Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Still Lost in East LA

Why is it that chicken plants have the smallest loading docks in the world? I’d been to several chicken suppliers in the past (I was driving a for a refrigerated carrier) and every single one of them had been the tightest docks I’d ever seen.

The first drop on this load was located off an alley in East LA. That section of the City does not have the best reputation in the world. Remember Cheech Marin’s song, “Born in East LA?”

I found the street and turned into the alley that housed the warehouse. Four other trucks were parked on the narrow street.

I went into the office, checked in with the Hispanic dock workers and went back outside since I was told, “It will be long time we get to you.”

Naturally, I was facing in the wrong direction. If I tried to get into the dock from where my truck was parked, it would be a blindside backing maneuver, not good even where you have enough room. I went down a few blocks and circled around so that I was facing the right way.

About two hours later, after about five attempts getting into their dock, I was unloaded and on my way to drop number 2.

Following directions from the first stop, I crossed 4th Street, went up to the first stop sign, turned right and then right again at the next street. Sure enough, it was Utah Street. I cruised down slowly, but all I saw were two abandoned apartment houses on the left and some single-family dwellings on the right. None had the street number that I needed.

I went around the block. My directions said Utah Street, but they also mentioned Second Street. As I crept down the street behind Utah, I spotted Second and started to pull in. “No”, I thought luckily, “let’s see what’s down there first.” It was a dead-end alley! There was an empty and gated parking lot, but nothing that looked like a warehouse. It was almost midnight and I couldn’t see shit in the dark.

Back onto Utah Street – park – go to sleep and see what the situation looks like in the morning light. At 0530, I arose and cruised around the block again. I found a warehouse with an open door and a refrigerated truck sitting outside. That might be the place. “No,” said the Vietnamese man inside. “It around corner behind toy store.”

Back to where I was the night before. I got to Second Street, parked the truck and walked down the dead-end alley again. Now, instead of being empty, the small parking lot had a BMW and a Honda parked in it. There was also an open doorway. It had the Utah Street address that I was looking for. But, that wasn’t Utah Street. For some reason they didn’t use the Utah side of the building, just the back half on the alley.

I squeezed my rig into that small lot. Then I helped a very nice Mexican man unload 15,000 pounds of chicken and left. They did help me out by opening a gate so that I could pull straight out onto another side street. Otherwise, I’d probably still be there.

The third drop on that load was a ball-buster, too. The directions to Garden Grove were fine until I got off the Freeway. They directed me to follow Euclid Street past the intersection of Westminster. The Vietnamese Trading Company would be on the right.

When I passed Westminster, all I saw was a car wash and then a row of houses on the right. Well, maybe they meant on the left. I made a U-turn. Nope - nothing but houses and apartments. I knew some of these little businesses could operate out of almost any structure, but these people were getting 4,000 pounds of chicken. The place had to be larger than an apartment.

After three more illegal U-turns, going up and down Euclid Street, I spotted a local cop. I pulled over into the slow lane, put on my flashers, set my brake and got out to ask directions.

He was not very helpful. He did tell me I was in the right area, judging by the street address, but he had never heard of the company. Since I was already illegally parked and the cop didn’t seem to mind, I ran over to a pay phone and called the customer.

In very broken English, she told me to go south to a business park and then take quite a few turns. I couldn’t understand which way to turn, but at least I would be closer and maybe could get help from some of their business neighbors.

I pulled into the business center, and it was a combination shopping center, business park and storage unit facility with very narrow, curving streets. I parked the truck in a tow-away zone. I figured that by the time they got something big enough to tow an 80,000-pound semi out of there, I’d be back. I wandered around on foot until I found an Asian man on a forklift moving produce into one of the larger storage units. He pointed me right to where I needed to be. Of course, with the narrow, curving streets it was a bitch getting the truck in. I also had to block a street while they unloaded me, but no one seemed to care.

After I was unloaded, I headed to our terminal in Mira Loma to wash the stale chicken blood and the foul stench that it produced out of my trailer. Then I sat and waited for my next load.

I had several more trips to Southern California in general and LA in particular, but none were as confusing as that one.

More later,


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