Slow Down. Please.

I had a different post (almost) ready to go. It is interesting, but a bit long. I thought that many of you might still be emerging from food comas two days after Thanksgiving and accordingly would appreciate something short with a striking visual and a gentle reminder.

And here we go!


The foregoing incident, as near as I am able to determine, took place in 2017 in a multi-goods warehouse in South Africa. Videos of similar occurrences in a cheese storage facility in England in 2015 and a Russian facility in 2017 are also online. This one, however, is the one to which I keep returning. 

We can learn a number of things from this video. Most are important throughout the holidays in a variety of settings but apply throughout the year as well:

— There is a reason that patience is called a virtue.

— Life, like football, is a game of inches.

— “Maximum load capacity” is not a suggestion.

—  When given a choice between “set-up” and “clean-up” always choose “set-up” and leave before “clean-up.”

— Never turn your back on the FNG (an acronym for a term meaning “the new employee”).

I hope that you continue to enjoy your weekend. If you are feeling overwhelmed, please try to remember that this too shall pass. The same, alas, cannot be said of the poor soul who found second gear on the forklift. Once. My understanding is that he did live through this but is working in a different occupation.

Have you ever witnessed a catastrophic incident? Did it provide you with a spark or element for a story?

Enjoy and be well. And thanks for stopping by today on one of the busiest weekends of the year.

Author/physician Steve Hooley will be taking over the alternate Saturday slot commencing next week on December 5. He is a terrific guy with multiple talents and will give us plenty to think about. 


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About Joe Hartlaub

Joe Hartlaub is an attorney, author, actor and book and music reviewer. Joe is a Fox News contributor on book publishing industry and publishing law and has participated on several panels dealing with book, film, and music business law. He lives with his family in Westerville, Ohio.

43 thoughts on “Slow Down. Please.

    • First! Since you put that in the past tense, Terry, I assume that you no longer volunteer for anything. I try not to either. Have a great weekend.

    • Carolyn, my understanding is that he lived through it. It seems impossible, but if you look closely at the video the force of the collapsing materials on stage right knocks him off of the forklift onto stage left, where he is buried by the materials on that side. He apparently was not struck or impaled by the shelving.

      Have a great weekend, Carolyn!

  1. In the supermarket several years ago I was reaching for a liter of Coke on an upper shelf. Somehow it slipped my grip and fell, cap side down, on the floor. In a demonstration of chemistry and physics which I’m sure I could not reproduce in a hundred tries, the plastic bottle exploded like a rocket, shot up and over three aisles, landing at the feet of someone in the Deli section. I stood there, both amazed and aghast, when I heard a manager’s voice shouting, “What just happened?” I dutifully reported the incident and offered to pay up, but was given a pass by the manager who kept smiling and saying things like, “That’s so amazing.”

    I have yet to use that in my fiction. I’m sure MacGyver could have done something with it.

    • That’s a great story, Jim. You are too young to remember when all soda came in glass bottles (yes, I know) but in the bottling company warehouses on hot days bottles waiting to be shipped out would occasionally explode with the shards causing a chain reaction. The workers would hear a POP! POP! POP! and hit the ground until it stopped.

      Speaking of MacGuyver and soda…you can make a glow stick/flashlight with Mountain Dew, hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda. Leave about four ounces in a sixteen-ounce plastic bottle of Mountain Dew, and add a pinch of baking soda with three caps of hydrogen peroxide to the mix, cap, shake, and you’re ready to amuse everyone!

      Thanks for the great story, Jim!

    • I’m 4 10. Supermarkets are stocked like most shoppers play pro basketball. I once cautiously started pulling a six-pack of Pepsi off a shelf above me. The stocker had managed to entangle it with others so a bunch six-packs were dangling above me with no way for me to shove them back and no way to avoid impact. My “Help” with my voice trained by school choir and teaching filled the entire supermarket. Fun times.

      • It’s been said that Lee Child got his name for Jack Reacher when he assisted a woman getting something off a high shelf, and she said, “You could get a job as a Reacher.”

  2. Wow, Joe. Talk about a domino effect. That’s enough to make one scurry out of the aisle in a warehouse-style store when a forklift is approaching.

