My first trip to New York City lived down to my expectations. I was not terribly excited when I got the load assignment but figured a load was a load and I needed to do a New York trip with the worst trucking company in the world. It would probably make for a great story. I’ll let my readers (reader?) be the judge.
I picked up a load of meat in Plainwell, Michigan at 3 a.m. It was gently raining as I pulled up to the guard shack. They thoughtfully sent me to the wrong place. The guys in the wrong place sent me to the right place. That’s about 200 yards of fast walking in the rain. Oh, and lightning was rending the sky.
At the right office they quickly sent me to the right door. Unfortunately, there was already a trailer parked there. I called the right office and reported that fact. So sorry. A yard dog would be around directly to tug the orphaned trailer away.
After “directly” strung out to 20 minutes, I called again.
He was there within three minutes.
The loading took less than an hour and I was off on a delightful drive to as far east in Pennsylvania as I could get in the hours I had or before falling asleep. We’ll call it a draw. Through the whole span of Ohio it rained. Through the 45 miles past Cleveland it was torrentially raining. Add 30 miles of construction, and you can guess the condition of my sphincter.
On the positive side, all that rain and construction kept me alert. When the rain ceased as I crossed into Pennsylvania, the fatigue gradually worked its way up to my eyes. I made it as far as a Flying J off I-80 at exit 178 before I limped into my parking space for the night – although by that time it was day.
I didn’t even do a Post Trip Inspection. I logged myself into the sleeper berth and commenced to do what its name suggested. With a single wakeup at around 9:45, I slept until 1:30 p.m. That’s when I was instructed via a message to head into NYC soon as my 10 hour break was up. After a phone conversation to clarify things for me, I learned they were asking me to:
- drive to the delivery legal;
- go on break,
- make the first two deliveries – 3 and 8:30 a.m. – while I was technically off duty;
- then go on duty after my new 10 hour break and make the final delivery 43 miles to the east on Long Island.
Works for me.
The folks in Safety provided me with the approved route to Hunts Point in The Bronx. The good old heading home at the end of weekend traffic made for a 30 minute experience through the toll gate and over the George Washington Bridge. Glad I had EZ Pass or it would have been much longer.
SwoNote: I did not take this photograph (smile).
More traffic backups as I corkscrewed my way down from the upper deck of the bridge to I-287 South on the western edge of Manhattan Island. My impeccable timing had me driving that stretch of highway just before a Yankees game.
After I got past Yankee Stadium, it opened up but by that time I was leaving the interstate and heading to the seamy underbelly of Da Bronx. Nasty, bumpy, grimy streets took me past nasty, pimpled, grimy people of all sizes and shapes. I fervently hoped nobody would run into me and carefully made my way through the half dozen turns that got me – finally – to Hunts Point Market, which is the largest wholesale food market in the [they don’t really say – oh, wait] THE WORLD.
Interesting side note, when I googled Hunts Point and then clicked on “Images” this is what I found:
Other than the chick(?) at the bottom right, none of it looked like any of these photographs.
After a wrong turn into the back of the Produce Market, I was directed by the nicest guy I’d met in days, a security dude at the back gate, to the Meat Market just up the street. There I paid my $25 in cash to be allowed into the hallowed grounds and was directed to the back where I would find a place to park for the night.
It was dusk but still light enough to see rows and rows of buildings that looked like they were built in the early 1900s although Wikipedia says the place opened in 1974. It was ratty, grimy, bumpy and yet strangely fascinating. As nasty as everything looked I didn’t feel unsafe.
I found a parking spot and another Stevens driver told me that the only company open was a quarter mile hike and they would let me use their bathroom. I made the hike but there was noone to let me into the men’s locker room, So I took care of business in their lot and made my way back to my truck where I set the alarm for 2:15 a.m. and hit the sack.
I was startled awake by my smartphone at 11:45 – a weather alert. Never had that happen before. I ignored it, and was startled awake again at the appointed time. There was nobody at my receiver so I waited 30 minutes and went back. There was action in Hunts Point and things were heating up. Hundreds of trucks, ready and able to deliver to the almost 50 wholesalers that populated the market. At 3 a.m. Sam, a black dude who had a West Indies accent, took my Bill of Lading and directed me to park at a dock across from his location.
Yes, he said. They had storage space over there too.
So I snaked through the dock lanes and backed up to the open dock with my doors open. Bear in mind that I was refrigerated and when the doors are open, the refrigerated air yearns to escape. After 20 minutes of a continuously warming trailer, and with two more deliveries to make after this one, I walked back to the office. There was now a white dude actually sitting in a little office who looked just tickled to be there.
