THE STORY SO FAR
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 takes the first load for the company, but the paperwork is all wrong and Mark ends up having to drive the load back to Toronto because he had taken the wrong trailer…
In the morning, Mark prepared for another assault on the border. This time, however, he double- and triple-checked everything to make sure he had picked up the right trailer, and that everything was correct with the paperwork. Finally, he checked that the load in the trailer matched the load he had on paper. Only when he was sure everything was right with the load, did he slip Mother Load into gear.
“I dare them to stop me this time,” he said aloud to himself.
But after a few minutes on the road, and once he was comfortably on Hwy. 403 on his way to the border, he felt like having a chat with Bud. After all, there was plenty left unspoken after the first load for this new company had gone so wrong. He dialed up Bud and turned up the volume to ensure he’d have no trouble hearing the call hands-free.
“Well, well,” Bud said. “If it isn’t Mark ‘Wrong-Trailer’ Dalton.”
“Very funny,” Mark said.
“You got the right trailer this time? Or did you just pick up any old trailer that was in the yard?”
“I got the right one this time.”
“That’s good, because they’ve been asking if you were really the best driver I had working for me. When I assured them you were, they couldn’t help but feel sorry for me.”
“Sorry for you?” Mark said. “I was the one who showed up at the border with the wrong load and had to drive all the way back to the yard.”
“Hey, we all tried calling you. What can we do if you don’t have your phone on?”
Mark was at a loss for words. Of course it was his fault he had to make an entire round trip with the wrong load, but he wasn’t about to let the shipper, broker or Bud off the hook.
“You guys are supposed to look out for me, warn me that all their trailers look the same…that I should check the numbers to make sure I’ve got things right.”
Bud said nothing for the longest time. Mark wondered if he’d hung up. “You still there?”
“You’re kidding me, right?”
“No. You’re supposed to look out for me, not send me on wild goose chases.”
“You want me to tell you to put a hat on when it’s cold? To use your wipers when it’s raining?” A pause. “Anyway, you like wild goose chases.”
“That’s besides the point. I wouldn’t call having to turn around at the border an adventure. Just a money-losing pain in the ass.”
“Speaking of which,” Bud said, his tone suddenly getting serious. “I talked it over with them and they’ve agreed to pay your mileage to and from the border.”
“How’d you do that?”
“I told them that they had a responsibility to make sure you took the right trailer. If they’re not sure what’s leaving their yard, why should it be all on you?”
It was Mark’s turn to be speechless.
“So, you can take back your ‘looking out for you’ bull and do your job right so I won’t have to stick my neck out for you again.”
“Okay, I take it back. And, I guess… thanks for having my back.”
“Sorry I screwed up,” Mark said. “We all make mistakes, right?”
“Then why are you being critical of a broker who fixed your mistake and paid you for it even though they didn’t really have to.”
Mark thought about it for a bit, then said, “Bud, if I wasn’t complaining, what would we talk about?”
“How ’bout them Leafs?” Bud said.
“Uh, I gotta go!” Mark said, hanging up the phone.
When Mark reached the border at Fort Erie, he couldn’t help but be nervous. Even though he’d been through this process hundreds, perhaps even thousands of times before, he always felt a bit of tension crossing the border. There was no rational reason to fear the border, especially since Mark rarely exceeded his allowable spending limits, but a few bad experiences had been enough to make each and every border crossing an ordeal for him.
And, as Mark’s luck would have it, there appeared to be a problem with Mark’s load. “Mr. Dalton,” said the customs officer, “we’ve got a problem.”
“No kidding,” was all Mark said.
“Yes. It seems there’s no entry on file for your load.”
“The entry number is not a match with PAPS.”
“What’s PAPS? Sounds like a brand of beer.”
“Pre-Arrival Processing System.”
“Okay, so how do you fix it?”
“You’ve got to get in touch with your broker. They can update the entry so the PAPS number matches the entry.”
“Oh, is that all?” Mark said, not trying very hard to keep the sarcasm from his voice. “Well, that’s what I’ll do then.”
“Good,” the officer said, immediately moving onto something else.
“Why does this always happen to me?” Mark said aloud. Then he stepped out of the office and called up the shipper on his cell phone. When the man answered, Mark spent a couple minutes explaining the situation, then said, “They say the PAPS number doesn’t match the entry.”
He was expecting a groan or a sigh: “What?” But instead the man simply told Mark it was a small problem and he’d call the broker right away. With any luck he’d be on his way in no time.
“Yeah, sure,” Mark said under his breath as he hung up the phone. “There’s no way in hell they’re getting this mess sorted out in less than an hour.” So instead of heading back into the customs office, Mark headed for Mother Load where he could at least nap for an hour or so while the broker figured out the problem. But before he’d even made himself comfortable, the customs officer was there knocking on his window.
“Good to go.”
“The entry’s complete,” the officer said. “You’re free to cross the border. Enjoy your time in the United States.”
“I’ll try,” Mark said in disbelief.
He started up Mother Load, happy that he’d cleared a seemingly huge hurdle.
This was better, he thought. But still, not good enough.
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