Char­ac­ters all around us on the road

There is this week­ly show on the boob tube that cen­tres on a ma­chine that watch­es us all, every­where we go. Person of In­ter­est, it’s called.

People run­ning around minding their own busi­ness, un­aware the ma­chine has them fea­tured in a lit­tle square on a large screen.
That’s often what I think about as I gaze down from my cab. Look at all those lit­tle boxes rush­ing past me, but with wheels. What’s the sto­ry in there? Where they’re go­ing? Where have they’ve been?

What’s the big hurry?

I’m sure you do the same thing to us. Glance up as we go by, or you pass us, and won­der about who, what, when, where or why?

Well, what I can tell you is that you’re mis­sing out on some great sto­ries about some real char­ac­ters.

I’ve run into quite a few dif­fer­ent rig driv­ers in my years, and to para­phrase an­other TV show, “there are nine mil­lion sto­ries …”

One com­pany I drove for had a ware­house oper­ation on both sides of the USA/Can­ada bor­der. We ran fresh pro­duce from the Ex­cit­ed States to Can­ada, with shakes and shin­gles in re­turn. Some of the Amer­ican driv­ers were not al­lowed to en­ter our coun­try, so guys like me would be dis­patched to the bor­der, hook up the Yan­kee trail­er, bring it into Can­ada, un­load and re­load it, and bring it back to the ori­gin­al driv­er.

Some­times, the Amer­ican driv­er was not al­lowed to work in Can­ada, but he could vis­it, so he would ride along in the pas­sen­ger seat, and I would drive his truck. That was when it be­came in­ter­est­ing.

One such driv­er was from the deep south. His name was Ralph. At first glance, you’d prob­ably think his name was Dwayne, or maybe even a Bub­ba. He was over six feet tall, and a good sol­id 350 pounds, drip­ping wet. His truck was a not new cab-over Kenworth that had seen a more than enough trav­el through his coun­try and mine. Happy-go-lucky guy. Dis­arm­ing smile, and a smooth as silk ac­cent and per­son­al­ity. But Ralph was full of sur­pris­es and al­ways in the same shape and form.

Every time, and there had to have been at least half-a-dozen times, when I went to hook up at the bor­der with Ralph, he’d have his niece with him. That was fine with me. The only thing was, it was never the same niece. They all seemed to come from the same mould. Pretty as a pic­ture, but dumb as a stick.

Quite often the niece would be hid­ing in the sleep­er, and after we had cleared the weigh-scale on the Can­ad­ian side, where I would pick up the unit, she would pop out, only hav­ing for­got­ten to have put any clothes on. It hap­pened not once, but sev­er­al times. Ralph would laugh, and I would miss a shift, and life would go on.

These girls may have been pretty, but were so ex­cit­ed to make it into The Fro­zen North, I guess they were do­ing their own per­son­al test­ing on just how cold it real­ly was in Can­ada. These nieces were all built in such a way. If they dropped some­thing on the ground, it would be smart to hold onto the back of their shirt as they bent over, or they’d do a face plant. Grav­ity al­ways wins.

Ralph and his nieces. He gave a new mean­ing to the term, southern gentle­man.

Then there was the day a new, and I mean drip­ping wet new, driv­er showed up with his first truck for his first run from Van­cou­ver to Se­attle and re­turn. He was a trained out-of-work ac­count­ant with a Class One li­cence.

His truck was what we call long-legged. It had the rear-end gears that al­lowed it to achieve high speed with low RPMs. We wait­ed for the new guy and, after he had hit the wire fence on the way into the yard and again on the way out, our five trucks were ready to head south. Don’t know how, but we all made it to the bor­der about the same time, cleared cus­toms and head­ed south.

Then the fun started. The rook­ie would fall back and then, sud­den­ly, he would fly by as though the other four trucks were stand­ing still. He would scare the you-know-what out of him­self, stand on the brakes, stall the truck on the free­way, re-fire the truck and do it all over again. All the way down and all the way back.

He even­tu­al­ly got the hang of the truck, but not be­fore mak­ing a lot of us smile and shake our heads in amaze­ment. He’s still driv­ing to­day, but don’t worry. He has it all fig­ured out, or at least as much as any of us have.

There are a lot of sto­ries out here. The high­way is lit­eral­ly paved with them. I’ll tell you more later.

I could fill a news­paper with sto­ries about life on the road, but why not share yours with read­ers? Send them to Driving edi­tor An­drew McCredie at [email protected]

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