    I “witnessed” (heard, didn’t see) an accident near Gatlinburg, Tennessee some 20 – 30 years ago. It’s still seared into my brain. I was standing outside a restaurant, when a loud boom announced that two cars had collided at high speed. The cars could be heard crashing down the steep mountainside for a second or two. Then all was quiet. I ran across the road and worked my way down the rubble and thick trees to find two cars, wedged between trees. Multiple passengers in shock. No way to get to them until the emergency squads and jaws of life arrived. The feeling of helplessness was sickening. I haven’t used the incident in any story. The thought of it this morning makes my gut tight.

    On a more pleasant note, thanks for the introduction. I look forward to sharing the Saturday Morning Post duties with you.

    • Thanks for that story, Steve. At least you showed up. That’s more than a lot of people would have done.

      When my office was downtown in a highrise I heard a crash — like you did — and looked out of the window to see a car (#1) sitting smashed against a bridge rail with another wrecked car (#2) behind it in the intersection. I watched the driver of #2 jump out of the car and run past #1 and down the embankment. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. It developed that the driver of #1 had experienced a heart attack — fatal, it turned out — while driving. His car had gone through the intersection against the light, hit #2, bounced off of it and struck a pedestrian who had been getting ready to cross the bridge, knocking him down the embankment. The driver of #2 was an FBI agent (!)(the Columbus headquarters was less than a block away at the time) and jumped out of his car to come to the aid of the pedestrian, who he was able to assist until emergency services arrived. I was standing in my office feeling helpless too, more so because I had no idea what was going on.

      Thanks for sharing and we will see you here next week, Steve!

    • True story: During my fire service training for mass casualty incidents, we were taught to get on a bullhorn or PA system and announce, “Anyone who needs to go to the hospital, needs to gather at [local obvious landmark].” Then, since those people were conscious enough to hear the direction, and mobile enough to comply, they by definition moved down a step on the triage list.

  3. Wow. I’m always fascinated by the Falling Domino effect, but am usually content to watch actual dominos doing it. This one was something else!

    You were my first First Page critiquer here, and I’ll always remember you for that. Good luck in your next endeavors!

    • Harald! Thank you so much for remembering and for your kind words. I hope that you are moving full speed ahead toward success!

      • Debbie, thank you, but you and Harald give me too much credit. Each of you did all of the heavy lifting.

  4. Happy Saturday, Joe

    Any traces of tryptophan I had left in my system have been expunged by this video.
    Glad no one was apparently seriously injured. I felt for that poor pallet jack sitting off to one side, swept up in the disaster 🙂 The domino effect is *not* just an expression.

    It beautifully emphasizes my own favorite workplace saying, “safety first.” And I said that while working in a library. No catastrophic incidents from my long career there.

    The last branch I worked at (for 15 years) opened in 2004. Since Portland is near the Cascadia Subduction Zone, the building was built to newer earthquake code. The books shelves were all bolted to the floor and that floor was held up by “seismic” supports that went down through the garage below to the bedrock. It meant when a bus or a cement truck trundled past the building, you could feel a slight vibration. I’d reassure any patron who noticed that vibration that the building is supposed to do that 🙂

    Thanks again for today’s post, the reminder to slow down, and the buck up to hang in there. We’ll all get to the far side of our current state of affairs. Have a great Saturday!

    • Thanks and Happy Saturday to you, Dale! I never thought about the impact earthquakes would have on libraries, thanks for sharing that story. I would imagine that vibration would have startled more than a few patrons.

      Have a terrific weekend!

  5. My husband and I watched the video together. I can safely say that I will remember it for a long, long time…and the warning it imparts.

    We were actually involved in a catastrophic (to us) event on a mountain pass about 30 or so years ago. Hit a patch of ice in our Bronco. Ended up in the oncoming lane, spinning around several times before coming to rest on the side of the highway, grill gently resting on the guard rail. The view straight ahead of us was tree tops. For a full 3-4 minutes, we stared at those trees.

    I still remember the sensation of spinning in slow motion. Today, if someone just mentions the name Blewett Pass, the bile rises to my throat.

