Career Assessment. This was amazingly accurate.

Discovered a site in my job search, and this was the free report they gave me. I was amazed at how well they captured who I am, job-wise anyway. It’s www.careerxactcom. Hey, if you are looking for anyone?

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Another Milestone?

Proves that you are never too old to get fired. I'm struggling with whether it is worse to work at the worst job in my life, or getting fired from the worst job in my life?

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Taking Stock

Every once in a while I take stock of my life, partly because it's therapeutic and to see what I was thinking at the time. One of my regrets in life is that I have not recorded either my words or in pictures many things in my life. Video is a much more prevalent part of our society these days, but it wasn't way back when my kids were growing up. Particularly because I am now estranged from my children it would be nice to be able to watch videos of them growing up. Both my son and daughter were heavily involved in sports, yet I don't have a single picture from all those years of hundreds of games.

As for recording my life, you never think at the time that you will ever begin to forget some of the things you experienced during your life. I have been more diligent about it over the last few years, but I never recorded a word before that. I wrote a poem when my son was born and I wrote a poem for my daughter when I moved out West, but that's about it. On one of my many infamous cross-country trips between BC and Brampton, a trip that takes just over forty hours, I had a recorder with me and from that I produced a novel, carefully transcribing every word and printing it. It was about two inches thick on standard 8 1/2 by 11 paper and I called it My Body Time because that was the note I added on every recording. To his considerable credit my Dad actually read it. Somewhere, somehow it got turfed and I don't have the computer file anymore so it's gone, which I regret. It would be fun to not only remember the trip, but to see what I was thinking about my life and future at the time.

So, where am I now? It seems like any record of the things that have happened to me over the past few years has been a tragedy. If it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all. Nothing has gone right, from my health to where I lived, to family, really nothing. Somehow I keep plugging along, believing that by some miracle things will turn around and get better, but it never seems to work out that way. I've certainly had some low points, like lying in the sweltering heat in a men's shelter, wondering if this was the bottom. Things got a little better when I got a job, lousy as it was, to getting an apartment through London Housing and having a little money in my jeans. It wasn't enough though because they, Home Depot, didn't renew my contract and I was back on welfare again.

That was back in December of 2010 and it was also a time my health took a very bad turn. Because I had no money I went six weeks without my meds and ended up in hospital. My sugars were off the charts and I came close to buying the farm. I don't remember five days before I finally managed to get to the hospital. They just monitored me until my sugars came down, gave me three days of basic meds and sent me on my way. Thanks to my doctor at the walk-in clinic, who reached into his own pocket and together with a pharmacist got me my urgently needed meds, I survived. I had had an ongoing battle with Ontario Works, trying to get my meds before it was too late. I wrote them a letter advising that there would be a letter on my cold dead body clearly implicating thing them in my death because they wouldn't help me. Within an hour of delivering the letter I got a call to come in right away. They issued me a drug card, a bus pass and money to buy food.

My job each and every day was to check all the job boards, read the local papers online and research any companies that might be hiring. I also worked with Goodwill, who sent me on a wild goose chase to take courses for my passion - employment counselling, only to have it all fall apart when it turned out to be a post graduate course and I did not qualify to take it. I also went through Leads, whose mandate is to find employment for the disabled, which, by now, I was. They were hopeless and never helped me in any way. In our meetings they would call up a job board, which I knew by heart, and tell me to apply for jobs I had already applied for.

One of the jobs was at a call centre, for which I applied online months before. Out of the blue I got a call from them asking me to come in for an interview, which I did and was hired to start right away. I was praying that they didn't do a CRC (Criminal Record Check), but they did. I figured it was just another job I lost because of this stupid mistake from twenty-five years ago! I was surprised when they called and asked me to explain what happened. The HR person just kept saying that it was twenty-five years ago, so they went ahead and hired me anyway. I was so grateful at the time to finally land a job, but I had no idea what I was in for. They turned out to be the worst employer I've ever seen in my whole life and the stress of the job got so bad that I was shaking all the time and my blood pressure, normally ridiculously normal, was really high and my sugars were off the charts, in the high twenties and low thirties. My doctor said I was a poster boy for a heart attack. I learned about getting Medical EI, so I went off on medical leave to try to calm down, and to find a better job.

