The slow, jazzy, familiar Christmas "theme song" that I included in this entry fits the title, but doesn't really come close to describing the week I had last week. A better piece of music for that would be the William Tell Overture, also known as the Lone Ranger Theme. Rushing around to get it all done and get home for Christmas, but seemingly running into walls everywhere. Pandemonium, in a word.
And I was nowhere near a mall, where that sort of thing is considered normal in this holidaze season.
Things started getting interesting early in the week. I was assigned a load at a customer I dread in South Carolina, where the dock is at the top of a steep driveway, with a curve in it, and is at an oddball angle to the pigpath of a driveway below. It also requires drivers to perform a double drop and hook -- one for the loaded box and another for the empty you bring in. This is necessary because they only load our trailers out of that one dock and they don't have any spotters on their payroll. You, the driver, are also the "spotter."
When I was there before, last summer, there was a vacant lot adjacent to it, where I dropped my empty while I hooked to the loaded one and pulled it around front, out of the way, until I could re-hook to the empty and put it in the dock door. Ahhhh, but everything changes, doesn't it? Yes, indeed, and now that vacant lot is blocked off, the gateway locked up. And now that pigpath of a driveway I mentioned is filled with an assortment of storage trailers and scrap metal hoppers. And if that wasn't enough, a "hopper-hauler" from the local recycling facility was in there setting an empty hopper back down when I slowly crept back there.
"Pardon me while I get in your way," I called out to him, jokingly. He smiled in response, laughingly mentioning the obvious -- that we were, uh, in each other's way, somewhat. Mexican stand-off? No, not quite, but I had gotten out to size up the situation and figure out how the hell I was gonna do this task, with virtually no room in which to manuever a 70-foot-long truck and trailer. "I'm a truck driver," I told him. "We do the impossible every day!" I didn't mention the fact to him that I had absolutely no intention whatsoever of trying to back my rig back out of there, up the hilly driveway and around the curve to the front of the place.
After trying to back blindside into a little cubbyhole on my right, and failing because I was right up against a storage container and had no room at all to swing my tractor around, to get back under my trailer, I had a brainstorm. I managed to pull over to my right just enough for him to squeeze his truck past mine and then I used part of the dock driveway to make a tight buttonhook turn into a space between a storage trailer and the empty hopper he'd just set down. I pulled down far enough to straighten my box out, hoping I wouldn't get stuck, then reversed it, blasting right across the driveway and up the hill, toward the loaded trailer in the dock. I ended up with the ass-end of my empty beside the loaded box and then I had room to pull out of there to my left, headed back up the driveway again. Ah-ha!! The difficult I can do in an instant; the impossible just takes a little longer! I backed my empty into a space between the hoppers and another storage container and ditched it, temporarily. After another 30 minutes, I was headed toward Corinth, Mississippi, and a remanufacturing plant there.
The trip to Missusip went normally and uneventfully. I got there right on time, dropped that trailer and sat next to another empty, expecting to take another load right back out of the place. I wasn't disappointed and got my bills a little later and hooked up to another loaded caboose, for a run, I thought, to West (by God) Virginia. But that never happened at all, as I was asked to swap loads with another driver and take his trailer to upstate New York.
New York??!! The week before Christmas?? Nothing out of that state goes south, that I've seen in ten years! How'm I gonna get home?? We'll take care of you, I was told, but this driver has to get home. Family emergency. Well, crap! Okay, okay!! So I contacted the driver and we agreed to meet up for the swap in a little nothing of a place about 30 miles northeast of the shipper. We did, we swapped, and I was on my way up to the Empire State, still having misgivings about where I was going and the lack of southern-bound backhaul loads.
Well, they did find me a load back south, through a freight broker. Right back to South Carolina, but in a different part of the state from where I'd come. Brokered loads are like the Forrest Gump "box of chocolates;" you never know what you'll get. But this one, amazingly, was a light load, for once, and not the typical brokered heavyweight monster that belongs on a flatbed. A welcome break, when you drive one of my company's castrated trucks and learn to despise heavy loads early on.
