the train. He skidded to a stop and without saying a word to me he spun his tires, gravel kicking up and a dust cloud covered his retreat. I was really tired of all the hassle the guys gave me at work. I was disillusioned about the military and how great it was supposed to be. When I told Dean he shook his head in disgust. “Is it me, am I giving out the wrong signals?” I asked crying. “I go to work cheerful, friendly, and full of energy but I never flirt with the guys” I told Dean. He gave me a hug and told me that most males think if a girl is friendly maybe she’s interested. So I decided if that’s the way they wanted it I’d be quiet and distant.
Even my sergeant was becoming much too friendly for my liking and inside my head I groaned and thought not again! It started out innocent with a punch to the shoulder then the sergeant put his arm around my shoulder supposedly like a buddy. Finally it escalated to him following me in his car back to the barracks one night. That was the final straw, he was stalking me. I could see where this was leading and asked Dean what I should do. There was only so long I could avoid him, it was a tiny building. I was afraid to be left alone with him especially when he dropped in one night and there was only one driver way in the back on the radio where he couldn’t hear a thing. Why did this always happen to me I wondered feeling exhausted, tired of fighting off the sexual harassment. Dean told me he was going to talk to someone in confidence to get his opinion. I was thankful for his help. It was only a few days when Dean told me to make an appointment with the base chief warrant officer. I had to go through the sergeant first which made me really uncomfortable but Dean had coached me on what to say; that it was a personal matter and that I’d rather talk to someone outside of supply. I bypassed the supply officers because they had already displayed what they did in “these cases” which was to move me to another section like they did when I was in eight hangar; they moved me and Aaron stayed. Aaron wasn’t punished from what I could see. Dean prepared me for the anger, denial, and coldness that I received from the sergeant but in the end he had no choice but to forward my memo request. I’m sure he must have known it was about him or why else would he be so angry? After an uncomfortable talk with the base chief he said not to worry about it he would handle everything. The very next day with a smug look on his face my sergeant handed me a transfer memo. I was transferred to the north side of the base to a tiny tool crib with only one person working there it was career suicide. Once again it was me that was punished not the real instigator. I cried out of anger and frustration, completely disgusted with how the military handled sexual harassment and inequality. I curdled up in a ball in my room and cried myself to sleep. It felt as if my world had crumbled apart. I felt like I got the short end of the stick but was it that different in the civilian workplace? I hadn’t experienced that environment yet but had read news about women having the same problems in many different businesses. I guess in the eighties women still had a way to go.