Thursday, 28 January 2010

Driver report 2.


“Quick one today mate, no problems!’
Why did I believe him!

Different truck, smaller and air conditioned, but the running sheet was again very short on detail and the day was stretched by several false starts and one misspelled street name to be twelve hours of frustration.

Parting words from me:
“Sean, if you can’t give me that addresses of the drops and pick-ups, I can’t do it. I need it all, like street number, street name, suburb and post code.”
“Post code! Waddaya doin’? Posting (expletive deleted) letters!”
“No, but the GPS doesn’t always like your spelling. A post code gets me close and I can ask someone.”
“OK, I’ll get it off the computer. Happy?”
“No, if you can, I’d also like a phone number.”
“Look, I don’t need the stress. I want to do a good job, that’s all! Like, I need all the help I can get!”

Monday morning:

Valentines Day must be close!
Another full load of roses in the big truck and a running sheet with… Glory be! Addresses! Not all, but most.
Only five drops and four pick ups.
“A piece of piss!” I’m assured.
And it was, up until the hospital.

One huge pallet of mixed fruit and veg aboard for delightful Maleney, promising 120 kms of eye candy, winding through the Glasshouse Mountains, plus some chilled meat and cheese for two other drops, further along the beautiful knife edged range at Montville, picture perfect village behind the Sunshine Coast where the view is worth the drive anytime.

Hospital instructions were detailed. ‘Go in the main entrance. I can’t get in with the semi, so call me when you get there and I’ll meet you later to take that package. Call Suzie (number supplied) and she’ll meet you outside the lobby with the package.’

Like he said, ‘A piece of piss’.
Driving a small sedan into a hospital main entrance requires faith, but taking a huge freezer van in requires absolute stupidity. But, I was following orders and did as told.

The building is new, with grey aluminium shaded walkways beside roadways separated by Agapanthus gardens. At the end is the covered portico, too low for me to enter, but there is a gap in the garden wide enough for me to turn and just enough room for vehicles to pass on every side if needed.

A look around. Where is Suzie? I park and climb down.
Before I have time to wonder if I am at the wrong hospital (there was no mention of ‘Public’ or ‘Private’ and there they were side by side), the parking Nazi was there.
“Yer can’t park there mate!”
Some mate!
“Look, I’m just here to pick up a medical package. It’s being brought out.”
“No matter mate, you move now or I call the police.”
The phone was at the ready and I have always had a problem with uniforms so I complied.
“Where do I park?”
“There, in the taxi rank.” A pointing finger indicated a space about a millimetre longer than the truck.

Reverse parking is easy in an MX5. In a six pallet van with no rear vision, not so easy.
Back I came, eyes darting from mirror to mirror like I was watching Federer and Hewitt, all going well until I heard a sound like a crushing beer can.
Emergency stop and a sinking stomach.

Too high to be seen in the mirrors, I had not noticed the shade awning, all new, grey and shining aluminium overhanging the kerb by maybe ten centimetres. Its perfect line and curve were now destroyed. It really was a small ding, but in the midst of such perfection it was as noticeable as the gap left by nine-eleven.

And he was quick. By the time I checked I had not run over an old lady in a wheel chair, there was the security bloke, notebook in hand taking down info from the truck door.

“Licence!” he demanded and I complied.
“Sorry about that. Lucky I wasn’t hurt!”
He looked at me as if I’d lost it.
“Might have had to find a hospital!” smiling, to let him know it was really a joke. It was a bit lame, but considering how bloody stupid I felt, it was about as funny as I could manage.
“Shit happens!” he grumbled as he finished his report.
Suzie arrived ten minutes too late to save my hide. And the package! The package was only just too large for the average trouser pocket. It looked like a match box inside the almost empty of the freezer van.

But Suzie’s tardiness had started an expanding ripple on the pond of consequences. That, the unreasonable demands of the parking Fuehrer and my compliant nature resulted in an unfortunate sequence of events that will be long and costly. I reckoned the income from that pick up would be about ten dollars while the repair bill could be two or three thousand as I hoped Sean’s insurance covered dented hospital awnings.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Driving Report 1.

It should be compulsory for everyone to do teacher training.

The running sheet looked like a cryptic crossword puzzle. The directions seemed to bear little relationship to the task. When I agreed to drive for Sean I had stressed that Brisbane was a mystery to me, an ex-Sydneyite. But all I got to guide me to unknown destinations were nicknames of businesses and sometimes a road name, not always spelled correctly.
Navman hates misspelled street names.

The hour late start from the first pick up was not an auspicious omen. The open door revealed eleven pallets of long stemmed roses double stacked to fill almost all available space plus one pallet of chilled crabs. Note that the roses were numbered eleven in a six-pallet truck. That left one pallet of roses not double stacked.