My doctor supported my leave, signing the forms required for both my company and EI, showing a return date of sixty days. I hoped this would give me time to find something better, but no such luck. As the sixty days approached the company called me to ask if I was coming back or needed more time? Medical EI runs for fifteen weeks, so I went back to my doctor to get an extension. Instead of continuing to support me he flipped out about not being my family doctor, saying he shouldn't be signing these forms. I might mention that I have been trying to find a family doctor for three years. As we were talking he was writing something on the original form. When I got home I was horrified to see that he had written "open return to work", something I had told him the company specifically would not accept. I scanned and emailed it to HR anyway. Naturally I got a call a few minutes later.

They would not accept this form and told me to find a family doctor to fill out the form correctly, even though they were well aware of how impossible this was. As my benefits were about to run out I contacted EI to see what to do. The agent I spoke with was very helpful and told me they could extend my benefits to the maximum fifteen weeks if I brought in the certificate. She said they accept an "open return" because this happens all the time. I went down to Services Canada to deliver the form, only to meet with a real bitch who looked at the form and said because it was signed on August 20th they might claw back my benefit payments. As if things could not be bad enough! I called my employer to return to work now that my benefits were expiring and I had no choice, but they want a clearance certificate from my family doctor. They know I can't get this because I can't find a family doctor, so now my benefits are about to run out and I can't return to work. So frustrating! Enough to drive me to drink, if only I could afford it.

On the health front things have improved a little. Thanks to increased meds, especially larger doses of insulin, my sugars have moderated considerably. I'm even getting some sixes and eights in the mornings, something I haven't seen in years. My feet continue to be a problem and I'm in pain 24/7, making sleeping really difficult. Walking is no joy either. I've recently discovered a new cream that's helping a bit, but it's no miracle cream. My biggest health challenge is not being able to do anything physical, which I've always done, and the thirty-five pounds I've packed on because of all the insulin.

On the family front things are still sad and confusing. My son came to London back in March and we managed to only squeeze in a forty-five minute visit after seventeen years apart, but he said we would get together "soon" and have a better visit. I was hopeful that I could somehow see my three grand kids, two of whom I have never met. Weeks later and after he hadn't answered several text messages, I called his cell phone, only to learn it wasn't his phone anymore. I started leaving increasingly concerned messages on Facebook, all with no answer. After weeks of trying I sent a not too happy note reminding him that he had done this to me three times already and asking what's going on? He finally responded with a really cruel message, saying in part that I wasn't his real Dad and had no right to see his daughters. Like a knife in my heart. He blocked me on Facebook and said that was the end.

My daughter has made no attempt what-so-ever to contact me after I drove across the country in the dead of winter to see her back in 1994. My wife's new hubby hid her away and would not let me see her. He also wouldn't so much as let me have coffee with my wife of twenty-three years, so that says it all. I did find my daughter on Facebook, but she also blocked me and reported me to Facebook for posting a picture of her. Really sad what people do to each other. My kids both encouraged me to move out West seventeen years ago to be with my mother, who we felt was dying of cancer and didn't have long to live. I never knew that the result was them cutting me out of their lives forever.

On top of everything else going on I had no choice but to file for bankruptcy. Revenue Canada had garnisheed my wages to the tune of 30% plus 100% of my vacation pay. London Housing was already taking 30% and I could barely survive, so living on 40% was impossible. Several people who came to my rescue or believed in me and loaned me money got drawn in to the bankruptcy, which I regret more than anything. I hope I find some way to still pay them back for their faith in me. I keep praying that my lottery ticket will hit and I can reward them big time. I figure the odds are fifty fifty - I could win or I could lose.

Friends and love life are still non existent. For a guy who loved being surrounded by many friends and pretty well was always involved romantically, being alone has been a killer. My last relationship was with the woman who I came to London for and that ended tragically when she screwed around on me. My life revolved around her and her lovely daughter, who I got along with so well. It all ended so abruptly and hurtful. I can't help but think I wouldn't be in this God-forsaken town if it wasn't for her. Can't believe it's been three years since I moved here. I have to find a way to get out before I go crazy. I had asked for a transfer to Chilliwack from my employer, but they won't do anything until I return to work here.

Oh well, there you have it.

The Truth and Nothing But The Truth

The few people who know this story have all encouraged me to write a book about it. Now that I'm off on medical leave, in part because of the stress this situation has caused me and how helpless I feel, I thought it might be time to lay it all out. Part therapy just to vent, but maybe someone, somewhere will read it and learn from it and avoid the mistakes I've made.

