How I Became Spike Master D… Or, What’s In A Name?

So, aside from being The Aural Retentive, I am also known as Spike Master D. I thought I had written about this before, but I only found one mention in a previous post and it just said “More on that later”… so I guess now is later.

This has only a scant connection to music, so I am stretching here, but it was music that started it in a way, so I’ll allow it.

When I was in grade school there was a kid in my grade who was called Spike. I always thought that was the coolest nickname. When I changed schools some years later I tried to brand myself with that, but it never took. I was just plain old Mike. I let it go.

Fast forward many many years and I end up working in a factory driving forklift. It was steady work and what I needed then, but eventually I ended up going back to school and getting a job in IT. During my time there at the factory though I made several pivotal friends. Dalton for one. If you read this blog you know about Dalton. He worked as a box strapper or bander as we called it, on the assembly line next to mine. We talked music all the time and eventually became lifelong friends. Miss you bud.

When I started at the factory I grabbed cabinets off the hot shrink line and burned my hands constantly, but it was a job and I NEEDED one, bad. I was thrilled. Eventually a place on the line scraping glue from the edges of boards came up and I moved to that job with delight. From there I ended up at the end of the assembly line strapping the boxes together. I think I worked on the line for about a year when a chance to drive forklift came my way.

I had driven a forklift extensively at another factory job I had had (which I got because my handwriting was the clearest of the 5 candidates – thank you Universe!) so I parlayed that into a chance to become a coveted forklift driver. I got it. I had that job picking and delivering cardboard boxes to the assembly lines to pack furniture in for several years.

This is the time I became, to my delight… Spike! There were radios that each of us had on out lifts that were used to call orders, or for the line folks to check with us on their deliveries or whatever. We were on them a lot. Trouble was at one point we had 3 Mike’s driving forklift. It got really confusing on the radio. So we all chose nicknames. This was my chance! I declared myself Spike. I spent about 10 years being Spike. The other 2 Mike’s became Hans and Virgil.

Then a different forklift job came available and I stepped into it. This is the job I was to have for many years. Too many actually, but it was my life.

Instead of driving a propane fueled forklift like you would expect to see on a loading dock, I became a stand up driver. This was an electric lift which was used in the “wide aisle” where the long or deep parts were stored. This was opposed to the narrow aisle lifts of which we had 2 that handled the short and narrow parts.

This is similar to what I drove:

It gives me a shiver to look at this now. It was such a weirdly satisfying job that took me nowhere for a long time until I went back to school and eventually got out. While I was there though I was the king of this lift. I suited me.

I pulled the following shot from a video shoot we did at work for fun one day. They look terrible, but you get the idea of what my favorite ripped flannel looked like and the heights the parts were stored at. It was scary sometimes.

At the far end of the picture above, was the drop off spot. The “pusher” would use a track and cart system to deliver the parts to the line or bring back the leftovers back to be return to the racks. This was hard physical work and I respected it. I knew I had a plumb job and though there were days that were hard and the pace was ridiculous we did have one perk. A radio.

See the music connection? I know, weak. That radio though was a lifesaver and we took turns between the 3 drivers and 1 pusher on what station we listened to. Sometimes it was rock, sometimes it was Top 40, but whatever it was, it was always better than listening to the sounds of our own work. This radio was at the end of the pusher line at the drop off end and so it was the place to be and linger if you could. Lots of times we took break there just to listen.

So, back to Spike Master D.

For a while we had a pusher called Norm. I had known him for a bit, and he was a skinny long-haired kid that I had doubts would be able to handle the job, but he did well actually, and we talked a lot about music when I was dropping off/picking up and listening to the radio. He was a guitar player and loved rock. He loved Frank Zappa and metal bands like Queensryche and Tool. We got along great.

One day, when he was having a rough physical day, he came back to the drop off area with a huge stack of parts for me and found me singing to Young MC’s “Bust A Move” and was kind of disgusted. The radio had been tuned to Top 40 that day and Norm was not loving it. He stated flatly something like “yeah, like you’re a rap guy” and snorted. Then he laughed a cathartic laugh and shouted “Spike! Spike Master D!” and shook his head and took more parts out to the line. I think it was  a morph of Heavy D and The Boys and Grandmaster Flash? Either way it was funny. From then on he called me Spike Master D. It stuck with the other workers around too.

So to the line folks I was Spike and to the other drivers and Norm I was Spike Master D.

Norm ended up getting a job in the parts cutting area and I hardly ever saw him after that, but his impact on me was forever. I would have to drive down to that area every so often and I would stop by and talk to him. We exchanged music now and then. I gave him a copy of David Bowie’s “Outside” (he love it) and new Smashing Pumpkins and he gave me copies of Zappa stuff I had never heard of.

So the factory was a weird place to have been stuck for years and years, but eventually when I went back to school, I got to move to the Engineering department (because they knew I was taking computer classes and could use Excel. Mad skills that every grade school kid knows now.

None the less, that was where I met Kris B. who turned me on to a whole new world of music and styles. I have him to thank for knowing about Buckethead and DJ Shadow. In the engineering department I used my portable CD player that would play MP3 CD’s and absorbed Kris’s entire collection slowly over the year or so I worked up there.

Then I moved on to the Maintenance department who needed help with parts tracking and schedules and I created an Access Database for. My boss there allowed me to play music on my computer speakers, he loved Springsteen. It turned out to be my final short-lived stop on my factory tour.

When I finally finished school I got my current job and had to say goodbye to my friends at the factory. It was bittersweet. I had been there for a dozen or more years and it really shaped parts of my life and psyche, introduced me to different music that shaped me going forward, and kept me alive when I needed a job badly, but it was time to move on. I’ll always look back at the good parts of the job though, and I will always have Spike Master D.

I used it as my school e-mail, and seems silly when I fill out my e-mail on official forms, or tell it to someone over the phone, but it’s me and mine for life.

Thanks Norm wherever you are.

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