    I think I have a WIP this experience would enhance. Thanks for the post, Joe!

    And a welcome in advance to you, Steve. Looking forward to learning from you, particularly since you’re a physician. I’ve spent most of my day job career in the medical field in various capacities…loved it.

    • Deb, thanks for sharing that frightening story and telling it so well. I just looked up Blewett Pass and my heart went into my throat. It’s doubtful that I will ever be in that vicinity…I’ll make a point not to be! Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Whatever company that is in the video, I doubt very much they were abiding by the requirements set by local law with regard to the shelving/racking. I assume such requirements would exist in South Africa. We have a lot of them here in the US.
    Where I work, in the factory section, large bins (about 5 foot cubes) filled with stamped steel parts are loaded on shelves that go up a full eighty feet. The steel girders that have to be used (according to regulation) for the racking are impressively thick. The whole area is fenced off. Only robots are allowed in, but we still must follow those rules.
    That poor driver. I hope those boxes were filled with Styrofoam or corn puffs.
    I once witnessed a landslide. Part of a mountain sloughed off and came cascading down the slope during a typhoon. I was a great distance away and it was in the middle of nowhere. It was a small landslide, but still impressive to see. Thankfully, nobody was around to get hurt.

    • Thanks for sharing, Carl. My son is a warehouse forklift operator and said that his company shows the crew videos like that on a regular basis to remind them of how quickly things can turn badly — a lesson for all of us — and to illustrate that regulations are by and large there for a reason.

      Have a great weekend, Carl.

  7. Wow! That’s some video, Joe. It reminds me of research I conducted into coffins rocketing from the earth in New Orleans (a high water table and decomposition doesn’t mix). Hence why they bury their dead above ground. 😉 Imagine?

    • Hurricane Floyd followed another hurricane that dumped lots of water on the coastal region of North Carolina. Essentially, a third of my state was under water. (I was well west of that, and my family members on the coastal plain were fine.) One of the most horrifying sights on the local news was coffins and dead farm animals dangling from trees as the water went down.

    • Sue, what you describe is one reason why New Orleans has such a reputation for being haunted. Folks would walk by St. Louis Cemetery #1 and hear the thumping caused by the coffins rising up against the ground surface. It must have been quite a sight when the coffins broke loose and went flying. We were born at the wrong time!

      Thanks and have a great weekend, Sue!

  8. Amazing video, Joe, and Happy Saturday! I saw the Russian vodka factory one, but this was new to me. Have I ever witnessed a similar experience? I heard it rather than saw it. When I was in elementary school (late 60s) two freight trains collided in my hometown near the school. One train was stopped and on the wrong track. The other train was in the right, rounding third and headed for home at full speed. They met head-on.

    There was a massive explosion and fire with the two lead engines melting and welding themselves together. Miraculously, most of the crew on both trains jumped and ran with only one death. I got a takeaway from that day. As you go through life, make sure you know what track you’re on.

    • Thanks for sharing, Garry! And Happy Saturday back to you!

      Your description of the crew jumping ship reminded me of an aptitude question: Can you make decisions quickly in an emergency? A) Yes B) No C) Maybe.

      And now, for some reason, I hear Canadian Railroad Trilogy by Gordon Lightfoot playing in my head. Have a great weekend!

  9. OMG! That was domino-falling awesomeness in a terrifying way. There’s no way that shelving was legal or made to carry the weight of all that cheese because warehouse shelving shouldn’t do that. So, so many lawsuits and laws broken, I’m sure.

    For a peaceful introvert whose careers required sitting on my rear in front of a computer, I’ve had lots of things happen to me that have fueled my fiction. Horseback riding disasters. TWO murder attempts including being chased by a random car outside of a mental health facility when I was walking to college classes. And staring down a pack of feral dogs with my puppy between my feet. My internal momma grizzly bear snarled at them, and they backed off.

    My remaining novel, still in print, starts with a disaster that happened to my brother, though. He restored wooden yachts, and one exploded on him when he had it out. My book yacht had a bomb as part of the mix, but his recounting of the events helped make the scene real.