There are many idiots in this story, not the least of which is me, but the point is to show just how messed up your life can be if you make just one fatal mistake. It's about getting caught up in a system that's incompetent at the least and filled with frustration at not being able to get anyone to pay attention to your plight. No matter what you think you know, you don't have a clue what it's really like unless you have experienced it first hand. Right from the start many people have said they could not believe things could ever get this bad, but they did.

Up until I started to work for the lift-truck division of American Hoist I had had a number of unmemorable jobs, starting with the TD Bank right out of school. I worked hard to support my family and kept my nose clean. I was working for Able Plastics, a company that extruded foam and I was caught between the husband and wife owner battles on a daily basis. I saw a small ad that TCM was looking for an Administrator of sorts. I met with Gerry Waterhouse, the GM and he hired me on the spot. At this point the company was very much in start-up and had done about two hundred thousand dollars of business. They were housed in a very small warehouse unit, but were expecting a very large order of trucks from Japan. My first job was to find us bigger space. I found a building for lease on Davidson road and spent the next few days negotiating a lease with Rod Rice of Rice Construction. The building was empty so we took possession and built some offices we needed and spruced the place up a bit. It was perfect and we moved in right away.

Business got very crazy very quickly. Our line of trucks was very well received in Canada and our dealer network grew rapidly. Part of my job was to order trucks based on our forecasts, which was tricky because we were looking at three month lead times. I setup a visual planning board which worked really well because I not only knew what was coming and when but also who it was sold to. This allowed the dealers to not only plan sales but also their important rental equipment.

Another part of my job, with my assistant, Betty White, was the preparation of what we called Floor Plan contracts. This gave the dealer up to ninety days interest free to pay for the trucks, unless they sold them ahead of time, in which case payment was due in thirty days. The contracts were sent over to American Hoist's Head Office for signing and sending out to the dealers, then keeping track of the status on each truck. I had volunteered to handle this part after the contracts were signed because I knew the credit limits of the dealers and spoke to them on a daily basis so I would know about sales and units assigned for rental. It only made sense because I needed to know what was in their inventory to better project their needs. Head Office refused and wanted to keep it in-house with them.

The trouble started when I started getting phone calls from our more responsible dealers telling me that they had been calling and calling our Head Office to find out what the pay-out was on a truck they had sold. This then led to me finding out that none of the dealers had ever received a single contract from us! I immediately scheduled a meeting with Head Office to ask what was going on. I met with our controller who showed me a huge stack of contracts that he "hadn't got around to yet". I asked how he knew what trucks were at the dealers; what ones they had sold and what ones were on rental and, most importantly, how much the dealer owed us? He "hadn't had time to setup a system yet". He basically blew me off and told me not to worry about it and just go sell more trucks.

Before I knew it we had sold six million dollars of trucks to our dealers, but still had no clue where the trucks were or how much the dealers owed us. I saw it as a house of cards that was soon going to collapse. Just one dealer taking the money and shutting down would bring us down. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, I got a call saying that the load had shifted on the next ship and all the trucks, $187,000 worth, were saltwater damaged and could not be sold. I contacted our insurance agent and setup a meeting with him to view the trucks when they arrived. I was busy scrambling to place another order when Terry, our Service Manager came in to tell me the damaged shipment had arrived. He commented that, in his opinion, they weren't all that damaged and maybe we could figure out a way to make some money here. I really never thought much about it or really understood what he meant. I wish I had.

The shipment was stored in a closed off compound at the back of our lot. I met with the insurance agent and appraiser and they both agreed that because these trucks were, in essence, "vehicles" there were all kinds of safety guidelines with using them and, because we could not see any hidden damages, the trucks were not to be used and the insurance would pay for the entire shipment, in full. We had to sign documents stating that we understood that the trucks could not be sold as original equipment and we were to have all the material scrapped. Again Terry hinted that it was a shame to see all those valuable parts go to a scrap yard when they were worth a lot of money in his opinion.

