Before making a delivery of hardwood flooring to a big warehouse, Mark jumps from his cab and injures his knee. Working through the pain, Mark is told by the shipper that all the warehouse workers are...
Mark Dalton: Owner Operator FICTION By Edo van Belkom Hands On Trucking Part 2 4
Before making a delivery of hardwood flooring to a big warehouse, Mark jumps from his cab and injures his knee. Working through the pain, Mark is told by the shipper that all the warehouse workers are gone, so if Mark wants his truck unloaded he’ll have to do it himself. Mark wants another load so he unloads it himself. His knee aches.
That night Mark bought two bags of ice and found a quiet parking lot where he could sit in a lawn chair and ice his knee. Over the course of the day the knee had swollen to the point where it looked as if it had been encased in a big red melon. And there was pain, too. Not so much to walk on it, but to bend and twist it. While he sat there with the ice on his knee and the cold water dripping down his leg, he couldn’t put the leg in a comfortable position or one without pain. Any slight twist or pressure from any angle other than straight up and down created a dull aching throb.
‘How in the world could I hurt my knee so badly just jumping down from the truck?’ he wondered.
But he knew it happened all the time.
He knew plenty of truckers who had blown out their backs lowering the landing gear or opening the barn doors on their trailers. And how many had sprained an ankle or even broken a leg jumping down from the rear of a trailer or off a loading dock? And what about winter ice? Sure, roads got slippery in the winter, but so did the ground beneath your feet.
And it didn’t just happen to truckers.
Even professional athletes got injured in the silliest ways.
A year or so ago, didn’t that kicker for
the Arizona Cardinals, Bill Gramatica, celebrate a field goal with a jump only to land awkwardly on his feet and wind up out for the rest of the season with torn cartilage and ligaments? And you’re always hearing stories of guys who threw their backs doing odd jobs around the house or playing at home with the kids.
The difference was that those guys had big fat contracts that were still paid out in the event of an injury. Even most company drivers had some kind of plan that would help them make ends meet while they were off work. But Mark was an owner/operator, meaning that he was the employee, the boss and the company all rolled into one. If he didn’t work the company suffered, and if the company suffered, then he might start missing paydays.
It all came down to him…and his knee. He shifted the ice bag and felt a fresh stream of cold water run down his leg and into his boot. The running water aside, the ice felt good on the joint and was doing a good job of keeping down the swelling. It was even helping to ease the pain to the point where he could almost walk on it normally. That was all well and good for now. It was getting up tomorrow morning that he was worried about because it wasn’t a question of whether he would be working tomorrow or not -of course he would be working. The real question was, would he be able to stand the pain long enough to get himself through the day?
Mark opened his eyes. He was comfortable in bed and had enjoyed a good night’s sleep. He turned his head and looked at the clock he’d set up in the sleeper. It was just after seven. Enough time to get up, find some breakfast and be on the road by nine.
He lay in bed a few moments staring at the ceiling, stretching his arms and getting the blood flowing. So far, so good, he thought. Then he tried a leg, no problem. Then the other -Aahh!
A needle of pain shot through his knee, feeling as if someone had put a nail gun up against the back of his leg and pulled the trigger.
Gasping for breath, Mark tried moving the knee again. Slowly, this time, inch by inch. There was pain and stiffness and at first he thought he’d never make it out of bed, but slowly…very slowly, he was able to straighten his leg.
‘How the hell am I going to work today?’ he wondered. But the answer was simple. He would just do it. He’d work through the pain and if he had time at the end of it all, maybe he could see a doctor about it. But even then, the doctor’s advice would be to take some time off work to let the knee heal. But they always said that, as if there were no consequences to not working.
Mark worked the leg back and forth and the more it moved the better it felt. Eventually, it was working normally with just a hint of soreness. He could manage the pain, but this was a long-term thing that would be dogging him for weeks.
Mark rolled out of bed and got ready for his day.
By nine he had another load of hardwood from Bud that needed to be delivered to the same warehouse he’d delivered to the day before.
Hopefully, this time, there’d be shippers there to unload his trailer so he could get a couple of loads in. If he could manage three or four deliveries today, maybe he’d be able to take the next morning off to see a doctor.
But when he arrived at the warehouse, the place was as deserted as it had been the afternoon before. That had been close to quitting time, but this was the first thing in the morning.
“Where is everybody?” Mark said aloud.
“Oh, I thought I heard someone here,” said the shipper from the day before. He was wearing different clothes today, but they were as clean and as freshly pressed as the outfit he’d had on yesterday.
“Another load of hardwood,” Mark said. “Twelve skids.”
“Right,” said the shipper. “They go over there.” He pointed to a spot in the middle of the warehouse that had been cleared to accommodate 12 or so skids.
Mark waited, saying nothing.
Finally, he had to ask. “Where are your workers?”
The shipper shook his head. “One of them called in sick and the other one’s on lunch.”
“What about you?”
He jabbed a thumb over his shoulder. “Office.”
“When does your man come off lunch?”
“He started at six this morning and he just left. Said something about taking his kid to the dentist, so…”
Mark could see where this was going. “Never mind, I’ll do it myself.”
“Fine with me,” the shipper said, spinning on his heels and heading back to his office.
Mark stood there, shaking his head. How could this happen two days in a row? Part of him wanted to just wait and see if anyone ever came back from lunch, but the owner/operator in him wanted to get the load off his truck and get back on the road.
With a sigh and slight limp to his gait, he found the lift truck he’d used the day before…and got to work.
Because he was used to the way the pump truck operated, and was familiar with the layout of the warehouse, the unloading went a lot quicker than it did the day before.
But as fast as the work was done, his knee didn’t feel any better for it. The pain was back and he had trouble bending and extending it fully.
When he was done he gave a hard pull on the pump truck and sent it rolling along the warehouse floor, not caring all that much where it ended up or what it crashed into.
He found the shipper a little while later in his office snacking on a sandwich and sipping a hot cup of Tim’s.
“All done?” he asked as Mark appeared in the doorway.
“Yeah,” Mark said. “I unloaded the truck for you.”
m sorry about my guys not being here. It doesn’t happen that often. You know, once in a while things come up and they need the time off.”
“This is two days in a row.” “Is it?”
“Yeah, it is.”
“Isn’t that curious?”
“Yeah,” Mark said. “Curious.”
He handed the man papers to sign. The shipper signed them and said,
“See you later.”
Mark took a step, winced as a stab of pain shot through his knee, and said, “Not if I can help it.”
-Mark Dalton returns next month in Part 3
Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry. All posts by Truck News