The story so far
After returning from a long haul to the west coast, Mark Dalton’s dispatcher Bud asks him for a favor. He reluctantly agrees to do some local work.
Mark arrives at Intra-City Truck Lines yard ready to begin his time as a taxi truck driver. At first all looks good, but instead of a short trailer, Mark is given an older, longer trailer – the kind that is hard to move in the city. And the helper he was promised was late, and…at first there are no loads. Then the phone rings and then it’s go, go, go. Mark can only wonder what he’s gotten himself into…
The first call of the day was in downtown Toronto at a small machine shop on a side street in the Bloor and Dundas area. It was a nice sunny day and the truck drove well enough without a load, but the streets seemed to be getting narrower and narrower with each block south he drove.
“It’s getting tight,” he said.
“We still have a way to go,” said Marcin, the helper he’d been assigned, son of the trucking company’s owner.
And then if the streets weren’t narrow enough, a bike lane suddenly appeared, taking out a large swath of pavement. Mark continued driving carefully with both hands tight on the wheel, his fingers starting to hurt and his knuckles turning a pale white. A rider appeared out of nowhere in front of him, forcing him to brake and blast his horn. Mark fully expected the cyclist to nod or wave and apologize for cutting him off, but instead he turned back toward Mark and raised a middle finger in salute.
“Catch up to him!” Marcin shouted. “I’ll kill him!”
“Relax,” Mark said. “I’ve seen worse.”
“He shouldn’t be allowed to get away with that.”
“Don’t worry,” Mark said. “He’ll eventually show that finger to the wrong person and it’ll get broken off. It just won’t be me.”
After a few moments, Marcin said, “So that’s why my dad hired you.”
“Because you’re calm. I would have run him over. So would half the drivers working for him.”
Mark thought about that for a moment. It should have angered him, but it didn’t even come close. In the past he had guns pulled on him, was pursued cross-country by an assassin, and took out an international smuggling ring. One little finger from a tree-hugging, salad-eating yuppie didn’t even register.
“Our job is to pick up and deliver things,” Mark said. “Not get into street fights with bike riders.”
After a few sharp turns, and 10 minutes of Marcin helping him back up around a corner to the machine shop’s loading dock, Mark had arrived at his first pick-up. They were there to pick up a big, heavy machine that was used to stamp out metal parts for cars. It was a huge machine and weighed close to the truck’s maximum capacity and Mark didn’t have a clue how they were going to get it on and off the truck. Fortunately, Mark didn’t have to worry about loading the machine as the shop had already secured it to a palette for transport and they had a forklift that was heavy enough to easily drop the entire load gently into the center of the truck’s cargo area.
Still, Mark wasn’t satisfied the load was safe. “It might tip over if I take a turn too sharply or stop too fast.”
“Are you kidding?” said one of the shop workers. “This thing weighs a ton. It’s not going anywhere.”
“Do you want to put that in writing and sign it?” Mark asked him.
The man silently turned from Mark and didn’t say another word. Mark figured the guy was probably right, but he wasn’t about to risk it. He was being entrusted to take this load and deliver it whole and without damage. And even though the thing would only be on his truck for an hour – two at the most – it still needed to be secured like something that would be on his truck for days.
And so, Mark took an extra 15 minutes to strap the machine to the front and sides of the truck to ensure it wouldn’t fall over in transport. Only when he was satisfied everything was secure, he instructed Marcin to close the cargo door.
“Are you sure?” Marcin asked. “Don’t you want to tie some pillows to it, wrap it up in a sheet?”
“Laugh all you want,” Mark said. “But your father will be the one having to pay if this thing is damaged during transport.”
“Okay, I get it,” Marcin said.
“Good,” Mark said. “This is a service your father’s company’s providing. If it gets around that too much stuff arrives damaged, no one is going to call your father for help.”
“Understood,” Marcin said, his voice long and drawn out, as if he’d been convinced of Mark’s point-of-view.
Just as they were pulling out onto Bloor Street, Mark’s cell phone rang.
“Yeah,” Mark said.
“Is this Mark?” said the voice. It was Macek, his shipper in this taxi truck endeavour.
“Mark who?” Mark said, smiling.
“Very funny,Dalton. Where are you?”
“On our way to Keele and Hwy. 7”
“What? You’re not there yet?”
“No. It took a while to secure the load.”
“It’s taking too long. You’re supposed to be there already.”
“We’ll get there when we get there,” Mark said.
Over in the passenger seat, Marcin was laughing under his breath.
“Okay, then. Call me after you’ve made the delivery.”
“Right,” Mark said and hung up. “What’s so funny?”
“No one talks to my dad like that,” Marcin said.
“Your dad’s pushy,” Mark said.
“He’s always in a hurry. It’s who he is, and it’s how he’s built this company into what it is.”
“Yeah, well…” Mark pondered. “Maybe that’s why he wanted me for this job. I am who I am and I’m not about to be pushed around.”
“I can see that,” Marcin said.
“Now, let’s get to our destination and get this thing off our truck.”
“Yeah, let’s do it.”
Mark Dalton returns next month in the conclusion of Dalton is hailed a cab.
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