December, 2002


Snakebites Annual Christmas Story

We here at the ‘Bites are always looking for good copy. At this time of year we especially look for that “perfect” railroad Christmas piece. Here it is.

Christmas in Railville 
(with apologies to Dr. Seuss)

Every Rail down in Railville liked Christmas a lot, 
But the Rail Grinch who ran the Rail's railroad did not! 
His stock price was dropping, his fuel costs were high! 
Well, it must be the fault of some blue-collar guy! 
"They'll expect the day off, with their kids out of school, 
As my freight trains sit idle, just burning up fuel." 
He fumed, as he stood there and he chewed on his nails, 
And he looked down on Railville, just hating the Rails. 
He puzzled and mused, and he wracked his Grinch brains, 
"There must be some way to put men on my trains. 
The schedules all say, 'in event of emergency,' 
I can run Rails, who are fresh out of surgery, 
Filling my trains up, and running my freight, 
I'd better get started before it's too late!" 
He stood in his suite, up on top of his tower, 
Screeching out orders for over an hour. 
"The fuel costs are rising, we have to move fast, 
And run all our trains 'til the "danger" is past. 
Emergency orders are now on the way. 
Christmas will be just another work day!" 
The crew callers called all the first-out Rail houses, 
Waking up Rails and their kids and their spouses, 
"Emergency orders! You have to move quick!" 
"Christmas is canceled, we hear, from Saint Nick!" 
The Rails and their kids and their dogs and their wives, 
Resented the Grinch's effect on their lives. 
The Rail Grinch had thought that it just might be fun, 
To personally call up a Rail around one. 
"Hello? Who is this? Is the Papa Rail in? 
I've got to run trains and I really need men." 
The voice that replied was both nervous and shy, 
'Why are you taking my Dad away? Why?" 
But that nasty Rail Grinch was so crafty and slick, 
He thought up a lie and he thought it up quick. 
"Your gift's in a boxcar way out there my Dear, 
Your Dad needs to get it and bring it back here." 
"Now, go wake your Daddy," the evil Grinch said, 
"By the way, did I tell you that Santa is dead?" 
His phone double clicked- it was Rail Grinch call waiting- 
And he learned of the storm that had been his creating- 
Then he heard the bad word come from his minor Grinches, 
Of Rail freight train speeds that were measured in inches. 
The words that his soulless Officials had said, 
Rattled round and gained speed in his corporate head. 
"The Rails all rejected our Christmas Yule tidings, 
They're killing their trains on the main between sidings, 
There's even reports that the sons-of-a-bitches, 
Are tying down switchers on top of the switches. 
They're laying off sick and they're laying off lame, 
They're claiming diseases that don't have a name!" 
"They're killing their trains or they're dodging our calls. 
They're claiming fatigue! Oh the balls! Balls! Balls!! 
"Our "Visions and Values,' they say, with a laugh, 
Apply just to us and our corporate staff. 
The tracks are all plugged and we can't move the trains. 
They've blocked all the sidings and yard tracks and mains. 
I really don't know, but I'd hazard a guess, 
A week will be needed to clean up this mess." 
Well what happened next? Well, the Rails all surmise, 
That the Rail Grinch's sphincter grew three times in size. 
The poor little thing was so over exerted, 
By the size of the things that the Rails all inserted, 
That the Grinch rubbed his butt, as he wiped off a tear, 
And he said, "I don't think we'll work Christmas, next year."

(Special thanks to S.G. Palmer, K-Falls, Ore.)

