Friday night. One hundred miles go by before I realise the radio is off. I look over at the dial instinctively but decline the impulse. I’m in sync with the sound of the throaty diesel at my command, and my thoughts humm along with the baser sounds below me, the low whine of the turbo, eighteen wheels flinging the cold rain off the slippery pavement, the deeper transmission sounds, and the marble rolling around in a tin pot sound of the throwout bearing that assaults my senses as it rises above the other harmonics, then fades as I block it out. I hate that particular sound, catalouging it away, allowing the other, more harmonious symphonics to accompany my thoughts, and dreams.
I know my quick fix on the damaged workshop roof will not hold this rain off for long. My trucking boss pays on Tuesday and the last of my woodworking grant comes Wednesday. The overlap will pay for new shingles or the used tin my boss is offering. I turn my thoughts back to more peaceful matters.
The traffic on the bridge is flowing well for a Friday night. The big river is swollen, covering wooded islands, trees growing out of the water. The sky sits in the treetops, and the horizon boasts an ethereal, end of the world light whose paleness accentuates the stark leafless trees in the distance. Sheets of fog whip past my windshild as I slice through the mist with my condo on wheels.
I pull off the overhead highway and wend my way through the market section of the city. The mountain at the core of this metropolis rises drab and blurry in my rain soaked view, above the old buildings that produce smells of various description, from four footed beasts to creatures with fins. The assault on my olfactory senses heightens with the addition of cooking smells lingering in the thick, wet air. I make it through the old part of the complex and into the new. I smell chicken and ribs coming from the factory outlet and restaurant mall nearby.
I missed getting a burger at a travel plaza earlier because of bus loads of kids in the line ahead. I’m hungry and a little early for my load. Maybe I’ll pull in the bulding and walk to a burger joint.
I arrange my seventy foot rig into the obligatory pretzel required to enter the building from the fifty foot space in front of the door, and ring the buzzer. The door opens. It looks as if other loads are running late. The place is crowded with trucks.
Our two spots allotted are blocked by a late load. I haven’t driven in six years and will have to call on past experience to get around him and into my spot. Its nearly impossible but I bring some tricks into play that took years of experience to master. I take the truck and trailer apart in my mind and work the individual components into the blind spot working one against the other like a new driver overcompensating and letting his trailer get away on him – like that little camper trailer behind your car that gets away on you and goes sideways.
There is a method to this madness. As I repostion the tractor, moving sideways in short, purposefull, back and forth movements, almost touching the other truck’s mirrors, the other driver smiles politely, probably wondering who the new guy is.
To my right a wall of steel racking loaded with crates and machinery towers above the cab, kissing my passenger mirror. Should I turn my tires out just one or two inches too far I could buckle a support column and topple the stucture on top of me.
I work away at the task, slowly, smoothly, feeling my way into the blind spot, gaining precious inches at a time. The driver looks over again, politely checking on my progress. Before long I have gained freedom to make larger more agressive moves and finally sink the unit into its berth.
We exchange a hello as I go past my colleague to check on my return load. Not ready. I come back down the stairs to go to supper. The waiting driver asks me where our other driver went who was doing this run. I say he’s doing something else. “Will you be driving out of the new location when this run changes in June”. I explain that my boss gave me this run because it will allow me to park the rig at home after June and I will be able to get more quality time in my woodworking shop.
“What do you make in your woodworking shop”. My last project was a casket for a friend of mine I tell him. “I wish I had met you a couple of weeks ago” he says, and away it went. I never did get to eat. He explained that his culture is very community oriented and that my custom, personalised caskets would be of interest to his people. I promised to get him a brochure of my work. He is also going to be running out of the new location so I will see him a lot.
In the middle of our converstion the dockhand motioned to me that my load was ready and I signed the paperwork and bid good evening to my newest client, hopefully.
As I went around the other side of my truck I ran into another driver, seventy two years old, fit as a fiddle – been driving big trucks since he was twenty years old. Well, do you think I got out of there in time. Its a good thing my unloading end has no appointment. I unload with a forklift myself and bring the truck back to our depot. I booked off duty so as not to get paid for my interesting chat time and still got home forty five minutes earlier, to wind down with Lumberjocks. Must be back in the groove again. Only for a while I hope, till the workshop can pay all the bills.
-- Phil Brown, Ontario