A few days later Sam Osmond, our dealer in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia suddenly showed up at our office. I assumed later that Terry had called him to come and look at the "parts" we had in the yard. Terry sent Sam up to me to see if he could buy the shipment. I explained to Sam that we had been paid in full for the shipment and ordered to scrap the entire shipment. There was simply no way that he could buy something that American Hoist no longer owned and had signed off on. As usual with any dealer who visited us, we took Sam out for dinner and drinks. Sam had apparently talked to Gerry and Terry and they had agreed to sell the shipment to Sam for $30,000 cash. Not only did this not feel legal I knew Sam and he was going to sell some of the trucks complete, which could get us in a heap of trouble if there was ever an accident. After much talk and way too many drinks, it looked like I was part of it whether I liked it or not. I rationalized that American Hoist had been paid in full, so they lost nothing. We couldn't do anything other than send them to the scrap yard because American Hoist could not possibly sell them, so it all made sense to me.

When it came to who was going to collect the cash, of course Terry hid in the shop and wouldn't even talk to us. Gerry explained that his absence would be too noticeable, but I could go there under the guise of auditing his lift truck inventory, which no one would question. Being incredibly naive at the time I didn't think about the plane ticket, the hotel receipts or charges to my credit card. Not too bright, I know. I returned with the money and divided it between the three of us. Mine went into my freezer and we always laughingly referred to it as our "cold hard cash". We never did anything special with it really; just paid bills when we were short. Before long it was gone and forgotten.

Knowing that it was only a matter of time before this house of cards collapsed and we were out of work, we started planning our Plan B. Obviously our contracts prevented us from having any discussions with TCM even though we knew they would suffer in the long run when we collapsed. We started researching other companies who had reputable equipment and settled on a company called NYK. As with any major equipment from overseas it's a chicken and egg situation. Dealers need to place orders for the manufacturer to believe there is a market and agree to give you the distributorship for Canada. First we made contact with NYK and expressed interest in taking on the line for Canada. We were invited to a meeting in Chicago. Next, and hugely important to our success, we met with the Bank of Nova Scotia to discuss floor plan financing. It just so happened that our timing was perfect because they were looking to get into heavy equipment financing. They offered a six month interest free floor plan, plus they agreed to give us a line of credit for the first shipment which we estimated at $250k. Next we invited all our potential dealers to a meeting in Caledon, where we wined and dined them, giving each of them a loft suite. The next day I gave them a very complete and effective sales presentation on the NYK line in other parts of the world. They were already hollering out "where do I sign" when I introduced the rep from BNS. The financing plan completely blew them away and they couldn't give me the orders fast enough. We sold out most of the planned original shipment in one day!

Orders in hand, all financed, we jumped on a plane to Chicago for our meeting with NYK. I'll freely admit we were both feeling a little cocky after all this unexpected early success, but we both felt confident that NYK could not refuse us the rights to Canada. I had already drawn up a distribution contract based on the TCM contract with American Hoist, and, most importantly from our experience with the Japanese with TCM we knew how they do business. It is vastly different from how we do business in North America, so we knew how to approach the negotiations. I still remember as the plane was about to land in Chicago I asked Gerry what we should say our company name was. He asked me what I thought and I said I liked "Canada Lift". He agreed and our company was born. (Sidebar - years later, after I had let our name registration lapse, I learned that Coca-cola had applied for the name for a new drink they were planning. We could have been rich!)

We stayed at the Chicago Ohare Hilton only because it was right across from the airport, one of the craziest in the world to get around. As soon as we got settled we called our contact for directions to their office. After all the bowing and introductions we got down to business. We knew how proud a people they are so instead of hitting them over the head aggressively as most North American business people do, we let them have control over the meeting to honor them, knowing that we had an answer for every question they would pose. Some of it we frankly made up on the fly, like where was our warehouse (we didn't have one) and so on, but the big questions, like our national dealer network and, most importantly, our sales blew them away. They were shocked and impressed that we had such faith from our dealers in a product that they didn't even know. The contracts were signed and we had the distributor rights for Canada. We explained that we had the letter of credit in place from BNS, but they faxed our order to the factory before even getting any confirmation from the bank. Talk about faith!

