by Ed Colby
When I picked up the phone, the voice on the other end simply said, “Wassup?!”
“Maybe you should tell me,” I said. This was my truck driver, en route to pick up a pollen shipment bound for California. “I’ll be there in about an hour, maybe,” he said.
I wondered where he was. “What direction are you coming from?” I inquired.
“Direction?” he said. “I don’t know about no direction.”
“No, I mean are you coming from the East or the West?” I queried.
“All’s I know is my next town is called Meeker,” he said.
“Ah, you’re coming from the Northwest,” I observed. “Call me when you get to Rifle,” and I’ll load up my pickup and meet you at the McDonald’s in New Castle.”
I ship pollen when my two garage chest freezers fill up. I always meet the truck at McDonald’s. Easy to find, easy to get to, big-truck parking. But why would my buyer send an empty freezer tractor trailer to pick up fifteen 50-pound boxes of pollen? Because they wanted it bad, that’s why. It just seemed like overkill to me. Must cost a fortune. I wished I had a camera when we loaded that pathetic pile of little boxes into the maw of a cavernous truck.
The 20-something driver was a dark, good-natured guy. He talked some serious slang. I pegged him immediately. “What part of East L.A. you from?” I asked.
“East L.A.?” he laughed, “What, you think I’m Mexican?”
Now he had me on my heels. “Maybe,” I ventured.
“I live in Texas, but before that I came from India,” he said.
He seemed pretty culturally adapted to this country, or maybe they say “Wassup?” in India, too. He apparently does pretty well in the States. He owned that truck. You have to admire some of these immigrants. They hustle.
Afterwards, I told my environmentalist sidekick Marilyn about the big truck and its tiny load. “That’s a sin,” she said.
“Next time we’ll get a photo.” I said.
In October I had another load ready. A third party dispatcher scheduled pickups and deliveries for independent truckers. My contact person was a pleasant enough woman who nonetheless had a hard time comprehending that I’m not a company with a fax machine, a warehouse, forklifts and an office assistant, or that I don’t own a cell phone. When she made out the delivery’s bill of lading, she asked the name of my company.
“It’s just me,” I said. “I don’t really have a company name.”
She paused. “Well, I’m going to put down ‘Ed Colby, Inc.,’ she said.
“I’m not incorporated,” I said. “Just put ‘Ed Colby.’ She didn’t say anything, and when she sent me the bill of lading, it listed the shipper as “McDonald’s,” because, well, McDonald’s is a company, I guess. When I called back to correct this error, she said, “Well, that was where you shipped from, right?”
There was no point arguing. I gave up and went along. I try not to sweat the petty stuff. There is a certain just-fill-in-all-the-blanks bureaucratic mentality. It doesn’t matter what you put in the blanks. The information can be wrong. That’s O.K. Just so they’re all filled in.
On delivery day, when I picked up the phone, again, the voice on the other end said, “Wassup?!” I guess this is what truckers all say when they call you, because this was a different trucker. His English was only rudimentary, but he had directions to McDonald’s.
This time I brought along Marilyn and her camera. When we spotted a slender gentleman in a bright blue turban outside McDonald’s, I felt confident I had my man. His name was Amrit. The outside of his truck cab read “Amrit Trucking Company”. When I asked what country he came from, he replied, “India.”
“Are you a Sikh?” I asked. “Yes,” he said. He said he’s been in the U.S. for seven years. I took an instant liking to the man. He radiated a kind of goodness, or was it merely innocence?
After we loaded the truck, he muttered something. Marilyn asked him to repeat himself, but I still didn’t get it. Marilyn said, “He wants to know if he should turn on the refrigeration.”
“Please, zero to 10 below would be perfect,” I said. He merely nodded.
This time there were only 12 boxes. I asked him if he had more pick ups to make on his trip to California. “No,” he said, “This is my load.”
He was in a hurry to leave. I shook his hand. It’s odd how a stranger can pull on you. Someone you can barely understand! I wanted to bring him home to Marilyn’s cooking. At the very least, I wanted tell him, “Welcome to America!” Of course I never did. But I should have.