    • Thanks for sharing, Marilynn. Peaceful introverts are by no means immune from trouble. It sounds like you were prepared, however, or at least able to be effectively reactive. Good going! Hope your brother was okay. Have a great weekend!

  10. Talk about an inciting incident, Joe!

    I’ve seen that video before but its impact doesn’t lessen with repeated viewing. And such a metaphor for life.

    Got a kick out of: “Maximum load capacity” is not a suggestion.

    Although far from as catastrophic as this incident, I have a forklift story. Once upon a time, we owned a rental equipment business, including a Bobcat that had a forklift attachment.

    An operator was using the Bobcat’s forklift to move a 20′-long gluelam ( ) up an extremely steep 15′-foot-wide driveway with barriers on either side. The driver figured he should lift the forks as high as they could go to avoid the obstacles on either side, not considering the heavy gluelam was way above the roof of the Bobcat. Talk about top heavy.

    We got a frantic call and arrived on scene to find the Bobcat upside down on its head, having toppled over backwards from the weight of the gluelam. Amazingly, the operator wasn’t hurt. The poor little over-stressed Bobcat had to be uprighted by a big commercial tow rig.

    No, the operator did not get his deposit back from renting the Bobcat.

    • Wow, Debbie. That incident would certainly give a business owner like yourself a negative attitude. That said, a video of the occurrence would certainly be a hit on Youtube. I’m thinking that there must be something about being able to operate heavy equipment that gives one the impression, at least, that they have the world by the tale with a downhill pull. Actually, I guess that’s true, in some circumstances. Thanks for sharing that great story, Debbie!

  11. Joe, I will miss your Saturday musings. With work I rarely get here Monday through Friday, but try never to miss your Saturday spots, even if it’s too late in the day to comment. I always find you insightful and interesting. Best of luck going forward

    Years ago, while working in a grocery store, my manager called me to the back room. Jellies and preserves by a well known company were on sale that week. One wall in back held thirty or forty cases of said delights, ready for an endcap display. My manager, in loading a cart to begin work building the endcap, knocked over the entire wall of them. Guess who got voluntold to clean that sticky mess! And I wasn’t even the FNG, hahaha. A character building experience.

  12. Douglas, thanks so much your kind words. Two points of clarification: 1) Steve will be here on alternate Saturdays beginning on December 5, and I will continue on alternate Saturdays commencing on December 12. 2) You are never too late to comment at TKZ, on Saturday or any other day of the week ending in ‘y,’ because we never close! We appreciate every reader and every comment.

    Thanks for the story about your supermarket employment experience. I had a very similar experience while working for an Ohio grocery chain in the 1960s. In my case the display was already built and was composed of cans. I backed into it and it went tumbling. In the middle of a Saturday. I was amazed that I wasn’t fired. I still had to clean it up.

    That jelly company you were talking about now sells more coffee than jelly, believe it or not. It also owns Folgers and Cafe Bustelo.

    Thanks again for sharing, Douglas.

  13. Catastrophic incident? Choices abound. Hmmm. I was in a fatal bus accident in Peru. Write about it? Seeing a human smashed across the front panoramic windshield of your bus looks pretty much like you think it would. When his head goes under the wheel you are sitting over it feels exactly like you think it would. When the bus stops and you look out your window the head and body will look exactly like what you think a human will look like after after being hit by a bus and rolling under the wheels. Hearing his daughter scream? Ditto. Trust me when I tell you that for the rest of your life you will be able to replay this in your head in vivid 8K from start to finish. You will not want to write about it.

    • Catfriend, your story serves as a stark reminder that each of us has no idea when the sand will run out of our hourglass. That’s not the type of thing that you or anyone on the bus will forget. I probably would forsake going anywhere for at least several months after seeing that. Thanks for sharing.

  14. In high school my cousin Jim was hired by a farmer to do some painting, including a one story shed. He propped a 12’ wooden ladder against the sides to finish the areas just below the roof, and while up there the owner asked him to come down and help with something else. Jim held the paint can in one hand and the dripping brush in his other as he descended, and two rungs above ground level got mixed up and thought he was stepping onto a large flat surface. He ended up sitting on the paint brush, with paint from the upside down can in his hand sloshing onto his head and shoulder. Sadly, I was not present to witness this.