After the meeting, again knowing how they operate, we were invited to dinner at the best Japanese restaurant in Chicago, on their nickel. I have no idea what the bill was for the six of us, but I'm guessing close to a thousand dollars at least. I don't remember the meal too well, but I do remember that I fell hopelessly in love with Sandy, one of our servers. She was blonde and gorgeous. I was feeling overly confident after the score we had just made with getting NYK, so I asked her if she had ever been to Japan? She said no, but added that she would like to go. Of course our Japanese friends were listening to every word and getting a real kick out of what was happening. They weren't too helpful when they suggested it would be a good idea for me to visit the factory now that we were their distributor in Canada, and they would pay for me to fly over. My thoughts were only on Sandy and not any fork-lift factory, but the flirting was becoming all too real. Gerry said she sounded serious and I should go. Finally, as our meal was wrapping up, she came over and very seriously said okay. She would go with me. She only worked at this restaurant this night of the week and she had a few days off. Gerry handed me his gold American Express card and said to go ahead. I deserved it for what I had pulled together with everything to get the distributorship. Airfare was $2400 each and I had his card, but I knew it had to be paid back and, as a new company we had a lot of upcoming expenses to cover. To fly off to Japan with this beauty, tempting as it was, didn't feel very responsible. I wondered what our Japanese colleagues would think of someone doing something this irrational. To my considerable regret I told her we couldn't go right now, but maybe in the future. I often wonder how my life might have changed had I gone. (Gerry reminded me later that you have to fly to LA first and then to Japan. For the cost of flights to LA I could have had a night with the girl of my dreams and then said we had to go back because I was needed in the business.)

Our business with the Japanese complete we said our good-byes and headed out of the restaurant. It was too early to go to bed and we were both on such a high we wanted to go somewhere for a drink. Next thing I know we are in a cab heading downtown. We had asked our driver to take us somewhere where we could hear that famous Chicago blues. He said he knew a great place. He let us out in front of the Black Cat club, which looked like a blues club and we headed on in. The first thing they did was ask us each for a credit card. When I questioned why they said it was only for ID purposes if the police showed up for any reason. That sounded strange, but we wanted into the club, so we both gave them our cards. (I can hear you smirking already) The club was unbelievably dark, but we were led down to a table close to the stage. Before we knew it we were surrounded by these gorgeous girls asking us to buy them a drink, and being, well, friendly to say the least. Our server comes over and asks if we would like to "buy a round"? We say sure and order beers for everyone. Every ten minutes or so our server comes over and asks if we would "like an other round". We were both very distracted by what the girls were doing and never really paid any attention to the growing number of beers on the tables.

At this point I should mention that we had a meeting at 10:00 o'clock in Philadelphia and an early flight at 8:00 to get there. It was now about five o'clock in the morning and we still had a half hour cab ride back to our hotel. By this point Gerry was almost passed out but my head told me we had to get out of there. I asked for our bills. There are simply no words to describe what happened next. The server brought our bills and I looked at mine in the dark haze, with my girl draped over me and saw the total - $540! This can't be right. How much is beer in the States? Seeing the look on my face, my girl asked if I understood how it works? After my obvious NO, she said a "round" was ten minutes with the girls and cost $60, NOT the beers I thought we were ordering. I quickly hollered at Gerry to come to the washroom to figure out what we were going to do. Of course he also had a bill for $540. Here we were in downtown Chicago, surrounded by all kinds of frightening characters and we had been played for fools. I suggested we get upset and tell the server no one told us what a "round" was or we would never have ordered any. We stumbled back to the table and called the server over. As things got a little heated I noticed a big black guy behind us reaching into his coat pocket for a gun. It didn't seem like a good time to argue. We had just signed the contract of our lives and I envisioned us being found in an alley, shot to death. Seemed like a very bad way to finish our trip. I told Gerry to just sign the bill and let's get out of here. I did the same, while protesting to my lovely companion. She said she felt sorry for me and said maybe there was a way should could make it up to me. When I said we were staying at the hotel at the airport she said she wanted to come, but she had no money for the cab. (Yeah, more snickering) I gave her $20 for the cab.

As we headed back to the hotel, fuming and angry at how we had been duped, I reminded Gerry that not only was it $540 each, but that was US funds. At the time the dollar was about .90 US, so the bill would be even higher. Our bills also went to our homes, so I wondered exactly what they would say on them. Our wives would have a fit when they opened the bills. How were we going to explain that? We got back to our hotel and were laying on our beds considering whether we should try to sleep at all or just get ready to leave. After a moment of silence I said "I don't think she's coming". Gerry laughed and said he didn't think his was coming either. We had been duped even more. We did make our meeting in Philadelphia, only I don't even remember what it was about. No wonder.

