The Tim Horton's was like every other one in the country, except for one thing. This Tim's was located out by Pearson International Airport and was frequented by all the truck drivers who carried cont...
The Tim Horton’s was like every other one in the country, except for one thing. This Tim’s was located out by Pearson International Airport and was frequented by all the truck drivers who carried containers for the numerous shipping yards in the area. There were a few drivers Mark recognized sitting at one of the tables in the far corner of the shop and they nodded hello at him as he took his place in line.
He ordered an apple fritter and a medium double-double with sweetener (he had cut the sugar from his daily coffee in the name of health and fitness, but he wasn’t about to go without the cream – that was the stuff that made it taste so good), then made his way over to the table to chat with his friends.
“Hi guys,” Mark said, shaking hands.
“Mark Dalton,” one of the drivers said, a man named Franco who drove flammable liquids like gas and propane. Mark thought he was a little different, maybe a bit off, but his personality was probably a necessary evil for hauling the loads he did.
“The Mark Dalton,” echoed Manny Giron, a young driver who’d been an owner/operator for less than a year, but acted as if he’d been driving for all of his 25.
“What’s going on?” Mark said.
“We were just talking about loads,” Franco said with a slight jerk of his head. “Where are you goin’ next?”
“Tampa,” Mark answered.
“Tampa?” Manny asked. “What are you taking there?”
“Carpet, made in Spain.”
“Don’t they have their own carpet in Florida?”
“How should I know? All I need to know is someone wants a truckload of Spanish carpet delivered to a location in Tampa.”
Manny was shaking his head. “Florida in the winter. Nice…”
Mark shrugged. “I just drive where Bud sends me.”
“Sure you do,” Manny said. “Why? What’s wrong?”
This time it was Franco who spoke. “We were just talking about the kinds of loads we get. Me, I don’t care. Not too many drivers like to carry explosives…” He laughed then, a sort of maniacal laugh that would be better suited to a serial killer. “So I get my pick of places. But Manny here says you get the best loads to all the best places.”
“That’s not true.”
“And not just once in a while,” Franco continued, “but all the time.”
“I don’t ask for any special treatment,” Mark said.
“No, but you get it.” Manny leaned forward and rested his arms on the table. “How many times you been to Florida in the past couple of months.”
“How about California?” “Once.”
“And British Columbia?” “I don’t know. Five or six.”
Manny turned to Franco. “See, I told you.”
Franco turned his head to one side. “Maybe you got a point.”
“Me, all I get are local runs to one side of the city and the other. You know how much time and fuel I waste sitting in traffic?”
“Maybe that’s all Bud’s got when you call,” Mark said. He wasn’t comfortable speaking for Bud, but someone had to say something in his defense. Bud was a good man and an even better dispatcher and if he was giving Manny shorter city loads, there had to be a reason for it.
“That’s crap and you know it.” Manny’s voice was getting louder. “When I’m driving across the city in rush hour you’re cruising across the Prairies putting miles under your wheels.”
“Maybe you should take this up with Bud,” Mark suggested.
“I have. And every time I do, he gives me a decent load, and then it’s back to the same old city driving. If I lose my rig, it’ll be his fault.”
“Now wait a minute,” Mark said. “If you lose your rig, that’s nobody’s fault but your own.”
“I would agree with that,” Franco said. “You are an owner/operator, your own boss!”
Mark took a sip of his coffee and found it had cooled. “If you don’t like the loads Bud is giving you, then maybe you should find another dispatcher. I’m sure there are plenty of companies out there who would be thrilled to have a driver of your experience and…temperament.”
“I’ve thought about it,” Manny said, Mark’s insult seemingly lost on the young man. “And I’ve also thought about why you get all the best loads.”
“Oh yeah,” Mark said. “And what did you come up with?”
“I’ve heard Bud likes a drink now and then…Maybe you bring him back a bottle every time he sends you down south.”
“Are you saying I’m giving Bud kickbacks?”
“If a couple of bottles of booze every few months are a kickback, then yeah. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re paying Bud for better loads.”
Mark took a deep breath to keep himself calm.
Franco must have felt the tension around the table thicken. “Maybe you should just worry about your own business,” he told Manny. “And let other people worry about theirs.”
“I am worried about my business,” Manny said. “I’m doing the same job he is, but I’m not making the same money.”
Franco looked over at Mark in anticipation.
“First of all,” Mark said, cool and even. “If I let Bud take a few extra tenths of a per cent commission, that would be my business. Other drivers do it, but I don’t. But even if I did, that would be up to me. You see, my truck is my company and it’s up to me to keep track of my income and expenses. If I bring a dozen donuts to some boys on a loading dock, or give out a few bottles of wine at Christmas, that’s not a kickback, it’s called doing business. Companies do it all the time.”
“I saw you give Bud a bottle of Glenfidditch once… in July.”
“I did that,” Mark admitted. “I bought it at the duty-free because Bud asked me to. He even gave me the money for it. That’s not a kickback, it’s just what friends do for each other. You might know that if you had some.”
This time Manny caught the insult and slammed his paper coffee cup onto the table. It hit the table with a muted pop and sent a geyser of coffee shooting up through the opening in the top of the cup.
“Hey, take it easy guys,” Franco said, wiping the table down with a napkin. “This is nothing to get into a fight over.”
“Look at it this way, Manny,” Mark said, putting added emphasis on the man’s name. “I’ve worked for Bud for years and if he gives me a choice load or two every once in a while, then I’ve earned it. When you’ve worked for the man for as long as I have, then maybe you’ll get better loads too.”
Manny was still visibly upset, but at least he was listening.
“But in the end, what Bud does with the loads he gets is entirely up to Bud. I don’t know why Bud gives certain loads to certain drivers. To be honest, I’ve never really thought about it much…that is, until I sat down at this table.”
“Well, maybe I will talk to him about it,” Manny said, his face contorted in a sneer.
Just then the door to the coffee shop opened up and Bud himself ambled in.
“What timing,” Mark said, gesturing over to the door. “There’s the man now, why don’t you ask him yourself.”
-Check back next month for Part 2 of Playing Favourites.