Helper dockets and gender parity

Do you know what a helper docket is? If you’re not a courier, you probably won’t.

Most courier companies employ vans and cars, as well as pushbikes and motorbikes, and sometimes a van driver will be given a job he can’t load on his own. It might be 20 chairs up three flights of stairs, or just one very heavy box. So the controller will send a pushbike courier over to help, and often to ride in the van to the delivery address, and help with the unloading there. It’s good pay, and a bit of a change of scene. And I get on well with most of the van drivers, so wouldn’t mine spending half an hour relaxing and gossiping in their cab.

But girls don’t get given helper dockets. This isn’t official policy – it’s just the inevitable conclusion I reached, having been on the road for two years and not been given a single one. And I’m not alone.

M. (an exenger I know) was once sent to help a van driver unload some boxes. The driver was ridiculously gentlemanly and attentive – “let me get that for you … no no, allow me” – and afterwards complained to the company about the controller sending a girl. M. was more than capable of carrying the boxes he wouldn’t let her touch, but she never got any more helper dockets after that.

And when I mentioned this to K. (another exenger, who spent nearly ten years on the road, and was renowned for her toughness), she told me about the time she was passing through the control room, overheard them discussing a helper docket just down the road from her house the following morning, and offered her services.

There was a long, awkward silence.

The two controllers exchanged glances.

Finally one of them spoke up.

“Erm, well, K., I’m not being sexist, but…”

More awkward silence.

“Ummm, you don’t want to be carting great heavy boxes around, do you?”

K. indicated that she’d really quite like to.

“…well, the thing is… I really want you out there on circuit. It’s going to be crazy busy tomorrow…”

It was the second week of a very quiet August, so this was distinctly unlikely.

“…and besides, ummm, I’ve already put you down for an EC2 pre-book tomorrow morning…”

Rather illogical, since K. lives in SW6 and the helper docket was in Hammersmith. So was another pushbike going to be sent all the way out from Hackney (where everyone else lives), while she crossed town in the opposite direction to pick up the EC2 job?

“…and …and, you know, you’re one of my best riders – I want you out there on the road…”

This was just getting ridiculous. He clearly didn’t want to give her the docket, and K. had an urgent appointment with a pint of ale, so decided to leave it at that.

To put things into perspective, K. isn’t one of those 5-foot 7-stone female couriers you see around – she’s taller than lots of the guys, and definitely stronger-looking. Have you seen how weedy some of the male couriers are?

I’ve had a chip on my shoulder about this for ages. I can’t stand the thought that my controller might think I was incapable of any part of the job. And I really quite like lugging heavy boxes around. (Something to prove? Moi?)

So the other day I went in and tackled him directly.

To his credit, he didn’t try and pull the whole “I’m not being sexist, but…” act. He admitted that there’s no company policy that says you can’t make girls do heavy lifting, but – well, he wouldn’t want his daughter doing that sort of thing. And when I flexed my muscles at him, and insisted that I’d really rather like the odd helper docket occasionally, he saw my point completely, and gave me the very next helper docket that hit his screen, about two hours later.

Sometimes you only have to ask!

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8 Responses to “Helper dockets and gender parity”

  1. EoD Says:

    Good grief – look at your arm! It’s more muscular than both of my legs

  2. stupidP Says:

    My garage is in a right two and eight, ‘ooh get you with a garage’, your more than welcome to come and move boxes, Courier Systems rates apply.

  3. Bassjunkieuk Says:

    Hang on, on slightly closer inspection that packing tape looks like the same stuff the company I work for uses! Small world…….

  4. Foz206 Says:

    To be fair to you E (not sure if I’m allowed to use your name), you’d easily be able to lift the stuff you have to lift on helper dockets, but I’m sure you know that already. I don’t think it’s the controllers, it’s the van drivers (as you alluded to in your post). For some unknown reason, as they get paid for loading time, they want to do the job really fast and I’ve been made to carry four boxes at once as I wanted to keep up. I’ve been with Pink six months (four helper dockets) and a courier on and off for five years (ten helper dockets off the top of my head).

    It’s a good job A believes in equality but I bet it’s not just helper dockets you don’t get. Five lever arch files on one docket; the old model portfolios, a double up from Soho to Islington and a hod full of bricks going from NW6 to SE17, that last one didn’t happen. The point is, in the old days I used to get loaded up to the point my back started to seize, whereas female couriers get stuck with A5 letters going from Eagle Street to Jockey’s Fields.

  5. thatmessengerchick Says:

    Oh nonono, I get all the crazy files and portfolios as well! I once had a bankers’ box full of paper going from (ha!) Eagle Street to Jockey’s Fields, and the docket said ‘TOO BIG FOR PUSHBIKE – PLEASE SEND VAN’. I couldn’t get it in my bag, so I just balanced it on my bars. Only took a minute anyway.

    But you are making me very paranoid now I realize I haven’t had the White Cube post run for several weeks…

  6. fuck helper dockets « come on feet Says:

    […] courier blogs will combat sexism by doing these, and that is great. they can have them all. today i found myself sat in the dark in the back of a […]

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