Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Curate's Egg

Day 2 and things are going well. Minnesota is very pretty in the daylight, not exactly hilly but undulating enough to make a change from flatness and dozens of different shades of green. My trucker-specific GPS (what a great investment that was) seems to know where we are going and I am on time.

The foundry my load of empty bins was destined for was visible from the end of the street, which made a change from all the tiny Linamar plants in Guelph, which need to be identified from a crappy little diagram to be found. It had a well marked one-way system and a place to park and go make enquiries. Deliveries were back out to the road, left and left again. Then round the block and back here to load the pickup.

I have been having a bit of a hard time retaining directions recently, a sign of an aging brain I assumed, so I repeated this out loud to hammer it in. Maybe it’s a stress thing though, or a ‘being assessed’ thing because it all stuck in my mind this time and round the block I went, found the delivery dock, waved at the receiver and waited where I was directed.

It took a minute or two to wiggle onto the dock, mainly because I’d been told to wait in a stupid place and had to pretty much drive out of the yard again to line up for it. But, I got there, nobody shouted, the bins were unstrapped, unloaded, paperwork signed and exchanged and it all seemed to be going according to plan. The reload was timed for 7 o’clock and I found myself driving back round the foundry at 6.30. I had already scoped out the loading dock and realised it would be an easy set-up and a straight reverse, so all of a sudden, shortly after 7 I had fulfilled the first part of this assignment, had all the border paperwork sorted out and was ready to head home. It had been a great deal less stressful and incident-filled than I had expected and my confidence was building.

I was determined not to get caught out for somewhere to sleep tonight so I had spent some of my waiting time looking at the route home. Chicago is chock full of toll roads and I had set the gps to avoid tolls yesterday as I’d seen huge queues of traffic at the tollbooths. I wondered if this had been the reason I’d hit so much traffic. Looking at the map quite carefully I realised that all the toll roads took you to the same spot in central Chicago where the traffic had been at its worst last night, it didn’t look as though that had been the problem. But there was a workaround. Interstate 39 South would take me to Interstate 80 East, bypassing Chicago completely, to the west and the south. It looked a little further but not far enough to take an extra couple of hours. An added bonus was a couple of rest areas to stop and overnight in. I could do what I did yesterday and pull into the first for a snack, decide if I was tired or not and drive on to the next to sleep if I felt like it. This would put me about 8 hours drive from home, which would be manageable the following day. I could stop between 11 and midnight, start again between 9 and 10 and be home by 7. Since the delivery could be up until 9 tomorrow evening I would be on time, possibly early.

All this went to plan. The diversion added about 30 kms to the total distance, but that took about 20 minutes, not several hours and I pulled into the second rest stop at 11.30 to sleep. The US has rest areas on all its Interstate roads. I love them. They are easy to pull into, easy to park in and easy to get out of. Some of them have toilet facilities and a few vending machines. I like overnighting in rest areas, you don’t get the facilities of a truckstop but because they are less social places what you do get is total anonymity. Lots of trucks parked up overnight, no-one knows this one has a lone female in it. I felt safe and I slept like a baby.

Day 3 went well too. I returned to the truckstop I’d found on the way over to refuel, topped up on coffee as well as diesel, breezed through customs with everything correct and nothing to declare and headed for home on target to arrive at 7. I sent my eta via the truck satellite with not a little smugness. My adventure was rapidly turning into a triumph and I was pretty damned pleased with myself. The only thing that went wrong on the way back was that my emergency peanut butter sandwich had got a bit wet and soggy in the cooler and wasn’t nice enough to eat. I didn’t want to stop again just to buy food, so made do with nibbling trail mix, I’d be home in time for a decent dinner.

I found the plant waiting for my truckload of metal castings, I’d remembered which one it was, where it was, where to wait, how to find the receiver and how to set up to back onto the dock. It was empty, hooray, no-one to rush for. I was tired by then and wanted a no-stress reverse. While I got the papers signed another truck pulled in behind me. Instant anxiety. The set up was complicated, a 90 degree back, with dumpsters and ditches where you’d normally want the front end to be. And a trailer to get past in one of the other docks. I screwed it up of course. The faster I tried to work the wronger it went. The more I tried to correct being too close to the trailer I was parking next to the closer to it I got. Yes, of course I hit it. The scratches on it weren’t too bad, I might have been tempted to pretend nothing had happened and someone else must have done it, but when I pulled off the dock to close my trailer doors I realised I had also bent the hinge on my own trailer door. It wouldn’t close. Bit of a giveaway.

Tired and miserable and defeated I drove back to the yard with one trailer door pinned back. There was an easy reverse to park it but I messed it up anyway and spent about half an hour trying to get it straight enough to leave. Forcing back the tears I took all my piles of perfect paperwork to despatch. ‘Do you want the good news or the bad news first?’

I will find out on Monday if I still have a job.

1 comment:

  1. They'll probably laugh and tell you everyone does that at some stage :-)