Dalton is hailed a cab: Part 4

by Edo van Belkom

The story so far

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 load is easy enough, a large machine that is loaded and unloaded by workers at the pick-up and delivery points. But an easy load was just one part of the job as the pressure from Macek to get to the next delivery and the one after that was intense.

Their next call was a straightforward shipment of pallets that were overdue at a factory and had to be there within the hour or the whole plant’s production line would be shutting down for the day. This kind of load could have been taken by anybody, but since there was some urgency, the shipment had to be made immediately with thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake.

The pallets were loaded onto their truck by forklifts and unloaded by the same method when they got to their destination.

When they finished with the delivery, Macek already had three more loads waiting for them. From the factory in the east end of Toronto, they headed to Scarborough to pick up a large airplane part that had to be delivered to a hangar at Pearson International Airport by 3 p.m. This was obviously another time-sensitive situation as any time an airplane – whether a passenger or cargo carrier – was not in the air carrying something, people were losing money.

At the airport, getting through security took a bit of time, but it would have taken much longer if the airline hadn’t taken care of a bunch of issues before they’d even arrived. They needed that part, like…yesterday.

As Mark and his helper Marcin sat waiting in the cab for the part to be unloaded by mechanics working on the plane, Mark said, “You know, so far I haven’t needed a helper.”

A flash of realization crossed Marcin’s face. “Can I have the rest of the day off, then?”

“Uh, no.” A pause. “And you’ve probably just jinxed our luck.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ll see.”

Even though Mark knew the next two places he was headed, Mark called Macek to see how things were going.

“What are you calling me for?” he said, sounding a lot more like Bud every time they spoke. “The calls are piling up. You need to go, go, go!”

Their next call was at a banquet hall. Mark couldn’t see why anyone would need such a large truck to pick up from a banquet hall, but the place’s manager quickly solved the mystery for them.

“See all these tables?” he said, gesturing to a long row of eight-foot folding tables stacked neatly against a wall. “They’ve got to go to St. George’s Golf Club for a tournament they’re having there this weekend.”

“Just those?” Mark said, thinking the 20 or so tables shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Those tables, all the ones in storage and there’s another 50 in a room through that door.”

“How many in total?”

“One hundred and twenty,” the manager said. “By five this afternoon.”

Mark looked over at Marcin. “You and your big mouth.”

“What did I do?”

“Can I have the rest of the day off?” Mark said in a mocking tone of voice. “Start bringing those tables to the truck.”

Mark backed the trailer as close as he could to the door they’d be moving the tables through and then he helped carry as many tables as he was able, but eventually it was all Mark could do just to wait inside the trailer and stack the tables as they arrived. Not exactly the kind of truck driving work he’d had in mind when he took this gig. Luckily for both of them, loading the tables onto the truck was taking far too long and they got a hand from banquet hall staff that needed the room cleared so they could begin setting it up for a party.

“Caught a bit of a break, there,” Mark said when the truck was fully loaded. “Let’s hope our luck continues.”

An hour later when they arrived at the golf course, there wasn’t a soul in sight. Eventually an old-timer with thinning grey hair and a limp in his walk greeted them and gave them the lay of the land.

“You’ve got to get all them tables into the curling rink,” he said. “They’ll set them up tomorrow morning for the media.”

“We were told they had to be delivered by five.”

The old-timer nodded. “That’s when I go home and lock up for the night, so you better be done by then.”
Mark was exhausted. And even though Marcin was years younger, he looked bushed too. Being a taxi truck was one thing, but this job was like being a moving company. They got moving, slowly, with Mark bringing the tables to the end of the truck and Marcin bringing every one of them into the curling rink. They finished just after five.

Mark looked at his phone. There were six calls from Macek that he’d missed. He decided not to call him back. As far as Mark was concerned, he was done for the day. At a stoplight, as they were driving back to the shop, someone waiting at the corner caught Mark’s attention. “Can you give me a ride?” the man shouted.

“Sorry, buddy,” Mark said. “This is a truck, not a taxi.”

“But it says TAXI on the side, and I need a ride.”

“We only carry cargo.”

The man on the corner jabbed a thumb against his chest. “I’ll be your cargo. Human cargo.”

Mark smiled at that and said, “Human cargo goes on a specialized truck called a bus.”

The light turned green then and Mark pulled away.

When they arrived at the yard, Macek was there waiting, telling them there were still three calls to do. Mark shook his head. “Marcin can do them tomorrow.”

“What? You quit?”

“No. I’m letting your son take over.” He shook Macek’s hand. “He’ll do just fine.”

Mark was relieved to be out. When he drove longhaul, he only had to deal with a shipper and receiver for each load and sometimes those contacts could be days apart. Here, he was in constant contact with his shipper and up to a dozen other people each day. He wanted to get back on the road. To that end, he called up Bud and asked him how he was doing for longhaul loads.

“I got a couple of garbage loads,” Bud said.

“Ah, c’mon, they can’t be that bad. What’s the load?”

“Like I said, garbage. From Toronto to the landfill in Michigan. Maybe a couple of day’s worth.”

Mark said, “I’ll take it.”

Mark Dalton returns next month in another adventure.

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