Today I’m getting flashbacks of that unfortunate load of lettuce my trainer Tsotne and I delivered to Maryland. The receiver had re-scheduled the delivery time at the last minute, so we sat for half a day, and when they finally did deign to take our load it was impossible to get into the dock, this yard being one of those lovely cramped yards that dot the east coast, and a critical piece of its precious real estate being blocked by another truck whose trailer’s landing gear had become stuck and so could not move.
Unloaded shortly after six, the bad news was that now we had to wait for a new load assignment. Bad, because back at headquarters all the regular staff had just gone home to enjoy cool, refreshing lettuce salads. Manning the desks in their steads was the dreaded night crew.
Actually, it was worse. It was a Friday, so the regular staff would not be back until Monday. Which was a real shame, because when, around 7:30, a load assignment did come in, we had to turn it down because it would have sent us to Florida, whereas we desperately needed to get out to the Northwest in order to complete my training requirements. As there was nobody on duty capable to rectifying the snafu, we spent the humid night in the parking lot of a nearby shopping center as there was not a chance in Hell of an open spot at a truck stop or rest area so late in the day so close to Washington, D.C. Fortunately, no curious security guards disturbed our restless slumbers. In the morning a really wonderful variety of birds was singing, the sun was shining, and, as it had rained during the night, it was muggy and distinctly warm while we sat and waited for somebody, unfortunately the dreaded weekend crew, to show up for work back at the pestilential city and begin to think about maybe leafing through the stack of problems at the bottom of which, no doubt, rested ours.
When we did eventually get moving, it was to Texas, where I am again today. Rather miserable weather for October, too. This time, what happened is that I was given a load with two deliveries, one for 5:30 and one for 10AM, at two buildings at the same facility. My load assignment told me to ignore the 5:30. The shipper told me to ignore the 5:30. When I queried the dreaded weekend crew for verification, I was told to ignore the 5:30.
This was a good thing, I thought, because I did not have the hours to get here by 5:30 anyway. Rolled up to the guardshack yesterday in plenty of time for the 10:00, only to be told that my appointment was for today. At 5:30. What had happened, it turned out, is that I had missed my original appointment, and so had been put off for twenty-four hours. So what does a boy do in Tyler, Texas when he’s tied down to a tractor and trailer combination? Hang out in large parking lots and hope the security guards don’t get too interested in him.
They were kind to me, the guards, and only made me move around to a different spot in the lot. So I got some rest, and made my 5:30, and not it’s fifteen minutes after 10 and I’m still getting unloaded. So I’m late for the 10, and I’m really, really hoping that they will still be able to get me in today.
An hour ago I went in to check on the unloading, and got the bad news that it would be another two hours or so. At the receiving counter, I waited line to ask if there was some way of informing the other building of what was going on, that sort of thing. The woman behind the window was expert at doing what seems to come naturally to shipping and receiving clerks everywhere, which is avoiding all contact with truck drivers. There’s always paperwork to shuffle around, and if you acknowledge a driver standing at your window it’s sure to slow the shuffle down. There was a young man being trained, and evidently he was pretty new. He kept sort of looking in our direction, as though he thought he was supposed to do something for us. Eventually I was able to explain what I wanted. The clerk didn’t actually say she would do something about it, but one can hope.
Another fifteen minutes has gone by. I doubt they’ll want to see me back at the lot I spent last night in, so if I don’t get unloaded today I’ll have to find someplace else to sit and wait.
No, I did not get unloaded on the 14th. Nor did the eye contact-avoiding clerk let her counterpart know I was delayed. Her counterpart, in point of fact, dressed me down in school-marmish tones for showing up late. ‘You people,’ she told me righteously, ‘are always doing this. You can come back tomorrow morning at 4:30.’
The idiocy since then has been splendid. Once empty, I was sent 60 miles south to swap my empty trailer for a different empty trailer that had ‘been sitting too long’ at a WalMart distribution center. I didn’t know they went stale. Then back north to pick up a load of Campbell’s soup that was already so late that even the most perfect repower would not save it. What did the Company do, rather than reschedule the delivery? Had me repower in scenic Amarillo. Had me repower with another driver who had already driven eight hours that day, and so would have to shut down about the same time I would have. There are even further levels of idiocy having to do, for example, with the extreme weight of the load and the other driver’s full fuel tank, however I’m getting a bit tired of the topic.
Also getting a bit tired of being assigned loads late, which has happened four times in a row now. Two were repowered, one I managed to save at the expense of a good night’s rest, and the other led to those two horrible days in Tyler.