(editor’s note: Here’s Part II of out friend Fran’s story. See yesterday’s thread for Part I).
This whole trip was an oddball…. it was Thanksgiving day, and my mother always put on a big spread for this, and my sisters, and Aunt Bea would show up and it was a beautiful day always in my memories.
It was about 11 a.m. and the turkey was still in the oven, when I got a phone call. From Jimmy Mattz. He said, “eh College Boy, got a run for ya.”
“Hey Jimmy, it’s Thanksgiving…we’re all just getting ready,” I said.
He told me that this was a special run, had a huge amount of citrus to be gotten to make the market before this weekend. He’d lose too much money, and he didn’t trust any of the other apes that he hired now and then, and I was gratified to find that he put so much faith in me, but still. Thanksgiving. So I told him that my mother would be heartbroken. (But I needed that job and it was GOOD money.) He told me that he’d give me an extra 100 bucks bonus, and another 30 buck expense if I made the market…told me I could get a big dinner en route at a fancy restaurant and I could put a coin in the juke box and play some Guy Lombardo!
My mother prepared a dinner for me, complete with her apple pie, and I sat alone in the kitchen, for no one else was there yet, and I chowed down, packed my travel gear and took off. (I’d already told him I wanted the Ford tractor. It was his newest and most comfortable tractor…and he left it for me). I took off on a beautiful autumn day and hit old Route 1 for the south land ( no interstates in those days. I was dead heading all the way (empty trailer), and I made it in uneventful fashion to Winterhaven late that same night. Traffic all the way down was almost nonexistent. I had no weighing scales to worry about (more on those later), and it was a long boring trip. I crashed at a motel in Winterhaven and was up at crack of dawn and at the broker’s office before he arrived. … The broker was a guy who held an office at a convenient gas station and all truckers came thru him to get their hauls. I told him that I was there for the NY city load, and he mentioned that he’d been saving it for another trucker. (I called Jimmy Mattz at his “Office” (The Coffee Pot Diner) collect, and explained the situation. Mattz told me to slip him 50 bucks and tell him to give you the load. The broker had his guys load the rig, and away I went back up north. This was Friday a.m. Still no traffic to speak of, but the brokers were all open. Few rigs however and most of them looking for roads to the west. Settling in to the rhythm of the road, got mesmerized by the monotony, and was slipping over the border to South Carolina, and the route was now old 301….two lanes….headed for North Carolina.
The stench of the paper pulp mills was always an indicator of the fact that you were now in the deep south. I always likened this odor to rotting turnips.
Weighing scales were closed for the weekend so I just barreled along making good time. Stopped for a refuel in Rocky Mount NC, and really expected scales to be open at Virginia border, but no—all quiet on that front, and I slipped though Wash DC like nothing else was happening.
But by this time I’d had it. I had to get some sleep, pulled into the first Motel I saw and crashed. Woke up Saturday morning, and cruised into NY City at almost noon, and the place was jumping. I wheeled down down Manhattan to the docks where the big warehouses were seeing a lot of play. I pulled into the large receiving area, and not knowing just where to go I stopped in the middle. The fatigue was coming on me again, and I was just not all that alert. I heard a clang clang noise on the cement apron where trailer trucks for either parked like jackstraws, or moving out of the region to back uptown behind my truck and I saw this medium sized guy with a Colombo type rain coat on, buttoned up to his neck, and no hat and was clanging a long steel crow bar on the ground. He saw me in my bright red Ford tractor, apparently looking lost, and he came clanging over to the truck, grabbed hold of my driver’s side mirror and looked around the yard. Many trucks were either backing into unloading docks, or just driving away after being unloaded. He said something to the effect of, “OK, you’re next. See that rig in the 4th ramp? … you’ll go there when he’s thru. But you’ll have to wait until I can get a City man to unload you and they’re all tied up now.” Now I was dead tired and I really, really wanted to get home, so in all my naivete, I offered to help. I said, something like, “aw you don’t have to do that, I can unload the truck.” He looked at me like I’d just made a nasty remark about his mother. He said in effect, “Listen you son of a bitch, you touch one box of produce in that truck and we’ll run you and your truck right off the edge of this pier into the river…got that?”
I was shocked. (My first dealing with Union types). So I recall offering a half hearted apology, like “well if you feel that way about it, by all means get your City man.” He said, “You pay up front 50 bucks, and you’ve got him for 8 hours. You can use him any way you need, washing your truck, whatever you need done.” I told him that it wouldn’t be necessary, that as soon as we unloaded I’d be gone. He gave me a little smile and said, “hey, we’re not trying to break ‘em for you but we got our people to take care of here…no hard feelings.” I recall them directing me to an emptying ramp and I backed down, still a bit shook up, but that truck was unloaded so fast that I could hardly believe it. (I was glad that Jimmy had given me enough money to cover this.)
The rest was anti-climactic, I pulled back out, headed east to CT, and rolled into the area of Union Station in New Haven across from the Coffee Pot, but no one was outside by the phone. I went into the diner and Jimmy and his brother Lenny were sitting there over a cup of coffee, and when Jimmy saw me, he yelled out, “Hey college Boy, c’mere.” I was dragging my butt by this time. I let all my resentment run out and he just sat there grinning at me. He said, “you did good on making that market kid, you saved me a bundle, no b/s.” I asked him if that included my special bonus for having the s/t scared out of me, and got lucky about the scales. He laughed like hell, and peeled out another 100 bucks and handed it to me, without ever asking for the change from the trip.
There was still almost another hundred left over and he never asked about it.
During the remainder of that year I ran about eight more trips, until one really scared hell out of me, and I always referred to it as the trip down Storm King. But the one that finally packed it in for me was a trip south, and problems on the way home.