I have a part-time driving job. This morning I got a call from the boss – urgent job broken out, one pallet of salad needs taking to a large Asda distribution centre over 200 miles away. Rush job. Asda desperate. Can I go, like now? Sure. So off I went.
Due to the M6 being nothing more than one almighty car park today because of road works and accidents all over the place I had to take an exceptionally silly and circuitous route. Took me five hours to do a trip that should have taken about three and I got there on time, which nobody expected. Good for me.
On arrival at this place I parked outside the security lodge and handed my paperwork to the Security Lady.
“I’m turning you away,” she said, “you’re not allowed on site.”
“Why, what’s up?” I asked, thinking they were maybe having a fire drill or a strike or a power failure or something.
“There’s a dog in your cab,” she said, pointing in case this situation had escaped my attention.
I agreed that this was indeed the case at which point she started to write “REFUSED ACCESS” all over my paperwork. I explained that my dog always comes with me and has never been refused access to any such place, including other Asda sites, and on the rare occasions when his presence has provoked comment it has only been to say how cute he is or to ensure he remains in the cab, which he always does.
She shrugged and handed me back my now defaced paperwork.
“Now, hang on a minute, there must be a way to…”
“Can’t you look after him in here while I tip this one urgent pallet?”
“I’ll give you a tenner if…”
“No. I work for Asda, not for you.”
There were a couple of other guards in the Lodge so I offered them the same deal, suggesting that they could take an official break and earn themselves a tenner while I… But, suddenly, each of them found something exceptionally important and requiring their immediate and undivided attention on their computer monitors. The Security Lady smirked.
“Look,” forcing calm, “this one pallet I have is supposed to be urgent. I’ve been bringing it for five hours.” She shrugs. “It’s just a dog – not a wolf or a terrorist or a bomb. He’s not dangerous or disease-ridden or explosive.” Another shrug.
Calmness oozing away.
“Okay – I noticed plenty of staff cars here – maybe we can find one of your workers who wants to earn a tenner on their break…”
“Those trees over there, if I secure him to one of those while I go in, you could maybe just keep an eye on him?”
“No.” (And I did secretly thank her for that – it was a horrible option.)
Calmness now of the glacial persuasion.
“All this over a dog! A dog who’ll stay LOCKED in the cab like he ALWAYS does! I bet you get wild cats all over this place all the time! Rabbits and pigeons and crows and hedgehogs – not to mention rats and mice!”
I ask to see her supervisor in order to negotiate a one-time amnesty but she says that she has no supervisor. She is Queen of the Gate and I shall not pass. I can do nought but retreat.
I call my boss. The only thing he can suggest is driving up in his car to look after the dog while I go in to unload my one pallet. The drive will take him three or four hours. Jeez. But it’s a plan, so I return to present it to Her Majesty.
“No. Be closed for deliveries by then.” The news is displeasing, especially to the boss, who can envision this contract slipping away. I can do nothing but tell the Boss to leave it with me and retire from the field, driving away from the Gate House and searching for a plan.
The place is an industrial estate just off a new road. There’s nothing about until I backtrack to the roundabout and spot a Travel Lodge. I wondered if they accepted pets and how much the rooms were. It was either that or ask some truck drivers parked up in a layby, which was another horrible option – not because I don’t trust my fellow knights of the road but because they might have to leave before I could get back or something, birthing a situation that could become very awkward very quickly. So I drove towards the hotel.
Joy of joys! Behind the hotel, hidden by it, a spanking new housing estate and a woman walking two small dogs. So I stop the truck and explain my dilemma to her and ask her if she can help me.
I followed her to her house and left my dog – my Little Brother, my best friend, my only companion, my Chip – in the hands of a complete stranger. Pet owners will be able to imagine my feelings at this time.
The Queen of the Gate didn’t believe my gall in coming back and reminded me of the ABSOLUTELY AND DEFINITELY POSITIVELY NO DOGS policy, whereupon I informed her that I’d found a decent human being to help me out. One of her minions was dispatched to search the cab, which he reported as dog-free. He didn’t want to, bless him, but I made him look in the back as well – because Her Majesty would expect it. A stifled grin. In, tip, out – fifteen minutes. Twenty, tops. Maybe twenty five. As I pass out of the complex, past the same Gate House, I notice that Her Majesty is absent.
The lady who took my dog, whose name transpired to be Helen, said that Chip had comported himself honourably. She refused the tenner I insisted she have. Three times I offered and three times she refused. So thank you, Helen, for restoring my faith in humanity so soon after it had been shaken. May you live for as long as you want and not want for as long as you live.
And to the Asda Security Lady… well, what can I say? May you keep your job forever.