Norm Nason hired me and was my boss for much of the thirty years I worked at Nason’s Delivery. He passed away recently. When someone dies, I have a tendency to rewind the years and remember them at their most active.
Despite the crushing responsibility of overseeing dozens of employees, and dispatching as many trucks, Norm Nason maintained his good humor and patience most of the time. All told, the equipment and drivers he and his brother Paul directed, logged thousands of miles each day.
Moving freight is a labor intensive, 24 hour a day industry. Trucks have to be emptied and reloaded overnight. I was part of that overnight process for the first half-dozen years I worked at Nason’s. On busy nights, moving freight from ‘inbound’ to ‘outbound’ trucks seemed an overwhelming task. On not-so-busy nights; I and the rest of the dock crew would be walking out the door as Norm was walking in. He started his mornings in a good mood. In passing, he would give us a friendly if not jolly, “go home, get some rest, you guys deserve it”.
Norm smoked a pipe back then; it was a crucial part of his persona. He didn’t smoke in the office, but during lulls in activity at his desk, he could be found in the adjoining ‘driver’s room’. It was a twelve-foot-square room, with a counter top on which drivers could complete their paperwork at the beginning and end of each day.
On easy days, Norm would stand behind the counter, waiting to receive drivers’ paperwork. While he waited, he would be lost in contemplation. He cupped his pipe in hand, tween’ forefinger and thumb, the tobacco barely lit. A small slip of smoke denied that the pipe was merely a prop over which his thoughts were allowed to roam.
If it had been a bad day of setbacks, missed deliveries or breakdowns, Norm would be drawing on the pipe often. The driver’s room would be cloudy with smoke.
The dock was 100 or so feet long, the office door at one end. When Norm arrived in the morning, He would walk down the long dock, an occasional puff on the pipe, glancing into the half-loaded trucks, taking note of how long we had yet to go.
When it looked as though we would be finished soon, Norm’s mood wasn’t dampened much. He simply went into the office and performed his morning routine.
If we had a long way to go, Norm’s walking pace would increase a bit as he traversed the dock, the puffs on his pipe becoming more intense. By the time he returned to the office door, like an old locomotive, clouds of smoke trailed him.
On the dock, at the entrance to the office, there stood a galvanized garbage can. If we were really behind, Norm would kick that garbage can, as he returned to the office. He didn’t stop, it was a fluid movement. The crew would be at various locations up and down the dock, but we could all hear how upset he was by the oomph he put behind that kick.
I don’t remember him verbally chastising the dock crew. He knew our job wasn’t an easy one, but kicking the garbage can was an impromptu message - he wasn’t happy.
We tried to be done in the mornings so Norm wouldn’t kick the garbage can. If we knew we would be late, we emptied the big trash can before he got there. That way he wouldn’t hurt his foot (he had a history of gout) when he kicked the can and we wouldn’t have to pick up the trash, if he kicked it hard enough to knock it over.
Norm was quick to anger but he was just as quick to forgive. A while later, when the trucks were all loaded and the drivers on the road, Norm would call out, “go home, get some rest, you guys deserve it”.
He was a vibrant and good man, he will be missed.