Bud asks Mark to start taking loads for a new company. At first Mark isn’t interested, but Bud convinces him it would be good for Bud’s other drivers, many of whom are looking for regular, steady loads…
Mark followed the customs officer into the office. He’d been through the Fort Erie border crossing enough times that a couple of the officers recognized him when he
“Oh, oh,” one of them said. “Here comes trouble.”
Mark smiled at the remark, but wondered if that was really how he was known at the border.
“So what’s the problem?” he asked when he was settled into a seat.
“Well,” the officer began. “Our system is telling us that there is no entry on file for your load.”
“The broker never created a file for this load.”
“And?” Mark pressed.
“Basically, your load doesn’t exist in our system.”
Mark was a bit surprised, but not exactly shocked at this turn of events. After all, this was the first load the new brokerage was sending across the border – first load for the shipper, too – so there was bound to be a mistake or two. But having no entry on file went beyond being a simple mistake. This was total incompetence. “Do you mind if I look over the paperwork?” Mark asked.
The officer slid the paperwork across the desk and spun it around so Mark could read it. Mark looked it over closely, first looking for any obvious mistakes, then studying it to see if there was a detail that might have been overlooked. In the end, it all looked good to his eyes. “I don’t see anything wrong with this.”
“You shouldn’t,” said the officer. “All this paperwork is good, but it’s for another load on some other truck.”
Mark felt the words in his stomach like a punch from a champ. “Different load,” was all he said.
“That’s my best guess.”
“Even so,” the officer continued. “The file for the load on your truck did have an entry on file at some point, but it has since been canceled by the broker.”
“Why would they do that?”
A shrug. “I don’t know. That’s something you’re going to have to ask them.”
Mark looked at the man in the eye for a long time, then finally said, “I’m not getting across the border, am I?”
The officer smiled. “Not today you’re not.”
“So, what’s going to happen to my load?”
“Your trailer has been bonded back to Canada.”
“You’ve got to turn around and head back to where you came from.”
Mark let out a long breath through clenched teeth. He’d had plenty of problems at the border before, but this was unacceptable. Not only was the load late, he’d also been held up in traffic only to be turned around at the border. There was no way he could salvage this load and he likely wouldn’t be compensated for the kilometers he’d already driven.
That’s what you get for doing a guy a favor, Mark thought as he took the long walk back to Mother Load. Inside the cab, after a few deep breaths to calm his nerves, Mark took out his phone and made a call to Bud. But his anger slowly transformed into confusion as he realized the phone in his hand had been off for who knew how long? He turned it on, watched it start up and then quickly turn off again because it was out of power.
“Damn!” Mark said, plugging the phone into its charger. “I wonder if anyone’s been trying to call me.”
But before the words were even out of his mouth, his phone came alive with a string of texts – one after another – followed by a message informing him that he’d missed 12 calls, several from Bud and the rest from numbers he didn’t recognize. An empty feeling washed over Mark as if all the anger and fury inside him had been sucked from his body in a great big whoosh. Mark dialed Bud.
Bud didn’t even bother saying, “Hello.” Instead he said, “Well, look who’s figured out how to work their phone.”
“Have you been trying to call me?”
“Me and a whole lot of other people. Where the heck have you been?”
“I’ve been at the border where they’ve told me the entry for my load has been canceled.”
“You don’t say.”
“Yeah,” Mark said in a huff. “I expected there to be a problem because it’s a new company and all, but there wasn’t even an entry on file. Why in the world would they do that?”
“Well,” Bud said. “The reason they canceled the entry, and the reason everyone’s been trying to call you for the past couple of hours is because you took the wrong trailer!”
“Oh,” was all Mark could say, his face feeling hot and no doubt turning red as a pepper. “I’ve never made that mistake before.”
“Well, not in the last couple of years anyway.”
“Right,” Bud said with a sigh. “Just get back here as quick as you can and I’ll try and convince them that you really are the best driver I have.”
“I’m on my way.”
By the time Mark got back to the yard, there were several people waiting for him including the shipper, and another man who was from the brokerage company.
“Sorry, man,” the shipper said. “I tried calling you – a lot – but there was no answer.”
“You don’t have to apologize,” Mark said. “I’m the one who made the mistake. This one’s all on me.”
“I guess I should have been more careful about pointing out the trailer, making sure you got the right one.”
“You and me both,” Mark said.
This time, the shipper walked Mark over to the trailer he’d be taking and when he did, Mark realized how he’d been mistaken. The right trailer was identical to the wrong one with only a single digit (an eight instead of a three) and a single letter (an E instead of an F) difference in their identification codes.
“It was an honest mistake,” the shipper said.
“Thanks,” Mark said. “But I pride myself on not making these kinds of mistakes.”
The broker stepped in then and handed Mark a new set of papers. “Let’s hope this one gets across without a hitch.”
“You’re not sure?” Mark asked.
“I’m sure I’ve done everything right. Who knows what happens between here and the border.”
Mark didn’t like the sound of that, even though he knew it to be true. He shook hands with the two men, hooked up the right trailer – triple checking that the numbers all matched up – then settled in for the night. He’d wasted so much time waiting for the load, being stuck in traffic, then getting turned around at the border that he was out of hours for today. After a good night’s sleep, he’d be ready to take another run at the border.