The plan was to turn up at the yard at noon, collect a preloaded trailer of empty bins and take them to Cincinnati. This was going to be a nice run. Not only starting in daylight but a preload. That meant the border paperwork would be all ready, I could get moving road right away. Cincinnati was about an 8 hour drive. If I hit the road smartish I could be at the region’s only truckstop in daylight. I was beginning to enjoy having been somewhere before, knowing where to sleep really cheered the day along.
I arrived a few minutes before noon, I wanted to get all my checks completed and leave as soon as the load was ready. ‘We have an extra stop for you.’ The dispatcher displayed body language which implied that he knew I’d be pissed off. That is to say, he kept his eyes on his computer screen and threw the information over his shoulder. They only do eye contact when they are going to make you happy.
‘It’s on your way. You just have to collect a couple of broaches first and deliver them to Windsor.’
That wasn’t so bad, at least I wouldn’t have to hang around waiting for border faxes.
I trundled round the corner to load the extra thingumies. There weren’t many bins pre-loaded, only the first 20 feet or so of the trailer were full so I could see why they wanted to take advantage of all the spare space. Once the second consignment was in the trailer I hopped in after them to think about strapping. Now I was in a hurry, I wanted to make the most of the daylight but there really is no excuse for rank stupidity. The loading looked a bit odd, you see. The bins were stacked floor to ceiling at the front of the trailer. Two small but perfectly formed pieces of expensive-looking, beautifully turned machinery (I couldn’t tell you what they were but they were shiny, round and complicated) were strapped to the small wooden pallets called broaches. They’d been popped right at the back of the trailer. There was about 30 feet of empty space between them and the bins. I sort of knew that I should probably strap something to save stuff crashing about. From where I stood, it looked as though the main problem would be bins falling over from the height they were stacked and damaging the nice shiny things. I strapped the bins securely in place at the front of the trailer, making sure that the top strap was as high as I could reach.
Then I headed for Windsor. I’d checked the notes in my little book for Colonial Tool, it was the place where you had to slide the bogies. I’d made that part of my vehicle check…the sliders on this trailer weren’t rusted together. I’d moved them an experimental notch. I was ready for today. I was learning. I did punch the address into Betsy though. I recalled where the place was, I could picture the road works and the shenanigans required to turn onto the highway but I didn’t want any more delays. It made more sense to rely on the gps than my memory. That was the only thing I did right.
Betsy took me a strange way round. I got a bit rattled as we headed further west and less north than I remembered for the bogie-sliding place. If I’d been in less of a hurry to set off, the broaches might have been my clue of course. As I headed further into downtown Windsor than I wanted, to a car cut me up and I had to brake sharply. I heard and felt a couple of heavy thuds from the back. Things had moved about. I visualised the layout. I’d strapped the stuff at the front. But braking sends stuff forwards, why hadn’t I strapped behind the broaches at the back? Because I’m stupid, that’s why.
Betsy took me to Colonial Tool. As she told me I had arrived at my destination I recognised it as the place where you had to drive round the block and park in the street. The one without the loading dock. The implications of all this didn’t hit me at the time. I was just rather proud of myself for remembering where to park despite having got the notes wrong. I sauntered in to find someone. It was gone 6 in the evening by now and there weren’t many people around, no one in the shipping office, just a couple of young lads watching machines. One of them jumped in a forklift to come and offload my broaches. As I opened the back, we all realised the problem. The two shinythings had skittered to the back of the trailer. The plant had no loading dock from which to drive in to it. Their forklift was one that lifted things off the backs of trailers from the ground. Between us we had no way to get the pallets from the front to the back.
‘Do you have a pump dolly?’
‘Um, no. Do you?’
‘Maybe we can push them.’
I was visualising how simple it would have been to have popped a strap behind them. I also twigged that the people loading the trailer knew they were sending these to a place without a dock, even if I didn’t. That was why they’d loaded them right at the back.
‘Not to worry, we’ll sort something out. We’re paid by the hour.’ The lads grinned at each other. ‘You weren’t to know we didn’t have a dock, nobody expects that the first time they come here.’ These nice lads were on my side, they weren’t cross or anything. So why did I then say, ‘actually I have been here before, I should have remembered’? Because I’m stupid, that’s why.
They tried pushing. They tried pulling. But the momentum of my little emergency stop had pulled the manufacturer’s strapping loose, the shinythings were now a bit wobbly on their pallets. They went and got massive lengths of chain with hooks on the end. They hooked one chain around a pallet, linked all the others together and hooked the other end round the forklift. One lad drove away from the truck while the other one stood inside yelling instructions. Every so often they looked at the stupid driver with the defeated and miserable demeanour and smiled sympathetically. They were having fun. Clearly this was more interesting than watching machines. But I was watching the daylight disappear. I think maybe I’d have felt better if someone had shouted at me. My triumphant return to Cincinnati, the one where I would benefit from all that experience and do things better was not beginning well. I’d have to sleep on the road now and get up early to deliver on time. I was tired just thinking about it.
‘You do know that if you’d delivered these to Ford or somewhere they’d have refused to accept them don’t you?’
‘Yes, I’ve learned a few things today, thank you very much for being so nice.’
I was actually getting sick of doing humble. I wanted to do brash and old-hand. But I’d have to be beating the stupidity first.