Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The end of the first run.

I did my best, it snowed a bit, the roads were icy and I am still a little hesitant in less-than-perfect conditions. Terry took over for a while when the visibility dropped. When we stopped for the night we were just about on target to arrive in time, but only if there were no customs delays at the border. The papers we’d received from the shipper had to be faxed to a customs broker for preprocessing so that we could sail merrily through. But the paperwork didn’t look quite right. Terry decided to call the broker and ask what to do. His end of the conversation went along the lines of; “I’m calling you before we send the fax to find out exactly what we need to send...no, I’m calling you first...no, because I’m not sure what to fax yet, that’s why I’m calling...can I tell you what I have here, then you can tell me what to send...may I speak with your supervisor...no, I’m calling you before I send the fax...” Well, you get the idea.

Eventually, after several more “I’d like to tell you exactly what I have here so that you can tell me exactly what you need” type exchanges, we hit the road, and got to the border bang on target. “Your preprocessing has failed” advised the customs officer in the little booth. Apparently this makes us instantly suspicious. “You’ll have to be x-rayed.” Now I do understand that all manner of dodgy things can be carried over the border in a truck, but we were hauling a visible collection of open tractors. Where were we likely to be hiding the contraband? Anyway, Terry ran through the rules, quickly and sotto voce, for behaving well while being x-rayed. Step out of the truck immediately and back away from it with your hands visible. Stand where you’re told, say nothing and make no sudden movements. It was a bit cold. I shivered, is that a forbidden movement? Apparently not.
“We have to make a cab search now” said a chap with a gun. “Do you want to get your coat?”
“Um, no it’s ok thanks, it’s way up on the bed and I don’t want to delay you.” I guessed it was ok to answer direct questions. While I’m trying to be polite and helpful, Terry is asking the other chap with a gun to take his shoes off. Terry is fanatical about no-one wearing outdoor shoes in his cab, but I’m not sure if this is the time or the place.

One guard takes his shoes off as the other fetches my coat. Why are they being so nice? And what are they looking for? Did my Swiss Army knife show up on the x-ray? Will they confiscate my vitamins for women over 50? Does this always happen when a broker screws up? After a couple of minutes, during which nothing much could have been looked at, they emerge and wave us away. While we park and walk across to the broker’s office to find out what went wrong with the paperwork Terry’s grin begins. He deals with my perplexity; “the cab search was to save face, they knew they shouldn’t have sent an open flatbed for x-ray so to cover for the first guy’s stupid mistake they pretended to find something of interest inside.”

“You faxed the wrong paperwork,” began the conversation with the broker. I’ll gloss over the next few minutes as the pressure cooker that was Terry’s frustration level began to do what pressure cookers inevitably must, but will add a note of admiration that it waited for someone who couldn’t arrest us and didn’t wear a gun. The hours passed, papers were shuffled, stamps were stamped and we were finally back in Canada. Too late to deliver any tractors.
We drove to a truckstop an hour from our first delivery address and settled in for the night. The plan was to be outside their gate for eight o’clock on Saturday morning. Then, with both of the next stops open until twelve, we should just be able to drop the other two, each 100 miles apart, and start for home by the afternoon. Home by Sunday. Hooray.

Saturday began well. A truckstop with beautifully clean showers (oh joy) an early start, two tractors dropped as per orders from the shipper and on to the second drop. Nice weather, daylight, good roads, this was trucking. My sunglasses were on, the scenery was nice, it was almost a Yorkie bar moment. The traffic in downtown Montreal was a little hairy but I only had to do it one more time and then we would be on clear roads again and on the way home to tell of adventures.
Drop two; we unloaded tractor number three, got the paperwork signed and sent our satellite message to dispatch that we were on our way to the last drop when a worried looking chap came back out of the farming supplies shop to speak with us. It was the wrong type of tractor, not the one they’d ordered. Much shuffling of papers ensued. We read and reread the bills of lading, trying to interpret which catalogue numbers related to actual tractors and which to accessories. We matched weights to items and worked out that the drop expecting two tractors was the last one, not the first one. So, we had left 100 miles behind us the tractor destined for where we were now...the one we had just offloaded was destined for the next port of call.

Back onto the trailer it went. It was re-secured and we settled down for a planning meeting. We could still deliver the last two tractors if the third destination would stay open. Then we could be back at drop one first thing Monday morning, bring tractor two back to drop two early and set off for home before lunchtime. We’d have to do downtown Montreal traffic again twice in a Monday rush-hour (aargh) but that wouldn’t be as bad as getting nothing done today. Terry called drop three and begged. They agreed to take delivery after twelve and gave him a mobile phone number to call when we arrived. Someone would be with us within ten minutes of a call to say we were in town. Great. And why the hell had the idiot who wanted one tractor signed for two?

More Montreal traffic, the French clearly drive the same the world over, and we made it to drop three with the right tractors. The place was locked and in darkness. The mobile phone number was non-existent. We were stuck for the weekend, with no chance now of getting home before Tuesday. I was running out of clean clothes and energy reserves.

Sunday passed in a blur of sleep and blogging and all of a sudden it was Monday. Monday began at six, entailed the Montreal rush hour three times and ended at home at two Tuesday morning. Everyone now has their tractors.
What have I learned this week? Two big lessons and a shameful little secret one. Never trust anyone to know their job; if you are leaving Ontario, stick a bottle of vinegar in your handbag for the chips...and, I might just be a bit too old for all this.

1 comment:

  1. And people think *my* job is stressful !! How do you keep your cool in the face of such idiots and jobsworths?