    Several decades later I was the construction inspector on a commercial building remodel site. On a March day under a shining sun, while a recent snowfall thawed and exposed ground next to the building became thick, deep, sticky mud, I walked past an upright stepladder with a one-gallon pail set on its platform near the facility, noticing among the stacked piles of remodeling materials a two or three foot high mound of mud with the exterior door of the opening I was headed for leaning on it. There were also 3’ x 4’ plywood sheets below each window alongside the structure, except for the window adjacent to the entrance opening I approached, which had been removed since I’d been by there early that morning.

    As I stepping into the opening, a worker standing next to the wall sixteen feet opposite me suddenly broke into a sprint toward the boarded up window adjacent to the doorway I stood in. The windowsill was three feet above the floor, and the worker hopped into the air while hurtling into the blocking panel.

    The impact of this collision produced a pronounced thud! noise and knocked the sheet of plywood instantly and completely out of the window, and the laborer came down on the sill with both feet as he intended. But the panel — which had resisted his assault with hammer and crowbar — had been all but ready to come out of the window frame, and released from the force of the impact far more easily than anticipated.

    I had stopped moving while in the doorway with one foot inside and the other still on the ground outdoors when he took off running toward me and the window, a fascinated spectator. Moving my head outside I watched the panel fly out of its frame and onto the ground and instantly replaced by the laborer, leaning outward and trying with all his strength to hold onto the window frame with his hands to arrest his forward momentum, while his feet maintained precarious perch on the sill. I watched as his eyes focused on the removed door sitting several feet away in front of him like an idle teeter-totter on its dirt pile.

    The quick-witted fellow looked down at the sloppy ooze beneath him, then immediately back up and forward, gathered himself to the limited extent circumstances made possible, and pushed off as effortfully as he could manage in a leap toward the leaning door several feet away.

    He misjudged the force he was able to generate and landed almost at the center of the door over the top of the pile instead of near the ground. The high end of the door instantly dropped as the rear end came up off the ground, and in probably less than a second the guy found himself fighting for balance like a surfer in extremely heavy waves.

    The board teetered and tottered a number of times, its rider attempting to move as necessary to regain control, before his weight caused the farthest end to thump down onto the ground with sufficient speed to launch him off headed in the same direction. The path of his new trajectory resulted in him colliding with the legs of the step-ladder, knocking it over. As it toppled, the pail sitting on its platform toppled off in and headed down toward the poor guy lying on the ground beneath it. Its lid, not secured properly, came off as the container turned upside down. A measure of the sticky black sealant compound contents found a new home on the laborers head.

    (this got away from me & I apologize; I’m only posting it now because I am unable to copy/paste to a location where I can edit it unless I post it here first. I spent an hour writing it, I hadn’t thought of these events in years) the post topic inspired me — thanks), and I want to see what I have written. Maybe I’ll have a use for it somewhere/sometime.)

  15. There’s no need to apologize, Richard. In addition to never closing here at TKZ, we never run out of space either. That must have been quite a sight. Now I know where Hal Roach got all of his ideas. He apparently hung around a construction site. If you can get to Jackie Chan with that story he might sign you on as a consultant. Thanks for sharing the story of that poor guy who regrettably was a pane in the glass, or something like that.

  16. Oops . . .

    I watch things like this and wonder what it’s like for the first guy through the door who didn’t see it happen. In order:
    Is everyone accounted for?
    Is everyone okay?
    How do we clean up without causing more collapse?
    I hate my job.

    On January 13, 1982, my station was dispatched to the crash site of Air Florida Flight 90, which crashed on takeoff, slamming into the 14th St. Bridge connecting DC to Virginia, and then tumbling into the Potomac River. (I was on a different incident and missed the call.) As tragic as the incident was, a lot of heroics were on display that day.

    The person I’ve always want to talk to is the person in the first car behind the last car that was crushed by the plane’s fuselage as it crashed. Can you imagine?

  17. Thanks for sharing, John. To answer your question, no. I can guess, however, that they might have subsequently spent a great deal of time wondering, “Why me?” and alternatively asking, “Why not me?”

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