Griever’s Corner

Well, here it is; another Christmas holiday, another year-end celebration, and another reason you can’t lay off! Oops, I think my bah-hambug spirit just showed up. The carriers still insist on keeping absenteeism, that is, uncompensated time off, to about 8% here in the Roseville service unit. (As an aside, I’d like to say that the way this chickenshit outfit pays claims, a lot of our on-duty time is also uncompensated.) People in prison have more options than some of our road brothers. Just remember: As long as there are switchmen, there will be a five-day work week…Brother Tom tells me that there are managers out there who spend a lot of dough on night-vision equipment to watch us as we attempt to comply with the rules. Problem is, as he sees it, they haven’t got enough sense to hang onto the expensive stuff, leaving it around where any old dirty-necked rail can walk off with it. Thanks, dummies…Ever since Dick D. sponsored his boy Cheney and vice-president Dubya, he thinks he runs the place. They figure they can modify the Family Leave Act to suit their needs. Ask anybody who’s applied lately…RCO has become a reality for many of our brothers around the country and we here in Roseville are targeted to begin training in February. Just a couple questions though: Who the hell’s gonna pay for the notary so these nazis can look up my driving record? And why the hell do they need my driving record, anyway? Am I gonna operate this junk on the highway? Yet another assault on our liberties by Uncle Pete and his lackeys in Washington….Keep looking over your shoulder. It’ll be a weed-weasel, government spy or runaway RCO locomotive….Of special note: Mark Chastain, switchman, spinner of tall tales, father figure to the night shift and former editor of this here rag has pulled the pin. Effective Oct 31, Mark is a civilian. We will miss his good humor and great stories on the lead, but we hope to hear from him from time to time as he gets used to his freedom. A long, happy and well-deserved retirement to you, pal! As always, work safe and look out for each other. Oh, yeah, Happy Holidays!

Dear Dan Landers (advice for the switchworn)

Dear Dan,
I know how gravity and inertia cause things loose on rail cars to become fixtures in the yard. I carefully step over those that land in the walkway. My question concerns the various non-metallic, extremely odiferous, rank stuff between the rails. I have collected samples from several of the rotting piles of alliaceous gunk to send to the superintendent to apprise him of what his rail yard smells like. I know that as soon as his senses are thusly affronted, cleaning crews will be dispatched to right the situation. Please, Dan, I need the super's address.
Galoshes Gibson
Yard/Road Pin-puller

Dear Gibby,
As you know, I am not allowed to give out top-secret info such as you are asking for. However, in this case I’ll give you an alternative. Wrap the stuff in a plain brown wrapper and leave it on the front steps of any UP building you choose, 1416 Dodge Street in Omaha comes to mind. Let’s cut out the middleman. Besides, I hear the Super actually likes rotten, fermented onions. 
Yours for odoriferous anonymity,

Entertainment and Sports Dep’t

There is a new game in vogue at the Harriman Dispatching Center these days 
with nearly 100% participation. It's called the Harriman Center Dare Game and points are awarded as follows:

1) Run one lap around the office at top speed.
2) Groan out loud in the toilet cubicle (at least one other non-player must be in the toilet at the time).
3) Ignore the first five people who say 'good morning' to you.
4) Phone someone in the office you barely know, leave your name and
say, "Just called to say I can't talk right now. Bye."
5) To signal the end of a conversation, clamp your hands over your head.
6) When someone hands you a piece of paper, finger it, and whisper huskily, "Mmmmmmm, that feels soooooo good!"
7) Leave your zipper open for one hour. If anyone points it out, say, "Sorry, I really prefer it this way".
8) Walk sideways to the photocopier.
9) While riding an elevator, gasp dramatically every time the doors open.

1) Say to the corridor manager, "I like your style" and shoot him with double-barreled fingers.
2) Babble incoherently at a fellow dispatcher then ask, "Did you get all that, I don't want to have to repeat it."
3) Page yourself over the intercom (do not disguise your voice).
4) Kneel in front of the water cooler and drink directly from the nozzle (there must be a 'non-player' within sight).
5) Shout random numbers while someone is counting.

