Just got back from New France, Hochelaga as they used to call it, before they put a cross on the big hill and renamed it Mount Royal. Hardly a mountain at 300 feet, but 45 smog days so far this winter, “nice place to live but I wouldn’t want to breath there.” Actually I was in Anjou for my last scheduled layover (a suburb on the north side of the island named after a pear that straddles the Metropolitan, halved by the knife of the T-Can so to speak) one big Mall on the south side–Galleries des Anjou—and the taxi driver tells me it’s going down, no longer upscale like the Carrefour in Laval or Pointe Claire.
This last afternoon, as though the waitress in the International restaurant on Rue Jarry knew this was my last day on this run (I been bumped from the food dish by a bigger dog, but that’s another story), she brings me extra coleslaw on a plate piled on top of fresh lettuce, for the times, she says, when they didn’t have any to go with my poulet chaud sandwich (hot chicken sandwich) and walking back to the hotel to watch women’s curling on TSN, I pass two Saputo buildings by the side of Hwy 40, two towers: this one’s for cheese; the other for transport holdings, I suppose. “Just tell me what Saputos are doing, those Himalyas of the Roads”. The secretive giants must be wracking up losses too, in this strained economy.
But don’t sell those stocks yet folks we might have hit bottom, and get some leverage off this dead cat bouncing. In the Montreal Gazette I noticed one driver leasing service hiring ($18 Class 1 jobs, maybe permanent) and the guys I talk to on the CB have got jobs but they say it’s slow, some laid off.
Tonight I fight with this stupid coaxle cable, the strand of copper wires frayed around the collar, bringing me grief all the way along the St. Lawrence mostly static as I jiggle my $79 Radio Shack CB in the velcro strap occasionally picking up a muted scrambled voice talking about bear sightings and closed chicken houses.
But mostly just static and fading George Noury on Coast to Coast out o f Cleveland 1100 AM band, discussion on crop circles tonight and animal mutations, until the truck hits a rut, and the antennae actually becomes antennaed, and I can hear guys talking: “a lot of trucks with their fog lights on” says one eastbounder and I’m one of those trucks with the fogs but he doesn’t know there’s some pea soup ahead past Shannonville and we westbounders are weary of turning them off and on as we’ve done the last 75 kms. The fog gets heavy around Napanee and I don’t bother to tell him, the early March rain washing it out in spots. Almost hit a beaver tonight, a quick swerve and I didn’t feel any bump under my right wheels.
And for those smart drivers with their snotty channel 19 talk who don’t know fog, they’re probably running out of Belleville, or Trenton ancestral home of poet Al Purdy, to whose memory I was going to dedicate this anyway, these words come to me just as I’m hitting the 401 split at Pickering with the hammer buried at 101 kms/hr and almost ready for bed.
Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.
With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude. All posts by Harry Rudolfs