The only problem was that the load delivered on Saturday!! Uh, excuse me, dispatch, but this is a Saturday delivery, on a holiday weekend! Everything will be closing up on me! Are you going to be able to find me a load home for Christmas?? We're working on it now -- working on getting everyone home, I was informed, curtly. Okay, I'm not stupid -- I know a brush-off when I encounter one. The implication was, "we're busy as hell trying to line up loads; don't call us, we'll call you!" Okayyyyyyy! I'll go away now, and so I did.
So then I managed to get my sleep schedule all screwed up, bigtime. I went from sleeping during the day, to sleeping at night, and then back to day sleep again on Friday. The previous night, I'd gotten my "nap" out well and so wasn't the least bit sleepy that day. I dozed on and off for 3 or 4 hours, then sat awake, reading and schmoozing, for the rest of that break. Naturally, I was getting drowsy up in the wee hours, as I motored closer to my destination. And the holiday traffic, insane even at 4 A.M., wasn't helping things one bit! I finally rolled into the little town outside Greenville, South Carolina, followed my Qualcomm directions to the letter, and promptly got my ass lost! Don't ever let any trucker tell you that he never gets lost. That driver is a damned liar and I'll call him so to his face!!
I turned left at the second light and that trailer droplot that was supposed to be on my left, a quarter-mile down the road, wasn't to be found anywhere. Well, crap -- I guess they moved the damned thing, I thought! Actually, my thoughts were just a wee bit more profane than that indicates and I started cursing Qualcomm directions in general in my most fluent Texan. My cab was so filled with blue air from my unprintable observations that I had to roll the window down, to let it escape, so I could see where I was going. Or was that just the rain? Suffice it to say that I was not a happy camper on Saturday morning. Another unknown direction-sending driver was getting his ancestry traced back at least fifty generations and discovering that he was related to a family of jackasses, to put it mildly. I threw the alpha male version of a real hissy-fit! I've worked for it, I've earned it, and nobody's gonna deprive me of it, by Golly!!!
Drove down another street, thinking maybe I'd counted the lights wrong. But nothing there, either. A call to the customer yielded a phone ringing off the hook endlessly, with nobody in the office to answer it, presumably. I followed some trucks down another street, hoping that maybe one or two of them were bound for the same place I was and would lead me right to it, but no such luck was to be had. Basically, I drove around in circles for 30 minutes, asking around on the CB, but getting no one who knew where the place was. Desperately, I parked behind another truck in the turn lane, put my flashers on, and walked toward a little market, hoping someone there would know and I wouldn't get ticketed while I inquired.
At that point, I had some luck. I met the driver of the truck parked in front of mine as he came walking back out of the market. He asked me if I was lost and I told him I sure was, indeed. I told him the place I was looking for and he explained that there was an extra light there now. He bade me to follow him and he took me right to the place, which was located off the third traffic light now, not the second one. They had opened a new street since those directions were sent in and added another traffic signal. Confusing? Yep, especially at 4:30 A.M., when it's still dark outside, raining, and when you haven't had much sleep. Thanking him profusely and wishing him the best of holidays, I was in the dock fifteen minutes after he went back on his way again.
I catnapped while the lumpers unloaded my trailer, then sent in my empty message. I didn't have to wait but a few minutes for the load assignment -- a load from a paper mill, some 100 miles further south, that delivered near Columbus, Ohio on Dec. 26th. I flew down there and got it as quick as I could, then headed toward the Dawg House. By then, though, I was really pooped out and my drive hours were starting to dwindle. I got most of the way back to Spartanburg, then pulled into a rest area for some sleep. I could've pushed myself and made it on home, but why risk an accident when you're that tired?? Not worth it at all.
So, I slept like a baby then got up and rolled in here about mid-morning today. Tried to go shopping, but couldn't find a thing I wanted and the crowds got on my nerves very rapidly. I hate shopping. That part of the holidays sucks, for me, and always has. But, I'll get up REAL EARLY tomorrow and look elsewhere for gifts. "Last Minute Larry" is living up to his legend again this year!!!