Friday, December 19, 2008

In Trucking, as in Sailing,

In Trucking, as in Sailing, Fearless and Stupid are first cousins. ~ Cap'n Bubba

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dock Plate Special



It was an old mill town in Ohio. Ancient brick factories groaning, leaning against each other on a river; like Samoan Grandmothers beating their laundry on the rocks. I'd been through here before. The main corner in town is the junction of two state highways. Its an old main street with restaurants and boutiques struggling in old storefronts; bleeding on the unfinished hardwood floors. All these old little towns striving to become an antiquing destination; with few succeeding.

There is barely enough room for a semi to make the turn in town. I stopped traffic in all four directions and still would be sitting there if it wasn't the help of the driver behind me on the CB.

On the north side of town, one of the old brick factories still spews steam as activity buzzes around her skirts. Its a paperboard recycling plant. My trailer is loaded with bales of cardboard boxes from the back of a store. The downside of most of these old places, despite their tragic beauty, is that they were designed in the age of 48' trailers; sometimes horse wagons. Today we pull 53 footers. You'd be amazed at the heartache caused by another five feet.

I danced my way on to their scale with my big trailer; amusing the other drivers. Most were here for pickups, I had a delivery. Receiving is three outdoor docks in a pit, littered with scrap cardboard and various paper. Trailers jammed with bales of cardboard regurgitate misshapen empty cases from laundry soap or cat food or Italian Tomato Sauce. Swirling about the bales is other trash; store circulars, newspaper, paper towels, etc. The dock looks like the aftermath of a tornado without the scattered mobile homes.

The truck ahead of me backs in but not quite far enough. The receiver honks and waves him further in. These old docks have some plunger thing. I watch as his trailer pushes the plunger like cocking a gun. I can't see what that does. Litter has cascaded down into the pit making it hard to see the dock. It must have been hard to 'feel' it too.

The other truck leaves and I back in. I've got a roll door trailer, so I don't open the door I just back in. After chocking my wheels, I walk around to the hut-like office. It is hard to tell if the office trailer was set on top of a pile of debris or it just collected there. Forklifts buzz around grabbing bales and hustling them around a corner at the base of a huge brick smokestack. While I'm waiting for someone to check my paperwork and unload me, I happened to glance at the trailer. The dock plate is akimbo, halfway up the door trying to slice its way into the trailer! What the hell is that?!?!

Just then a forklift pulls up.

"Hey, I've got to fix that obviously," I say pointing at my trailer door straining against the dockplate. "Hopefully it will open again. Is there something we need to coordinate?" I ask sheepishly never having seen anything like this dock.

The driver on the forklift is midwestern farmer stock; drawn, gaunt and grizzled. Generations of dirt farmers stare back at me from his watery bulging eyes. Impossibly long fingers squirm and slither around the steering wheel. Veins crawl around his arm like ivy on a fallen branch. A tattered work shirt holds the fallen branch arm like the loam of the forest.

"Well," he starts, in a more back holler drawl than Tom Bodett's. "You'll have to pull back out . . . open that door . . . and then back back in," he states flatly.

Ahhhh . . . it was all me.