“So I’m backed in across the way,” I said.
“What do you want from me?” the Yankee prick replied.
If Sam had checked me in, I would be taken care of. I walked back to my truck and within five minutes I felt the unloading begin. Perhaps 30 minutes later, Sam gave me my paperwork. I closed things up and went back to park. It was a serious challenge getting out of my space. I couldn’t make a left turn or a right turn. After a little cogitating, I found that if I pulled forward through a hole in the worker parking, I could turn to the right and get to a parking slot.
Once parked, I walked to my second delivery just a block and a half away. A nice man took my paperwork, asked for my cell phone number and told me there was one truck to unload after he finished the one he was working on. He’d call when he was ready.
I walked back to my truck – did I mention it was raining lightly – and laid down in my bunk to meditate. I woke up an hour and a half later. No call. I walked back to delivery #2.
There was another white guy in a little glass-enclosed cubicle on the dock who was shuffling paperwork. I told him I had been there earlier and were they ready for my yet. In his best New Yawk accent he kindly stated, I have no idea who you ahr.”
About that time my original guy walked up. “Stevens, right?” He then explained, “Ah, another truck had his paperwork in first and I had to take him before you.” He told me to bring my truck around and park at the curb next to his warehouse. I thought to myself, why not just stay put, it’s only a block away, but then thought, if I’m right there he can’t snake another load in in front of me.
So I pulled around and parked where he had indicated. Within three minutes a market policeman in a marked pickup drove up and blipped a siren at me. I rolled down the window.
“You can’t pahk theah,” he said in his New Yawk accent.
Pointing toward the building I said, “But the guy -“
“It’s a hundred dollar fine. You okay with that?”
I was not. So I drove back, waited a few minutes, and drove back again just as the other truck was pulling out. I horsed my way back into his open dock, the most challenging back up yet, and he got his product off within 30 minutes.
Somewhere in all this I got a call from The Yard. It was Merle and he was asking how I got to Hunts Point the night before. My mind raced to why he could be asking this. Had I hit something and the hittee had called Stevens to report me? Poop! But I calmly explained how I had gotten there and he said they were having trouble with some drivers freelancing their way to the market. I was okay.
I then asked about getting out of Hunts Point and to the last drop on Long Island. He couldn’t talk me through it right then but promised to call me back. I think it is strange that they can’t program into the NaviGo program on QualComm the proper way to get to places that we, as a company, go all the freakin’ time. But that’s the way it is.
I finally connected with him again 30 minutes later and he told me to get my map book out. I said sure, and just got out paper and pen to write down the turn by turn directions. I did use my QualComm, but ignored about half of Nav Chick’s instructions when it differed from Merle’s.
It was still raining lightly as I made my way across the Throgs Neck bridge, down I-295, and then west on I-495. I found my way to the meat wholesaler in West Babylon. I was at the edge of a light commercial district ready to head onto residential streets when I saw the sign and stopped – right on the road. You had to be kidding me. The itty bitty sign said meat company but I was looking at a tiny strip mall that had an insurance office, nail parlor and small employment agency. There was a narrow road on the left side of the building. I put on the four way flashers and ran to the back of the building. There was actually a meat wholesaler back there with two dock doors. The lot was the size of a large beach towel. How the hell would I be able to get backed into the dock. It was obviously made for smaller delivery box trucks.
“No,” said the Hispanic dude who seemed to be running the dock, just pull allllll the way back into the corner and you can make it work.
Back out on the street I backed my truck up 50 feet into traffic, waited for a clear roadway and made a sweeping turn into the narrow driveway. Once behind the building I pulled alllll the way back into the corner and got myself backed in, albeit at a slight angle. It only took 20 or so pull forwards and I hit the building – slightly – only once. I got a small assist from an arriving delivery driver.
This guy had me unloaded in 15 minutes and handed me my paperwork. Three drops. No lumper fees. No damage. No shortages. No returned product. It was a Big Rotten Apple miracle.
I got my a$$ out of there and encountered pretty smooth sailing back west, back across the GW bridge found my way to the Vince Lombardy travel plaza, the busiest turnpike service plaza I had ever seen. I would take care of my incoming and outgoing biological needs and wait for my next load assignment. My expectations were not high. I was just glad to be out of New York City and figured I would be out of Yankeeland and back into the hinterland before dark.