There’s a rhythm and a hope in running transport. We spend everyday putting things in order for the next day’s run–packing orders, calling folks when we don’t have something or can offer a substitute, getting updated addresses and phone numbers, writing up ‘flight plans’ for the drivers as a guide to them out on the road, making sure they have maps of where items are in freezers and coolers, zip tying a back-up light back to the frame until the hardware stores are open to get the right sized nut, and invoicing and emailing customers who need their invoices in advance of the truck. These are the small acts that go into distribution.
All of that, the routing, the planning the warehouse schedule everyday, the methodical and sometimes late-night rounding up of details, is all in service of this moment at 4:30 am.
We’ve loaded the truck, I’ve prepped the driver, and in a few minutes he’ll launch out in the dark down over the roads to Boston. When he’s followed the course I’ve plotted, there are times he’ll be beyond my help. There are times we’ll talk 6, 12, 20 times in a day. There are times a call to me will result in the team here springing into motion, working phones and maps to get him swift answers and smooth his passage, and there are times he’ll have to do his best and use his judgment.
This morning and every morning, as our drivers and our trucks start each day in the dark and leave the warehouse, I start the day with hope and faith, because the day’s events are yet unforeseen and unknowable. The day could be like yesterday, with a new frustration arising from every corner, it seems, all day long. It could be a day of weather or truck surprises. I might go home like last night, and sleep for five hours before dinner just to bypass my own brain, or I might go home as I did on Tuesday and spend an hour walking on a frozen lake with a friend in companionable peace and the rest of quiet.
But every single morning, whether I am awake as it happens or not, my drivers head down the roads, trusting the plans, trusting their skills, and trusting our crew that we’ll work together to solve whatever we encounter. They too start each day with hope and optimism for what the day will bring.
I wonder, sometimes, if this is what transport has always been like; preparing carts and provisions and supplies to go down the Silk Road, or hoping you’ve packed enough water to cross dusty camel trails, or fitting up ships and sending them off to venture beyond reach or communication. Someone is always in the harbor or trade port, having prepared and launched those ships, hoping in their quiet hours that things are going well, and praying for the safe return of ship and crew.
I used to be the one rolling down the roads in the pre-dawn, thinking slowly in the special quiet while everyone else is sleeping. I sometimes meet them in the mornings now to forklift a big load, or to help with tricky pallets. I, like many nautical counterparts, have my own superstitions, and I won’t go home to bed until my drivers are safely on the road. If I pull out of the driveway and leave the truck’s headlights in my rearview mirror, my experience leads me to misgivings all the way home, and I’m often woken again in a few hours by a phone call from the driver.
These days when I meet them early, I wait patiently while they do their paperwork after the trucks are loaded, not begrudging the lost sleep while I wait for the headlight sweep arcing across the yard as they pull out. Superstition or prayer, it’s my own way of hoping and willing them along their way through til morning.
And if all goes well, they’ll hove into view this afternoon, back safe and sound if my daily prayers are answered. That’s the hope, constantly.