So we returned to Brampton, contracts in hand and started figuring out our next move. The shipment wasn't coming for a while, and most of it was sold anyway, so there wasn't really any urgency at the moment. As luck would have it the situation with the lack of contracts at American Hoist was becoming critical. They had no clue what was what and had not had a single payment from any dealer because they could not tell them what they owed, not to mention that nothing out there at the dealers was covered by a contract. Situation critical. It was decided that I would visit all of the dealers coast to coast to carry out a complete inventory of all stock; what was in inventory, what had been sold outright and what trucks were in the rental fleet. I started in Dartmouth on Monday and ended in Calgary on Friday. Dealers in the forklift business like to party and drink, so it was a hard week for me.

(Another sidebar to the story - on the flight from Dartmouth to Montreal there was a guy and a very beautiful girl sitting behind me. The guy was going on and on about how wonderful he was and she was answering him politely, but I could tell she wanted to be anywhere else than stuck beside this guy. As we left the plane I commented on how patient she was. She laughed and said he sure was a piece of work. As we went down to get our luggage I made some small talk, telling her why I was here and asking her what she was doing here. She said she was in Montreal to see her cousin. As we chatted I noticed that just about everyone from the flight had picked up there luggage and left. There was no sign of Barb's luggage or mine. I could not believe that the luggage Gods could be this good to me, but they were. After all the luggage had been picked up and everyone was gone there was still no sign of ours. We went down to the missing luggage office and filled out our claims. My dealer, Rene, was picking me up and as we were walking out to the car she asked him where her hotel was. He said it was on the way to my hotel and told her to jump in. During the ride to her hotel Rene said we were meeting with some of his staff and going out for dinner, and asked Barb if she had any plans. I could of kissed him. She hesitated for a moment, but then said she wasn't meeting her cousin until the next day, so she agreed to join us for dinner. Rene offered to come and pick her up later.

As we headed to my hotel Rene could not stop saying how beautiful she was and that he thought she liked me, which, given how hot she was, I didn't quite swallow. Later we had a wonderful dinner and when we got back to my hotel there was a night club across the lane from the hotel. I asked if she danced and she told me she LOVED to dance, so we headed in. She was an amazing dancer and we danced for hours. When it was time for her to go back to her hotel, which wasn't far, I said I wanted to see that she got home safely so I would go with her. In the backseat of the cab things got so hot we fogged up the windows and gave the driver quite the show. When we got to her hotel there was no way I was leaving in the middle of such passion so I went in with her. It turned into the night of my life. We were crazy lustful for each other and we made love seven times, a record for me. In the morning I asked if she wanted me to drop her off at her cousins and she started crying. She told that was a lie and that she was here to go to the abortion clinic because she was pregnant! That one came as quite the shock but I took her to the clinic on my way back to my hotel. It was a very sad parting because I felt I should stay with her to see her through this tough procedure. She insisted she would be okay and didn't want me to mess up my plans. She gave me her phone number and said to call if I wanted to. I never saw her again.)

When I finally made Calgary to see Skip I was pretty wasted and just wanted to get my work done and go to bed. He would have none of that, of course. He drove a big Lincoln with, believe it or not, horns mounted on the hood. I remember noticing a gorgeous blonde in a convertible in front of us. Skip asked me if I wanted to meet her? When I asked how he was going to arrange that, he said he would just hit her gently at the next light. We would then need to exchange information and I could ask her out. I laughed, but to this day I don't know if he would have done that or not. I was so tired and still thinking of Barb that I didn't want to be crashing into any blondes.

I came back to the office the following Monday, armed with full disclosure of what the dealers were to be billed for and what was still on floor plan. Naturally I couldn't get a meeting with Head Office to go over all this to straighten out the mess they had made.

Friday afternoon a bunch of lawyer types and plain clothes RCMP showed up and escorted Gerry and I off the property. We were advised to turn ourselves in voluntarily or we would be arrested at our homes. There was no indication what we would be charged with. When we turned ourselves in the list of charges was extensive and didn't really seem to fit what we thought they were charging us with. Even though I was no lawyer I could not see how they would be able to convict us on anything because American Hoist had not lost a dime, no matter what.

In talking to employees and lawyers we soon learned what was the most ridiculous story, one that would be funny if the results weren't so tragic. Joe Barone, the President of American Hoist, and not the brightest light, had heard all these stories about the damaged trucks being sold, the meeting in Caledon with all the dealers and my trip across the country. He figured there had to be this giant conspiracy against American Hoist where the dealers were selling trucks and not paying us and working with us to destroy TCM. He reported his thoughts to the RCMP who, we were told, spent over two million dollars flying around the country interviewing all our dealers to back-up the conspiracy theory. Not only did the dealers tell them there was no conspiracy, but they also clued them in on what a mess American Hoist's financing plan was in. The RCMP learned a lot, not one bit of which supported Mr. Barone's theory. Some time later the Crown Attorney admitted to me that we were charged only because the RCMP had spent so much money chasing a ghost that someone had to pay.