1) At the end of a meeting, suggest that, for once, it would be nice to conclude with the singing of the national anthem (extra points if you actually launch into it yourself).
2) Walk into a corridor manager’s office and while he watches you with growing irritation, turn the light switch on/off 10 times.
3) For an hour, refer to everyone you speak to as "Bob".
4) Announce to everyone in a meeting that you "really have to go do a number two".
5) After every sentence, say 'mon' in a really bad Jamaican accent, as in, "Da report's on your desk, mon". Keep this up for one hour.
6) While an office mate is out, move their chair into the elevator.
7) In a meeting or crowded situation, slap your forehead repeatedly and mutter, "Shut up, damn it, all of you just shut up!".
8) At lunchtime, get down on your knees and announce, "As God is my witness, I'll never go hungry again."
9) In a dispatcher’s diary, write in 10am: "See how I look in tights".
10) Carry your keyboard over to a fellow dispatcher and ask "You wanna trade?".
11) Repeat the following conversation 10 times to the same person:
"Do you hear that?" "What?" "Never mind, it's gone now".
12) Come to work in army fatigues and when asked why, say, "I can't talk about it".
13) Posing as a maitre d', call a corridor manager and tell him he's won a lunch for four at a local restaurant. Let him go.
14) Speak with an accent (French, German, Porky Pig, etc) during the morning meeting.
15) Find the vacuum and start vacuuming around your desk.
16) Hang a two-foot long piece of toilet roll from the back of your pants and act genuinely surprised when someone points it out.
17) Present meeting attendees with a cup of coffee and biscuit, smash each biscuit with your fist.
18) During the course of a meeting, slowly edge your chair towards the door.
19) Arrange toy figurines on the table to represent each meeting attendee, move them according to the movements of their real-life counterparts.

(Editor’s Note: Remember, these folks tell us when and where to run the trains!

We Get Letters
(Every once in a while we hear from our old pal Billy Bob who, after unsuccessfully undergoing extensive psychiatric treatment and escaping from solitary confinement, has decided to continue his education in order to enhance his career opportunities. Herewith his latest.)

Checked out my grades for the Fall 2002 semester yesterday. I made a B in Principles of Business and an A in Principles of Management. Do not trifle with me. This knowledge, coupled with my knowledge of the 4th Edition of the General Code of Operating Rules and a few other rulebooks makes me a force to be reckoned with. I will soon dominate 
railroad transportation in North America. Pity now the poor dweebs running Union Pacific. I hope they like the compound with the electrified barbed wire fences and hungry bull mastiffs I will be leasing from Barney Archer.

It is my express intention to open a gun, liquor, and porno shop on the south side of Conroe. I wanna be of service to what's left of the middle class of our society. If my store fails, I will live off of the proceeds of my wife's earnings as a pharmacist. Or, I could write a book exposing the mysteries of Union Pacific RR and how Drew Lewis and, later, Dick Cheney, came to be of such great service to said same company.

Yours for mental health and automatic weapons,
Billy Bob
Conroe, People’s Democratic Republic of Texas

SNAKEBITES Annual Awards

Every year about this time we honor some of our local folks here in Roseville for their hard work and dedication to railroading excellence. But meanwhile we offer…

The B.A. Figgeroa Stack-Em-Up Trophy to KC berg and Mike Harbour for proving that lightning really does strike twice.

The Carl Bradley Spiffy Dresser Award, once again no contest: Rod Chandler.

The “Survivor” Award, to Lee Neal, who still works here. On the night shift, anyway.

The Be-Careful-What-You-Wish-For Award, to Punky Poff, on his promotion to DTS and his new office right down the hall from you-know-who!

The Todd Ray Memorial Welcome Award, to DJ Smith, Punky’s replacement and a former SP officer. Good luck, pal. You’re gonna need it.

The Sam Kephart Truancy Award, to everyone who made the list this year and especially those who did it on purpose.

Yardmaster of the Year Award, is a tie this year. Jim Bradley, for consistently getting three trim engines on the same lead, and Bill Headrick for the best hump counts, no matter which rail they go in.

Editor’s Notes

So ends another year of fun and games on the railroad. We hope that you’ve enjoyed our stuff a bit and look forward to even more good times next year. A special thanks to all our contributors, we couldn’t do it without you. On behalf of the Roseville switchmen we would like to wish each of you a safe and prosperous holiday season.