First pick up was half a dozen tubs of iced mullet (apparently being returned to the supplier and already a few days old) to be squeezed in under the odd bin of roses. Loading was delayed by fifteen minutes by a garbage truck blocking the loading bay while he worked his way through at least twenty-five bins of shop refuse while I and the fish shop bloke waited and the mullet sat in the sun. Added next were twenty-three boxes of de-boned ham which were precariously perched on top of the crabs. A cockroach would have had trouble finding an entry point.

At last, with the first drop planned, well, I did punch a street name into the GPS, I was away. But the street was long and the flower wholesaler hadn’t bothered with a street-front sign, so after missing it in the first pass and needing to go at least a K to find a place to U-turn, I rang the boss.

“It’s down the back beside a dance school or something. You’ll find it.”
Right! I couldn't miss the dance palace sign and drove in.
Nothing there except a bemused dance instructor who had no use for a million roses or pallet of mullet, so I backed all the way out, beep, beep, beep…, turned around and crept along the road, stopping at every driveway for over a kilometre until there it was, almost totally obscured by a buttress. ‘Pine Valley’ and the flowers were gone.

The mullet again sat in the sun while the roses were fork lifted out. Next time the doors were opened there was a distinct but still not overwhelming smell of mullet. One down and nineteen to go.

There are fifty-four Hope Streets in Queensland, about half in the greater Brisbane area, so the next clue, just two words, ‘Hope St’ didn’t cut it, so it was onto the phone for the tenth time at least to get more info. Sean was driving a semi himself, so was not always in phone range, so I asked Scotty. His help was not all that helpful.
“Head along until you see the pub.”
“Name of the pub?”
‘Buggered if I know, but you’ll see it. Anyway, don’t turn there, go on ‘til you see the Toyota dealer and you’re close. OK? Better still, turn at the pub and take the next left after the park...” And so it went, all confusing and time wasting.
Teachers are trained to organise information in a logical sequence and impart it in a way that is clear to the student. Some teachers don’t get it either, but at least they try.

By five that afternoon, at least ten unnecessary trips to places that didn’t exist, numerous desperate calls to Telstra ‘Call Connect’, tracking down businesses to get addresses and the fish were eventually unloaded. The remaining cargo, now too late for ‘same day’ delivery was at last not threatened by the smell.

A last call to Sean and he seemed relaxed.
“Forget it mate, just drive safely home”.
My last words to him: “If you want me to drive tomorrow, I need addresses. Like, it’s handy to know where I’m supposed to be going!”

Monday, 18 January 2010

Keeps me on the roads

It was hilarious watching the faces.

Scotty, about forty, separated and a bit testy at his ex, filled in the details as we barrelled down the M1 with a load of chilled fish bound for Brisbane’s sushi bars.
He had an audience for the first time and took advantage. After all, I was his captive for two whole days as I was taken around his run as training for my new casual job, driving the six pallet chill truck.

“Yell out if you want coffee!”
An apparently humane offer, considering the breakfast free five AM start at a Mooloolaba cool store, inside which very sharp knives in expert hands reduced huge swordfish into steaks.
“OK, whenever it suits you!”
Wrong! It never suited Scotty. He never stops. Drinks his coke while driving, eats while driving, gets updates on schedules while driving and talked to his eight year old many times by phone, also while driving.

Scotty doesn’t stop for anything except pick-ups and drop-offs. Forget smokos, tea and meal breaks or rest periods. Welcome to the real world or free enterprise. I did the math and asked if the truck made money. A guarded ‘yes’ revealed the truth. If the drivers don’t run all day, the trucks lose money and the jobs go. It’s survival of the fittest out there, and they need to be fit!

The stares were funny. At each stop, we carried boxes of swordfish or tuna into shops and I was introduced as the guy doing work experience. Each time the double take as my age was estimated, probably correctly and the not always verbal reaction was: “This must be a joke!”
But joke it was not. What prompted a mid seventies SOB to go back to work in such a demanding job had them scratching their heads. “Why?” was the occasional question and I answered with the truth.
‘Anybody living on a boat knows the age pension doesn’t make it’.

I must say, people were cheerful and pleasant everywhere we went, maybe because Scotty is such a nice bloke or maybe because they are like that with everyone. A bit of both, I reckon. Later, I might have something to say about the shop where every morsel was weighed before the receipt was signed and what that said about business practices in whatever country the owner originated.

Driven by the need to find the readies to have Tiziana surveyed for insurance drove me, in a rash moment, to offer my rusty services. Sean was stuck for an appropriate licence holder to fill in for the occasional unavailable driver. Chilled fish needs to get there now, not next week when a sick driver returns. So here I was, balancing the big wheels between lane markers that were suddenly narrower than I ever remembered them.

I completed my full driving day on Friday, no bent panels, no scratched paint, no skittled pedestrians or cyclists and only the occasional red face when a gear was missed. But I was buggered!

If anyone reads this and you are, for some inexplicable reason, interested in how I cope next week, I will try to marshal the energy for a report. A comment would be good, even if it is only a “Tsk! Tsk!”