The story so far ...When Bud the dispatcher doesn't have a load ready, Mark gets on his case and ends up telling him that dispatching can't be all that hard. Bud suggests Mark take his place for a cou...
When Bud the dispatcher doesn’t have a load ready, Mark gets on his case and ends up telling him that dispatching can’t be all that hard. Bud suggests Mark take his place for a couple of days and, with no load waiting, Mark takes him up on it.
Bud was waiting for Mark inside. “I said six, Dalton.” Mark just looked at his watch. It was five after.
Bud grumbled, “C’mon in.”
“What, no inside lock?” Mark asked. A lot of dispatchers worked in locked rooms that limited driver’s access to them. It didn’t happen all that often, but angry truckers were known to sometimes barge into an office looking for the dispatcher who’d sent him on a goose chase that caused the driver to eat a couple of hundred miles worth of fuel.
“They’re installing them next week,” Bud said.
Mark was a little surprised. “You need locks on the doors?”
“Let’s just say it would be nice to have them if I ever need them.”
Mark shrugged. “I guess so.”
Bud led Mark to the rear of the office.
“Now, there’s a fridge and a coffee machine in the lunchroom, and I’ve got a cot set up in the back just in case you want to save on a hotel.”
“A cot. Sounds great.”
“In the office there are two phone lines and another for the fax machine, and then there’s the cell number. I look after twenty drivers, but in the next two days only about ten should be calling in for new loads. I expect about fifteen new loads to be called in by my regular customers, and then there’s always one or two wild-card shippers who call every few months.”
Mark’s head was already beginning to spin with so many numbers coming at him so quickly. He decided his best course of action would be to try and handle just one thing at a time.
“Since I’m only going to be gone for two days, I won’t expect you to do much paperwork. The job’s going to be tough enough as it is …”
“I’ll be able to handle it; no problem,” Mark said, still trying to sound confident, but feeling more unsure of himself with each passing minute.
Bud just smiled at him. It was a devilish sort of grin that seemed out of character with all that he knew about the man. It was as if Bud were enjoying this, or like he knew something that Mark didn’t.
“Just put all the paperwork in a folder for me and I’ll sort it out for the bookkeeper when I get back.”
“All right, seems simple enough.”
Bud looked at him. “You think so?”
“What? You don’t think I can handle it?”
“You’re a sharp guy, Dalton, and I’m happy to have you driving for me. A lot of guys wouldn’t have been able to deliver the loads you have …”
Mark felt a little warm all over. He’d never heard Bud talk this way about anyone before, especially not him.
“But you have to be more than smart to be a dispatcher. You’ve got to be one part psychologist, because you’ve got to have a good feel for all the drivers’ different personalities. And you’ve got to be one part chess player, because you’ve got to be three moves ahead of every driver. And you’ve got to be part mother, because with twenty drivers wanting loads, you’ve got to look after every one of them equally.”
Mark was impressed. He’d never heard a dispatcher talk about his job in such a way before. To hear Bud talk like this was … well, amazing. Still, Mark’s character wouldn’t let him go soft on the guy just for spouting a few pearls of wisdom. “Well, I’ll vouch for the last one, Bud. You’re one hell of a mother.”
Bud just looked at him, smiling, but it was clear he was smiling at something other than Mark’s joke.
“See you in two days, smartass.”
“Yeah, see you, Bud.”
Bud wasn’t gone three minutes before the phones began ringing.
“Off for a couple of days.”
“Who are you?”
“Well Mark, I went into Peterborough to pick up my load, but someone else took it before I got there.”
Mark wondered what the driver wanted him to do about it.
“And what are you going to do about it?”
“Yeah, you. You’re dispatching aren’t you. I was sent to Peterborough for a load that somebody else obviously picked up before me. Now I want another load, and it better be a good one.”
“All right, okay.” Mark shuffled through his papers.
“There’s a load in Lindsay ready at one.” He gave the driver the address. “Call me when you get there.”
“Vacation. I’m filling in.”
“Okay, last night Bud gave me a load to pick up in Manitoba. He told me Snow Lake, but I think he meant Snowflake. I want to know which one it is before I head out.”
Mark quickly looked through the loads. “You’re right, Snowflake.”
“Good thing I checked, then. Those two towns are four-hundred and fifty miles apart. Thanks, Buddy.”
Maybe that could be my dispatching name, thought Mark. Buddy! Just like Bud, only one-hundred and fifty pounds lighter.
“What do you want?” Mark realized he was beginning to sound like Bud, but didn’t care.
“I picked up a sealed load in Victoria and just delivered it into Calgary. Bill of lading says there should be ten skids in the trailer, but there’s only eight here. What the hell’s going on?”
You got screwed is what, thought Mark, but managed not to say it. “I don’t know, let me check into it.”
“I’ll be waiting for your call.”
Mark looked at the clock on the wall. It wasn’t even ten yet.
“Well, I’m in Lindsay now and there’s no freakin’ load. Shipper said a driver picked it up not ten minutes before I got to the dock.”
“Don’t give me that. You know exactly what I said. What the hell is going on here?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean, you don’t know?”
Mark wanted to make an excuse like it was his first day on the job, but he knew Bud would hear about it eventually. “I’ll call you back in a minute.”
Mark began shuffling through all his paperwork and immediately found that the load in Calgary was supposed to be only eight skids, but somehow an older bill of lading made its way to the driver. That was easy enough to solve. He made the call and explained the situation.
Now for the driver in Lindsay.
It sounded like the guy was picking up double-blind loads in which the shipper didn’t know who was picking up the load and the driver didn’t know who the consignee was. But that didn’t explain why the loads weren’t there.
Unless … unless he was reading a copy of some other driver’s papers. If that was the case, then of course there were no loads, because the other drivers were picking those loads up before the driver he sent even arrived on the scene.
This one was easily solved, but Mark dreaded telling the driver. For the first time in the day, Mark thought that maybe dispatching was a little tougher than he gave Bud credit for.
“Hey, pal,” Mark said, when he called the guy back in Lindsay. “Seems we had a bit of a problem on our end.”
He went on to explain the situation, then listened patiently while the guy let him have it.
“Sorry,” Mark said, which was a word he’d never heard Bud use. When the driver calmed down enough to listen, Mark gave him a sweetheart load out of Toronto, going into Florida with a day layover, before taking a load of oranges back up into the city. He’d probably take his wife or girlfriend with him.
Mark hung up and was feeling pretty good about how things were going. Sure, he’d made a few mistakes, but the trucks were still rolling and no one wanted to kill him yet.
After lunch, he glanced through the paperwork on all the loads he’d assigned before putting them in the folder for Bud. He was about to close the folder, when one of the sheets jumped out at him. It was a pick-up in Snow Lake, Manitoba. Snow Lake. Not Snowflake.
Mark put his head in his hands and hoped that Snowflake was on the way to Snow Lake. n