We knew that they had nothing more than receipts that I was in Dartmouth and that's not illegal, plus they couldn't prove that American Hoist lost a cent, so where was the fraud? We rented an office and warehouse in Oakville and got ready for our first order to arrive. The dealers were getting a great response selling the line and we knew once this original shipment got out there it would be clear sailing. Our BNS rep had dropped by several times and offered to meet with any new dealers we signed and help us in any way possible. Suddenly he called one day and asked if Gerry and I could come down to their Head Office in Toronto to meet with "senior staff". On our drive down we were actually thinking that the big wigs just wanted to meet with their new high-flying clients. Maybe take us out to a ritzy dinner at their private club?

We took the elevator all the way to the top floor and were ushered into a large boardroom where a number of obviously senior execs were sitting at the table. We were in good spirits as we introduced ourselves, right up to the point where one of them, after thanking us for driving down, advised us that they had "rethought" the idea of offering the floor plan financing and were getting out of the business. Well, there went one of the most attractive parts of our dealer program, but we knew we would find someone else to handle it. It was a setback, yes, but not life threatening, that is until they also informed us that they were pulling the letter of credit for the current shipment that was already in transit across the ocean. Now that was a killer! We protested long and loud that they had put all of this in writing to us and this would kill our company. They refused to talk about it and we left. We went to see a lawyer in the same building and, after explaining what happened, he responded that we would no doubt win, but it would take at least ten years and he needed a fifty thousand dollar retainer. His words still echo in my ear, "in Canada it's not about getting justice; it's how much justice you can afford." Gerry actually ended up going to Japan to explain what happened with the bank and trying to keep things afloat but they were scared off by what the bank had done and the deal fell apart. The shipment did actually arrive and BNS stored them in an outside compound even though they were mostly electric lift trucks, so they basically destroyed them. They were eventually sold off at auction for a fraction of what they were worth originally. Even after everything they had done to us the bank came after us for the shortfall of some one hundred and sixty thousand dollars. I sent them a response telling them we would be only too happy to explain what happened in a public courtroom. We never heard from them again.

Obviously now completely broke by the time the court date was coming up I had no choice but to go with a Legal Aid lawyer, who turned out to also be an idiot. As the court date approached I became more and more panicky because I was working at Indal Products in Weston as the Customer Service Manager and had no clue how I was going to explain my absence. The court system is a nightmare and you are never really sure if your case is going to go ahead or not until the very last minute. Once the date was confirmed I felt I had no other choice than to come clean, even if it was going to cost me my job. My President was not the most compassionate man and he could be brutal with people. I was nervous as hell when I asked if we could meet after work around seven when I knew everyone else was gone. It might help to know that I was instrumental in figuring out that the Accounts Payable girl had embezzled over a hundred thousand dollars from the company by creating phony vendors and writing small cheques to them over the years. She was let go with no charges, I guess because there was no chance of recovering any money and the company didn't want the bad press. Anyways, Jon LeHoup, the President, had been very complimentary to me for uncovering this fraud.

So, seven o'clock comes and I am literally shaking. I know in my heart that Jon has every right to fire me and this is clearly what I expected. After laying out the entire story to him I was beyond shocked at his response. Instead of firing me he asked me what he could do to help. He told me to take all the time I needed for the trial and we would say I had a family emergency out West, plus he offered to speak to my character either at the trial or sentencing. Some time later he did appear at my sentencing hearing and spoke glowingly about my performance at work and how I was an invaluable employee who would be sorely missed if I had to do jail time keeping me away from work. I believe he was instrumental in the judge sentencing me to weekends so that I did not lose my job, for which I am forever grateful. I was only sorry that we had to keep this all so secret because I wanted the employees at work to know just how amazing Jon had been to me. Anytime a colleague said something negative about him I was bursting to tell them otherwise.

The trial itself was a complete farce. Sam got on the stand and played the dumb nuffie card, pretending that he knew nothing about any of this "fraud". He had simply seen some parts in our yard and offered to pay for them. When asked why he didn't question paying thirty thousand dollars in cash instead of a cheque to American Hoist he again played dumb and just said that's what we had told him he had to do. Not only did he get off scott free but he also made a fortune selling the "parts" as trucks, including putting some in his rental fleet, exactly what we told him he could NOT do.

Gerry did take the stand and although he also tried to play dumb, the jury just didn't believe him. He was very nervous on the stand and tried to laugh everything off, but even I didn't believe what he said. I told my lawyer to put me on the stand and I would simply tell the exact truth of what really happened. I knew there was no conspiracy to defraud and no fraud. I could prove I had done my job exactly as I should have and that no one lost a penny. He was such a dork and really didn't comprehend the facts. I had been writing out index cards during the trial and handing him the questions to ask, but he never got to the point or managed to get the jury to fully understand that I was not guilty of all the charges that had been laid. He didn't even touch the whole issue of the RCMP running around the country trying to expose this giant conspiracy that didn't exist.

The jury threw out seven of the eight charges and found Gerry and I guilty on one count of fraud. We were both sentenced to week-ends in the Metro West detention centre, Gerry riding on my coat-tails of all the great character references I submitted. He had none. What has always interested me is why no one ever asked who the third person was who was involved. Terry was never charged with anything. The other thing is that if we were found guilty of a thirty thousand dollar fraud, why was there no restitution? Regardless of the decision from the jury I think the judge was smart enough to figure out what a debacle this had been and that American Hoist had not been defrauded out of anything. In his charge to the jury he reminded them that the evidence had to be clear that there was either a conspiracy or a fraud, suggesting that the jury, like him, consider who lost anything here. Too bad the jury never got it.

We did our time, which was brutal. I think every kid should be forced to spend a weekend there and they would think twice about ever doing anything wrong. When you check in you leave any valuables at the entrance. You are strip searched for any drugs or weapons then given your jumpsuit and your paper thin blanket for your filthy bed. You keep you head down at all times and never make eye contact with the guards, who you call "boss" if they ask you something. You eat slop and play cards all weekend with nothing but time to kill. There's some serious characters in there who are waiting to be transferred to other prisons or jurisdictions and you just hope they don't jump you. You rarely speak to anyone to avoid any chance of an argument.

After a few weekends we were offered a chance to do community work instead of sitting on our ass all weekend. We both jumped at the chance to get out and we did things like peel hundreds of potatoes at various churches or clean-ups. Everyone looked down at you like a common criminal and you were treated like dirt. I tried to make the best of it and was always bright and cheery with people I met outside. They soon realized they had nothing to fear and we had some laughs. The three months went fairly quickly although it was really tough to explain my absence on the weekends, especially from hockey. I had never missed a single practice or game since Chris started playing and my sudden absence would certainly be noticed. My wife could only say that I was working, a pretty lame excuse because everyone knew I would never miss a game.

Near the end of my sentence my son's team won a trip to play in Lake Placid in the Olympic arena. It was breaking my heart that I could not be there. I mentioned it to one of the people I was volunteering with and, being a fan and having a son in hockey, she knew how important this was to me. She pulled some strings and the next thing I know the guard is calling me and telling me I have a pass to go but I have to check in Sunday night when we got back. I was beyond thrilled that I got to see him play in such an amazing place although it was really tough to explain where I had been for three months. I don't know if anyone ever believed me.

So, life went on. There were many difficult times through all of this. One was telling my son that I had been convicted. We went for a drive up to Heart Lake and when I said I needed to talk to him about something he started tearing up and asked me if I was dying? When I said no, he asked if we were splitting up? Somehow this softened the blow a little when I told him the truth and what was about to happen. The other tough part of all of this is how my wife just abandoned me after I was charged. She spent the money with no problems, but she never once supported me in any of what happened. We never spoke about it. She never came to court, even for my sentencing. It was somehow all my fault and she wanted nothing to do with it. I was on my own. When I look back I should have left her there and then, but I was stupid and I hung around for many more years and it never got any better.

Story over? Nope. One thing my boob lawyer had said to me was to keep my nose clean and my record would be expunged in ten years if I was a good boy. During this time I had been traveling back and forth to the States and I always worried I would get stopped and they wouldn't let me in, but nothing ever happened. When it had been over ten years since my conviction and I was traveling through the States often, with no issues, I figured the lawyer was right and my record was gone.

Boy, was I wrong!